FNF Coaches Talk for Wednesday, Nov. 14

Good afternoon, Coaches. We’re happy to bring you some of the stories we’re talking about in our newsroom.

1. The little-known story of Bill O’Brien’s first football job, as a teenaged high school coach (The Athletic)

This is a great story about an NFL coach who started his coaching career at the age of 18 as a volunteer assistant. O’Brien played football at St. John’s Prep (Mass.) before graduating in the spring of 1988. His dream was to follow in the footsteps of his parents and attend an Ivy League school in Rhode Island, Brown University. The only problem was the Brown admissions department didn’t grant him immediate admission; he needed to wait until the second semester to enroll.

While he waited to start college, O’Brien accepted an opportunity from his high school football coach, Jim O’Leary, to be a volunteer member of the coaching staff at St. John’s Prep, the Boston-area, all-boys Catholic school from which O’Brien had just graduated.

Our apologies if you’re not a subscriber to The Athletic. For those who aren’t, here’s a sneak peak at one of the funnier anecdotes in this excellent story.

In what ways have you helped others find their passion for coaching?

2. Rain, snow, sleet, he coaches football barefoot. Barefoot! All year. On purpose. (NJ.com)

This is a pretty comical story — particularly for this time of year when everyone is stressing about the next playoff game. We love the lede; it sets the tone for the entire story.

The coach was going volcanic, red-faced and arms flailing, screaming at the official for missing a holding call. He threw his hands in the air, turned away in disgust, then stomped back down the sideline, his bare feet digging into the cold, damp grass.

Wallkill Valley High (N.J.) coach Bobby Leach coaches barefoot regardless of the weather. He’s earned the nickname “Barefoot Bobby” from his peers in the coaching ranks. His players initially didn’t know what to make of him when he was hired last year, but he has since led Wallkill to an 8-1 record and a share of a division title.

“I was a little weirded out because all I see is this guy in the cold, in the mud, just splatting his feet against the ground,” Rivera says. “I was a little worried that we had a weird coach on our team and it might have gone downhill this year.”

How do you show your fun side to your players throughout the season?

3. Ed McCaffrey found his calling at Valor Christian, coaching and mentoring with a staff of NFL veterans (Denver Post)

You may know Ed McCaffrey from the John Elway-era Denver Broncos teams. What you may not know is the former wide receiver is now coaching high school football in Colorado at Valor Christian. His youngest of four sons, Luke, is his senior quarterback, and McCaffrey has assembled a staff laden with former NFL players.

McCaffrey is quick to point out that Valor’s success has been built on the coachability of his players. And to exploit their acumen, he assembled a staff with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. Valor’s 14 varsity coaches carry a combined 91 years of NFL experience, with members from 10 different Super Bowl-winning teams. Brandon Stokley (wide receivers), Jimmy Spencer (secondary) and Tyler Polumbus and Ben Hamilton (offensive line) each played for the Broncos.

High school coaches might be interested to hear that — while McCaffrey has achieved the ultimate prize in football with multiple Super Bowl titles — he considers coaching high school football to be the pursuit that has given him the most satisfaction.

“I wanted to do something that gave my life meaning and purpose,” McCaffrey said. “Something that allowed me to experience a sense of fulfillment. And I love doing my radio show and I love some of the other interests that I have. But I really feel like the biggest contribution I can make is in the lives of the men in this Valor football program.
“Not just about the stuff on the field, but encouraging them to do well in the classroom and encouraging them to be good people and carry themselves with a sense of respect and dignity. That’s what I hope to do.”

How does coaching high school football add to your life?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!