“Running to success”
Omar Easy was blessed with a prototypical American football body that any high school coach would covet; the only problem was that Easy wasn’t from America. Omar grew up in Jamaica running track and playing soccer and cricket. To Omar, six points was what you scored by hitting a cricket ball across the boundary line of the field without a bounce, a sixer, not for crossing the goal line on the gridiron.
When Omar’s mother moved the family to Everett, Coach John DiBiaso took just one look at Omar and knew he belonged on the football field. On his first day of football practice, he showed up with soccer shin pads instead of a helmet expecting to play his brand of soccer. What Omar saw was different than anything he had ever seen before. In Jamaica, Omar ran track because he liked to run and played soccer and cricket becausehe was athletic and playing was fun. He soon discovered that they didn’t play football in Everett for fun, they played to win.
Athletically, Omar took to the game quickly, but that wasn’t good enough for the studious young man. He studied film and approached the game with the same mental intensity that he approached his academics. Unknown to Coach DiBiaso, and even Omar himself, this physical specimen had a serious medical problem. Despite his peak physical condition, Omar would appear easily winded and it just didn’t make sense. Tests revealed that Easy had exercised- induced asthma.
Omar’s chiseled features, serious demeanor and size, made him look much older than he was and the rumors flew. Omar, however, ignored them and spent his time concentrating on learning the game and on his academics.
The more Omar learned about the opportunities that big-time football could provide, the more attention and effort he gave it.
At Everett High, Omar was fortunate that he didn’t need to carry the team. In his junior year, Everett was stacked in the backfield with P.J. Eason, Jeff Quigley and a mobile QB in Anthony Nazzaro. Easy was the third leading scorer and the Tide finished 8-1, but was banned from the Super Bowl for an “unauthorized” trip to Florida. To make matters worse, the Boston Globe did not deem a single Everett player as worthy of All-Scholastic designation.
The Tide entered 1996 with a huge chip on their shoulders. Mike Borgonzi and Easy were a punishing duo that no defense was anxious to tackle. They tied for the high scorers on the team and led EHS to an undefeated season and a trip to the Super Bowl where they lost to Xaverian.
Omar was chosen as a consensus high school All-American and committed to Division 1 powerhouse Penn State and Joe Paterno. Omar still had a lot to learn about football but Penn State had an eager student with great natural ability, but they never developed it. The Penn State’s offense was becoming more and predictable and their record showed it. While they did make to a couple of minor bowl games, they were a mediocre team which makes the lack of opportunities for Omar even more puzzling. In fours years with the Nittany Lions, Omar averaged just under 39 carries per season and at one point, had considered transferring. Omar was never in a position at Penn State to get into a groove or to see multiple situations that would benefit him in the future.
Easy, however, was still an intriguing prospect for NFL teams. His size, power and quickness could not be ignored. Despite carrying the rock just 45 times in his senior year, he was invited to the Blue-Gray College All-Star Game and scored a TD leaping over the defender from short yardage. Omar was named MVP of the classic.
In April of 2002, the Kansas City Chiefs entered the draft with an eye toward defense; in seven rounds, they drafted just one offensive player. In the fourth round, with the 107th overall pick, the Chiefs chose Omar Easy. Kansas City appeared to be a good landing spot for Omar. With a players’ coach in Dick Vermeill and a strong backfield to learn from in running back Priest Holmes and fullback Tony Richardson, Omar seemed to be in position to develop into a quality NFL player.
Omar did not keep his good fortune to himself, however. In 2003, he created the Easy Way Foundation to educate kids about what they need to do to prevent an asthma attack, and what to do when you have an attack. It also provided much needed equipment to schools to help treat a sudden attack. He also expanded the foundation’s mission to help children at risk in other areas.
A sprained knee limited Omar’s rookie season but he was making a name for himself as a special teamer and was quickly answering doubts about his ability to receive out of the backfield. For a guy that didn’t play American football until his junior year in high school, Omar impressed Coach Vermeill with his progress in grasping the Chiefs system in just his first NFL season. Despite improving in every aspect of his game, Easy’s knee was still bothering him. Other than special teams, Omar was used as a receiver out of the backfield but supplanting the Holmes/Richardson tandem was impossible.
Week after week, Omar found himself on the probable list with a knee or hamstring injury. Wisely, it didn’t take Omar long to realized the uncertainty and fragility of an NFL career. Easy became a US citizen in 2004 and had already begun to prepare for his life after football by enrolling in post- graduate studies at Penn State.
After a year with the Oakland Raiders, Omar retired from pro football due to his recurring knee problems. He returned to Everett as Assistant Offensive Football Coach and Boys’ Head Track and Field Coach in the high school’s Athletic Department from 2007-2009. Ever cognizant of the educational opportunities that lie before him, Omar received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications: Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Business Management from Penn State in 2010. The academically driven Easy would then go on to earn a Masters’ degree in Education (M.Ed.) and his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from his alma mater.
While continuing his education, Easy served as a Teaching Assistant for the Penn’s Law and Ethics in Education and for the Freshmen Student-Athletes Seminar and served for two years as the Assistant Academic Coordinator; advising and mentoring student- athletes at the university. He later was appointed Nittany Lions’ Director of Player Personnel and Development and served in that capacity until January 2012, when he was appointed vice principal of Everett High School.
In June 2013, Omar married Megan Hodge who played volleyball for Penn State from 2006 to 2009. Megan won a national title at Penn State, won a silver medal with the US Team at the 2012 London Olympics and has played at a high-level worldwide.
In 2017, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, in an attempt to improve the efficiency of Everett’s municipal government, appointed Dr. Easy to a newly created post of Director of Organizational Assessment.
The Omar Easy story is an example of overcoming obstacles, facing challenges and seeing opportunities in the midst of disappointment. Dr. Easy didn’t concentrate on the “what could have beens” of his life, instead he concentrated on the “what will be”. His realistic approach to success was just as telling as his handling of setbacks; never too high, never too low, just keep pounding away. Most importantly, never waste an opportunity.
The above bio is taken from former city clerk Mike Matarazzo’s book, “They Came From Everett” available at: bookblues.com