They say a phone call can change your life.
It certainly did for Tim Roken, and the call wasn’t even for him.
Roken, a 2004 graduate of Archbishop Ryan High School, was working for the All American Games, which owns the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Football University, when the then-just hired St. Joe’s Prep coach Gabe Infante, a North Jersey native, happened to call the offices. He was speaking to one of Roken’s coworkers and was looking for coaches for his staff.
The phone was passed to Roken, who knew Philadelphia and also knew football.
“I was told Gabe was on the phone and he was asking questions about Philadelphia football,” said Roken, who graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a degree in sports management. “We got to talking and I was interested in coaching, so after talking with him, I decided to come and coach.”
He started out as a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. He quickly moved up to offensive coordinator and now he’s taking over as the head man.
Roken was named head coach of St. Joe’s Prep, taking over for Infante, who was named an assistant coach at Temple University.
Roken, who lives in Roxborough, inherits a team that won a Class 6A state championship a few weeks ago, and a team that is widely considered one of the top teams in the country.
It gives him a chance to take over a program he has fallen in love with over the past decade and also allows him to stay in the family business.
“When I was going to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but my sister was a teacher and I have a lot of aunts and uncles who were teachers,” said Roken, who works in the finance department at Prep. “I didn’t think I wanted to do that, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I went in undecided. I knew I loved sports, so I majored in sports management.
“My family and I laugh because I am teaching. I’m just teaching football.”
Roken had quite a resume before arriving at Prep.
A three-sport start at Ryan, he went on to start two seasons at East Stroudsburg under longtime head coach Denny Douds, who recently retired.
“I called him today because I wanted to be the one to tell him,” Roken said. “He’s been there for 50 years, he was a great coach and helped me a lot.”
Douds was one mentor, but over the past nine years, he’s learned a lot from Temple’s new linebackers coach.
Infante ran a tight ship at Prep. It’s one of the reasons he was so successful, winning 91 games and four state championships, including a 13-0 season this year. But he was also big in delegating responsibility, and Roken was always there to do more. Infante was involved with Keep Your Head Up, a concussion-awareness initiative that taught children to tackle the right way.
“Over the past few years, if he couldn’t be somewhere, I would step in,” Roken said. “I didn’t really know it because I was just coaching, but he was preparing me for this. He was getting me ready to be a head coach. He helped me so much.”
With Roken’s help, Infante laid the groundwork for success. Roken intends to follow the same path to success.
“He did such a great job here,” Roken said of Infante. “He put in the work. The keys are being consistent and dedicated. You have to be consistent and work, but you also have to be dedicated. Just because you go out there, you’re not going to get better. You have to work hard when you get there.”
Prep certainly has the ability to get better next season, even after finishing perfect last season.
The Hawks return a lot of talent, including all-everything quarterback Kyle McCourt, as well as many other talented players.
“He left me with a lot,” Roken said. “This was a great opportunity for him. It’s sad he’s leaving because we all love him and he’s been so great, but it’s good for him because he is taking his dream job. And I know he’ll be around to help. He’s a text message away. He’ll always be a part of this program. His family will always be a part of this program.”
And Roken will always be a part of the St. Joe’s Prep family.
Just as he wants it.
He may have been an outsider when he was hired as an assistant nine years ago, but make no mistake, he’s now a Hawk.
“It’s such a special place, you can feel it when you walk into the school and walk down the halls,” Roken said. “There’s great leadership right from the top with the president, the principal and the athletic director. And the students are just great kids. Of course, we want that to include the athletic department and the athletes.
“There are leaders all over the school. It’s hard being a leader as a teenager today. It’s hard to call a peer out and hold them to a high standard, but that’s how it is in real life. And we want to build leaders in the school and in football.
“I’m so happy to be the coach at Prep, not just because it’s a great football program, but because of the school. It’s a great place to represent.”