Former UConn QB Hernandez named new football coach at Ledyard

Jonathan
Jonathan "D.J." Hernandez runs for a long gain during UConn's annual Blue-White Spring Game in 2005 at Rentschler Field. Hernandez was named head football coach at Ledyard High School on Friday. (Day file photo)

Ledyard — Former UConn quarterback and Southington head coach Jonathan  “D.J.” Hernandez has been named the new head football coach at Ledyard High School, athletic director and assistant principal Jim Buonocore said Friday afternoon.

Hernandez will succeed Mark Farnsworth, who coached the Colonels on an interim basis this past season.

“Jonathan is an extremely intelligent individual who has proven time and again that he is willing to work hard with young people to help them achieve success,” Buonocore said. “He has a clear understanding of our expectations in Ledyard, and I am confident he can exceed those expectations in meeting the academic, social, emotional and athletic needs of our students.”

Hernandez was the 2003 Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut (Bristol Central) and graduated from UConn in 2008 with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a Master’s degree in school counseling.

Buonocore said Hernandez will serve as a student support/in school suspension supervisor at Ledyard and will begin work on Jan. 30, the start of the second semester.

"I really enjoy the teaching aspect of football," Hernandez said in a phone conversation from his Dallas home. "And it's not just about the games ... It's more about the process, the behind the scenes things and the one-on-one interactions. I really missed that."

After leaving UConn, Hernandez was head coach of the Carinthian Black Lions in Austria before a two-year stint at Southington, one as head coach. His college coaching career included time at Brown University as the quarterbacks' coach (2011), the University of Miami as a graduate assistant (2012) and the University of Iowa, where he coached tight ends from 2013-14.

He left coaching to operate his own roofing business in the Dallas area, calling it "a unique experience, a challenging one ... and one where I completely ruined multiple pairs of pants."

He also became a husband and father. His wife Karen gave birth to daughter Parker on Nov. 5, and they are moving to Connecticut later this month.

"This is a great fit for my family," Hernandez said. "We're getting everything packed right now. I'm really excited to get (to Ledyard), meet the players, parents and other students, and build on their tradition.

"I know (Ledyard) wants stability and someone who can go in and motivate and challenge these students. I'm excited about the challenge. I'm going to make sure the guys understand that they can't achieve unless they work hard, and smart, throughout the process. I want to be a positive role model and a mentor ... that's what it's all about."

Buonocore, who coached Hernandez in the 2004 Connecticut high school all-star football game, witnessed firsthand his work ethic and leadership on the field as an athlete.

“I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with Jonathan in his new position and I also look forward to the continued success of Ledyard football under his guidance,” Buonocore said. “He has the innate ability to make those around him perform in all aspects of their daily lives at a higher level. Our current and future student-athletes will benefit from his coaching and educational background as well as from his connections at the collegiate and professional level.”

Buonocore said a number of well-respected coaches in the collegiate and professional ranks — including UConn coach Randy Edsall — reached out in support of Hernandez.

"D.J. is an excellent coach who has drive and passion to help young men reach their potential in the classroom, on the field and most especially in life," Edsall said Friday night. "He will be a tremendous asset to the Ledyard community."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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