“She said ‘I’m retiring. Hey, let’s see what you can do!’” Drugan recalled. “I had no inclination (to coach). I looked at her for maybe 10 seconds and finally said ‘Are you crazy?!’ … I thought it over and said ‘You know what, let’s give it a crack.’”

Soon after his birthday celebration, Drugan, a lifelong runner, volunteered to help coach the Hopedale cross country team. A few years later, he took over as head coach in the fall and even added spring and winter running to his repertoire.    

“I took the ball and ran with it,” Drugan, 78, said. 

Hopedale running coach, Joe Drugan, then 76, runs a "Crush Corona" 5K starting at Hopedale Memorial Elementary School on Jun. 12, 2020. The 5K was setup to honor and celebrate those people over 70 who have suffered or lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rolling with the punches

The same year Drugan began coaching at Hopedale, the resident of Hopedale started working at Gillette Stadium in team operations as a football and soccer supervisor.

Drugan has seen it all through his three decades at 1 Patriot Place during New England Patriots and Revolution events. From Gronk spikes to Taylor Twellman goals. And everything in between.

In 2015, Pats owner Robert Kraft invited Drugan to travel to Arizona to watch Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. 

“I thought they were going to give the ball to ‘Beast Mode!’” Drugan said of the Seahawks’ infamous decision to call a pass play instead of run with Marshawn Lynch.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Drugan’s job responsibilities changed at Gillette Stadium. 

He transitioned from supervising those who watched Tom Brady (or Cam Newton) throw the deep ball to assisting medical professionals administer vaccines. The pandemic turned the home of the Pats and Revs into one of the most utilized vaccination spots on the East Coast.

Meet:The coaches who were named the Daily News Coach of the Year for winter 2021

Although his day-to-day operations were adjusted, Drugan was up for the challenge.

“To me, I just went with the punches,” he said.

In 2020, Hopedale running coach Joe Drugan showed off a Hopedale cross country championship ring before he ran the "Crush Corona" 5K starting at Hopedale Memorial Elementary School.

‘Just gotta keep on moving’

With Gillette Stadium transitioned back now to a sporting venue, Drugan is excited to regain a sense of normalcy: both in Hopedale and Foxborough.

Drugan’s pulling double duty by supervising Pats training camp while prepping for the Hopedale cross country season. 

Army Man:Hopedale’s Will Parker set to play baseball, become an officer at West Point

Entering his 29th year with the Blue Raiders, the four-time state champion as a coach hopes to see a big season from a few of his runners, including senior captain Ryan Hayes.

Hopedale senior Kyle Murray posed with his cross-country coach, Joe Drugan, after signing a National Letter of Intent to run cross-country at Division 1 Bryant University in November 2020.

“Running under Coach Drugan has been an amazing experience, mostly because he prepares us mentally, not just physically to succeed,” Hayes said. “I think the mentality part is what sets him apart from so many other coaches.”

Through the three decades of coaching, Drugan’s appreciation for his family is what has kept him going strong. He credits his wife for her fateful prodding.

“If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I’d be coaching cross country,” Drugan said. “She gave me the challenge and I went with it.”

In 2020, Hopedale running coach Joe Drugan looked down the street at Hopedale Memorial Elementary School. The longtime Hopedale High coach ran in a 5K  to honor people over 70 who had suffered or lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tim Maguire has coached with Drugan since 2010 with the Hopedale cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams. Maguire, like many, doesn’t see Drugan hanging it up anytime soon.

“I think people have whispered ‘Oh, he might retire’ for the last decade. I don’t think he’s gonna retire until he’s under ground,” Maguire said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met any coach (as passionate about his runners). … He just loves the kids.”

Hopedale High running coach Joe Drugan put his shoes on in preparation to run the "Crush Corona" 5K starting at Hopedale Memorial Elementary School in June 2020.

As for Drugan, he’s just putting one foot in front of the next. He kinda likes this whole coaching thing. 

“No time frame for me,” he said. “Just gotta keep on moving.”

   Sports, Park, Pond Menu                  HOME