St. Johns, St. Thomas honor Coach John Gagliardi in annual rivalry game

John Gagliardi is the winningest coach in football history and is known for his unique coaching style that left a lasting impact at St. John’s University.

Gagliardi passed away last week, but today, a rivalry game had both teams honoring the legend.

Everyone has very similar things to say about Gagliardi, namely that he was a humble guy and he would be proud of the team and the program.

Today, thousands honored their longtime coach. He’s the coach they credit for building the program at St. John’s University.  

“It really has become a huge, huge event,” said Mike Grant, a former player for and co-coach with John Gagliardi. 

Change in one form or another is inevitable over time, but at St. John’s University, there are some things that will never change.

“When you look out on the field and see what St. Johns has become and what it is I think John would have a lot of pride because he built,” Mike Grant said. “And he’d be the last one to say that but deep down this was him. All this was John.”

“He’s probably the greatest coach that ever was in the United States,” said longtime Vikings coach and Gagliardi’s friend Bud Grant.

The nearly 200 players in Saturday’s game wore his name on their helmets for the annual Tommie-Johnnie football game to honor his legacy.

“They're teaching the same things, still have a strong community feel,” said Jim Gagliardi, John’s son. "The coaches are doing a good job of keeping that legacy alive.”

John Gagliardi leaves behind a legacy that will always be a presence at St. Johns.  

“He really is St. Johns to many of us. It’s an emotional day to many of us,” Mike Grant said.

“His legacy, his tradition, what he set up here - will continue,” Jim Gagliardi said of his father.

For the Johnnies, that will never change. They are still undefeated after their big win today against St. Thomas. The final score was 40-20.

The Johnnies Twitter account said that win was for John.

John Gagliardi’s funeral is set for Monday at the Abbey Church in Collegeville.