mentor assumes controls
By TONY CASTRO
Robert “Kaz” Kazmier was introduced this week as Hernando High’s 31st head football coach in 79 seasons.
According to HHS’ athletic director Kevin Bittinger, the 31-year-old Kazmier was one of four applicants for the internally posted position.
On what set Kaz apart, “He’s a great guy. He’s energetic and always carries a positive outlook. He’s built relationships within the community,” identified his future boss, Bittinger.
“What’s not to like? We’re gonna try not to overwhelm him,” added Bittinger. “He’s built some great relationships to get kids to the next level. What he lacks in experience, he makes up with such a positive outlook. I like the way he‘s been able to deal with adversity.
“… He’s been given an opportunity. I want to see what he does with it. He’s young and he’s excited to get started.”
Kazmier was born Ocean County, New Jersey.
When his family relocated to Spring Hill, he attended F.W. Springstead as a freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Nature Coast Technical.
He graduated from NCT in 2005.
Kazmier played on the NCT’s first-ever junior varsity program in 2003 under Tommy Keeler.
Prior to the Sharks’ playing its first varsity season, Keeler departed for greener pastures and was replaced by Jamie Joyner.
Kazmier played along the offensive line – alternating between guard and tackle – in 2004 during the Sharks’ inaugural 3-5 varsity campaign.
After graduation, he attended Pasco Hernando Community College for two years before transferring to Saint Leo University in San Antonio.
While working at Lowe’s in Spring Hill, he earned a bachelor‘s degree in sports business behind a 3.56 grade point average.
He interned at Monmouth College in Long Branch, NJ, and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with its community relations division.
At 19, he sought Joyner’s advice in possibly coaching recreational football.
Instead, Joyner convinced him to join his staff as a volunteer coach.
He served as an assistant to offensive line coach Mike Lastra and D-line and special teams mentor Ed LaRose. During that stretch, he worked closely with Ryan Wilson.
He eventually coached the Shark linebackers and served as the school’s recruiting coordinator.
That gig lasted until Justin Worden arrived in 2014.
He and many of old members of staff “left when Worden came on.”
Four years ago, he joined veteran mentor Bill Vonada when he was hired at HHS. He was originally hired as a business teacher.
But prior to Vonada’s first season in Brooksville, HHS lost its allocation for the biz class Kazmier was expected to teach.
Instead, of moping around after losing his position, he became ESE certified and joined former NCT mentor-turned Weeki Wachee Head Coach, Mark Lee, at Weeki Wachee.
He again guided linebackers and served as recruiting guru.
His duties included producing highlight films and guiding student-athletes through the maze of requirements for playing at the next level for prospective college-bound athletics.
He returned to HHS and helped round out Vonada’s staff.
On why he accepted the challenge of ascending to head coaches’ position for the first time, “I’ve moved around, but this is a community I do not want to leave,” indicated Kazmier, who‘ll continue to serve as an ESE instructor. “Hernando High offers a rich tradition, it has a rich lineage going back 100 years. This is the type of place I’d like to raise my kids in; there’s a sense of community unlike any other in Hernando County.
“… I like the idea of growing up somewhere that has pride in the local school; there’s a steep sense of community here,” insisted Kazmier, who guided the HHS girls track team this season. “Hernando has a beautiful combination of pride and spirit. I’d just want to get new kids to get on the same page with me.”
On what type of coach Kaz would like to be known as, “I’m a players’ coach,” he described. “I’m gonna do what’s in the player’s best interests. I’m also about academics and being a disciplinarian. You won’t see the field, if you don’t cut the muster in the classroom – that’s something I totally agree with Coach Vonada.
“Guys have got to get their test scores up. I’m also a strong communicator. Growing up, I was also an offensive guy, but I’m very close with (defensive coordinator) Jon Malandrucco. We’ve called plays together at Weeki Wachee and Hernando. I’ve been an advocate of the running game.”
With football season just over eight weeks away, Kazmier denied that there would be wholesale changes to the Leopards’ offensive and defensive schemes.
With no spring practice to implement changes perhaps a newer scheme isn‘t the answer, “We’re limited at what we can do in a short time,” shared Kazmier. “It may not be the best interests of our team to change things now. We just won a district championship by putting kids in the best positions to win. Now, we might tweak something here or there. I believe we have to have continuity.”
In his short-term goals, “I totally agree in Vonada’s approach, building young men of character. If we continue to follow that course, everything will take its place,” added Kazmier, who is in the process of bringing on one additional assistant coach.
His long-term goals sound familiar, “My goal is to win a state championship,” he said. “To do that we need to get kids who want to wear Purple and Gold. Ever since I was at Nature Coast, I’ve been helping to develop kids to play at the next level. If we get people to believe, we’ll win games and we’re gonna continue to put a good product on the field on Friday nights.”