Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is seen during a NFL...

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is seen during a NFL divisional playoff game against the Buccaneers on Jan. 23 in Tampa, Fla.  Credit: AP/Alex Menendez

LOS ANGELES — Just outside the weight room of the main athletic building at LIU Post stands an old aluminum shed. The bleachers that surround the field where the football and lacrosse teams now play Division I competition mostly keep it hidden from view as it stands in utilitarian ugliness, stoically performing its primary job of garaging the motorized carts used by the training and equipment staffs.

But on Nov. 23, 1996, that humble overlooked shed served another purpose.

Inside its walls on that day, members of the football coaching staff celebrated a 29-0 victory over Bentley that crowned their team — known then as the C.W. Post Pioneers — with an ECAC championship.

"We had a ball in there," recalled Louie Cioffi, who was a 20-year-old receivers coach for the team.

He even remembers who catered the event, as do most of the folks who were invited to the less-than-swanky soiree. His father, Sigismondo Cioffi — whom everyone has called Jesse since he arrived from Italy in 1962 at age 14 to find no one could pronounce his real name — brought celebratory sandwiches and broccoli rabe from Mr. Sausage in Huntington.

"That was my Super Bowl," the elder Cioffi said of the game and the pride he felt at an accomplishment that almost anyone who wasn’t directly involved with likely would easily forget.

The Cioffis even got rings out of the experience, Louie for being a coach and Sigismondo for, well, feeding everyone after most of their games.

Still living in Greenlawn, Sigismondo Cioffi has worn that piece of jewelry every day in the nearly 30 years since he received it.

Jesse Cioffi and wife Jane Cioffi, parents of Cincinnati Bengals...

Jesse Cioffi and wife Jane Cioffi, parents of Cincinnati Bengals defensive quality control coach Louie Cioffi, pose for a portrait in their Greenlawn home's living room adorned with an extensive collection of memorabilia from their son's NFL coaching career on Feb. 9, 2022. Credit: James Escher

Once in a while, if the gemstones in the shape of a football catch the light just right, people ask about it as he works at the gas station he owns on Main Street in Huntington. Mostly, however, the ring, the shed and the title go largely overlooked and unnoticed.

Never mind that. Few things have been able to top it throughout the decades in Cioffi’s mind.

Now, one might.

Louie Cioffi left Post shortly after that ECAC championship season and embarked on a coaching career in the NFL that brought him to Cincinnati, Arizona, Cleveland, Tennessee, back to Cleveland, to Southeastern Louisiana University, to the now-defunct AAF, to the now-defunct XFL and finally, this season, back to Cincinnati as defensive quality control coach.

And now, on Sunday, Cioffi will have an opportunity to earn another ring when the Bengals play in Super Bowl LVI against the Rams.

"It’s unbelievable," Sigismondo Cioffi said of the opportunity presented to his son. "It took him a long time. It took him all these years and he went through a lot of teams.

And it all started at C.W. Post."

LEARNING THEIR TRADE

That may sound like a unique Long Island tie-in to the biggest NFL game of the season being played on the other side of the continent between teams from Los Angeles and southwest Ohio, but it’s actually parallel to a couple of other narratives taking place at the same time.

Cioffi is one of three prominent defensive coaches in the Super Bowl who got their start in the business roughly 10 miles apart from each other in a triangle of Nassau County during the 1990s. Cioffi was at Post in 1995 and 1996. Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point from 1992-94. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was a player at Hofstra who became a graduate assistant in 1998 and returned to coach the defensive backs in 2000 and 2001.

None was born on Long Island and only one, Cioffi, went to high school there (shout-out to John Glenn’s class of 1991). But they began their careers in such close geographic and chronological proximity to each other that it’s difficult to ignore the amazing density of coaching talent that was in the same small area at roughly the same time not all that long ago.

Said Cioffi: "It’s like Long Island is the cradle of coaches for this Super Bowl."

ANOTHER DOOR OPENS

Morris thought Hofstra would get him into the NFL, not as a coach but as a player. He was part of a program that was churning lots of guys into the pro ranks, starting with Wayne Chrebet in 1995 all the way through 1998, when Lance Schulters, Morris’ fellow starting safety, was drafted. But that call never came for Morris.

"We all had aspirations to play at the next level and do things that the guys before us had done at the next level," Morris said. "It was a big-time disappointment for me not having an opportunity to get invited to camp and do those types of things."

Quickly, though, he pivoted to another avenue that eventually led him to the NFL: coaching. He became a graduate assistant under head coach Joe Gardi and began learning the ins and outs of that profession.

"I was able to find my passion," he said.

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris gives instructions during an NFL...

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris gives instructions during an NFL wild-card playoff game against the Cardinals Jan. 17 in Inglewood, Calif. Credit: AP/Kyusung Gong

Doug Shanahan had a front-row seat to that transformation. In Morris’ senior season, Shanahan was a redshirt freshman. By the time Shanahan was a senior All-American and on his way to the NFL opportunity that eluded Morris, Morris was Shanahan’s position coach.

"He’s got a very infectious personality," Shanahan recalled. "He really makes you feel special. He has a smile that lights up the room. With that, he gets people to believe in themselves big time. He inspires you and makes you want to play hard for the guy. He has this persona that you just want to latch on to."

It wasn’t just a contraction of his name, then, that led to Morris’ moniker with Hofstra: Rah. Or, with the proper punctuation, Rah!

That spirit is as plentiful and impactful for the Rams as it was back in Hempstead.

"His energy is crazy," linebacker Von Miller said.

Miller joined the Rams during this season, which is when he first met Morris, but he’d heard plenty about him before that. When Miller was with the Broncos, he was teammates with Aqib Talib, and one day they were talking about the best coaches they’d ever had. Talib, who had played under Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden, said his former head coach with the Bucs was his pick.

That would be Morris.

"If you know Aqib Talib, it’s very hard to impress him," Miller said. "For him to say Raheem Morris, I was already drawn to Raheem. How could he win Aqib Talib over? When I got here, I saw how."

Morris is still looking for a second opportunity as a head coach after his failed experience in Tampa Bay at such a young age (he was 33 at the time and had never even been an NFL coordinator).

He’s been a finalist for several jobs in recent years, and a Super Bowl ring certainly would go a long way toward bolstering a resume that began officially at Hofstra — and unofficially by sneaking across the parking lot from time to time to see what Bill Parcells and Belichick were up to at Jets practices on campus.

While Morris’ Super Bowl path began at Hofstra, a championship on Sunday actually might help invigorate the fight to bring football back there. The school shuttered the program in 2009.

"The Hofstra program still has a great legacy and it’s been dead almost 15 years now," Shanahan said. He pointed not only to Morris but Dan Quinn — the former head coach of the Falcons and current defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, who got his coaching start there — as well as Schulters, who is a coaching fellow for the Rams under his former teammate this season.

"It’s been 20 years, and look at the impact they’re still having on football,’’ Shanahan said. "I guess it reinvigorates the hope a lot of us alumni have that maybe somewhere someone will realize that maybe they should bring football back to Hofstra."

Morris said it is "hurtful" that the place where he started his journey no longer fields a team, but he certainly cherishes the memories he has from when it did.

"It was a really special place and it means a lot when you talk about Hofstra football," he said. "Nothing but great times there on Long Island."

STARTING AT KINGS POINT

When Anarumo talks about his roots, he usually refers to a different island: Staten Island. That’s where he grew up, played football in high school and eventually played at Wagner College.

But Long Island was where coaching became a career for him.

"It’s a good place to start off," said former Kings Point head coach Charlie Pravata, who gave Anarumo his first full-time job as defensive coordinator after he’d been a graduate assistant at Syracuse.

Plenty of others have used a short stint at the tiny military academy to springboard into bigger and better things. Former NFL head coach Joe Philbin, Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian and Lehigh’s winningest head coach of all time, Andy Coen, all began there.

"We had some really good staffs," Pravata said. "We broke a few windows, you know what I mean?"

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo talks with players on the sideline...

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo talks with players on the sideline in the fourth quarter of a game against the Browns on Dec. 8, 2019, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Credit: Diamond Images/Getty Images/Diamond Images

What made Kings Point such fertile ground for coaching was the chance to work with players of very high character and academic abilities, the opportunity to recruit nationally (which many Division III programs do not do) and the need to boil the job down to its essence.

Because of the academic and military rigors the cadets face at the school, practices hardly ever last longer than 90 minutes. If you’re going to teach a technique or a concept to a player, you’d better do it quickly and efficiently.

There also are other parts of the job that are difficult to replicate elsewhere.

"You learn that you need to do everything when you work at those types of jobs," Anarumo said. "I remember setting up the field, making sure the buses were on time, even coaching another sport in the spring. One year I was the lacrosse coach, the next year I was an assistant softball coach. You get to learn how to do a lot of different things without a lot of resources."

As Pravata noted of coaching football at Kings Point: "Nothing is hard after that."

And Anarumo made it look easy.

"We were up in the booth together that first year, so I sat by his side as he was calling the plays," said Bryan Collins, who was a defensive line coach at Kings Point, went on to become the longtime head coach at Post and now is a defensive line coach at Stony Brook. "Lou taught me pretty much the most of anybody I’ve ever been associated with about defense."

He also was given free rein by Pravata.

"I knew the coaches knew what they were doing and I didn’t interfere at all," he said. "I didn’t teach Lou one thing about defense. Him and Bryan Collins, those guys knew what they were doing, believe me. They gave me a plan, they said this is what we’re gonna do, and they did it. Most of the time it worked out.

"I don’t know what makes a watch work, but I know when it’s working and not working," Pravata added. "Those guys were really really, really good on defense. They knew their personnel, they were great recruiters and we put a team together that did OK."

It’s one of the reasons Pravata said he is not surprised that Anarumo’s Bengals defense was able to shut down Patrick Mahomes in the second half of the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago and advance to this Super Bowl, and one of the reasons he thinks the Bengals will beat the Rams on Sunday.

But the most important thing those who worked with Anarumo know about him is that he always remembers where he came from. He still connects with Pravata weekly.

"I could not be more proud of him," Pravata said while fighting back tears. "He is like a son to me. He’s a great kid. I’m not surprised by his football success and I’m not surprised at how people respond to him because they always responded to him on every level. He’s exactly where he should be. This is not a surprise to me at all."

‘COACH CAN-DO’

Everyone, it seems, recognized early on that Anarumo was destined for greatness.

Was the same true for Cioffi?

"No," Collins laughed. "Not at all."

Collins was the defensive coordinator at Post under head coach Tom Marshall when Cioffi was hired as the only other full-time member of the staff in 1995. There were only two offices for the entire operation. Marshall had one, so Collins had to share his with Cioffi. The new guy was given a small table in the corner and something that had never before been used by the program: a computer.

"He was a wizard with that before that was the vogue thing," Collins said of Cioffi leading the transition from handwritten plays and stats into a digital age.

Louie Cioffi of the Bengals.

Louie Cioffi of the Bengals. Credit: AP

It came naturally for Cioffi, who had just graduated from Stony Brook as a political science major and thought he was going to pursue a career in the Secret Service. That path was altered when Cioffi became a ballboy for the Jets because his family would attend games and sit in the stands next to the families of coaches Larry Beightol and Foge Fazio.

Cioffi eventually was hired as part of the game-day staff to make sure the printers in the coaching booths were working and run the Polaroid images of the plays from the press box down to the sideline so the coaching staff and players could dissect them.

When he graduated from Stony Brook, he sent three letters looking for coaching jobs. One was to Marshall at Post, one was to Gardi at Hofstra and the other was to Sam Kornhauser at his alma mater.

The problem was that he forgot to mention his Jets experience, so Gardi and Kornhauser ignored him at first. Marshall reached out to him. By the time he corrected the omission, all three were interested in hiring him, but Cioffi took the job with Post.

"I was just really excited to get my own group of guys and teach those guys and show them some of the things I learned in the NFL," Cioffi said of his role at Post. "We were a run-and-shoot system, so I always had four players on the field, so it was a lot of fun."

Successful, too.

Post won that ECAC title in 1996, Cioffi’s second season with the school. It was shortly after that feat that former Jets coach Bruce Coslet, then head coach of the Bengals, was offering him a job.

At age 21, younger than nearly every one of the players on the team, Cioffi became the youngest assistant in the NFL.

Coslet dubbed him "Coach Can-Do" because of his willingness to take on any task. He stayed with the Bengals from 1997 to 2010 in a variety of roles. It always felt like home to him, so when the team called this past offseason with an offer to help on Anarumo’s staff — despite the proximity of their beginnings, they did not know each other until both were elsewhere — he took it.

Cioffi spends games in the booth helping the defensive staff with run fits and personnel recognition, so he doesn’t get much air time on the sideline. When the Bengals won the AFC title, though, the broadcast quickly flashed for a moment to the joyous coaches celebrating the victory in their perch.

They were jumping up and down in Greenlawn, too.

"We’ve been getting phone calls from friends we haven’t seen in years about Louie," Sigismondo Cioffi said. " ‘Was that Louie? How come you didn’t tell us?’ To see it in his face and the coaches he sits next to how intense the game is and the passion of the game was incredible."

Jesse Cioffi and wife Jane Cioffi, parents of Cincinnati Bengals...

Jesse Cioffi and wife Jane Cioffi, parents of Cincinnati Bengals defensive quality control coach Louie Cioffi, pose for a portrait in their Greenlawn home's living room adorned with an extensive collection of memorabilia from their son's NFL coaching career on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Credit: James Escher

Louie Cioffi said he’s thought about what it would mean to Cincinnati to win a Super Bowl, what it would mean to him to win a Super Bowl, but more importantly, what it would mean to his father.

He knows how dear that 28-year-old ECAC ring is to him.

"I would like to get him another one," he said.

Sigismondo Cioffi was touched by that thought.

"That would be nice," he said. "We’ll see what happens on Sunday."

Then, after a moment of reflecting on the enormity of what is about to take place and the journey he has taken with his son — from the shed in Brookville to the multibillion-dollar SoFi Stadium hosting Super Bowl LVI — he added:

"I’m a size 12."

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