Jan. 7, 2010

Thoughts on coming to Notre Dame:
“It’s an absolute honor to be here. This is the pinnacle of college football. I was born and raised in Essex County, New Jersey, as an Italian-American from a strong Catholic family. There is a large contingent of Notre Dame fans in my hometown, so growing up I was constantly bombarded with all things Notre Dame. It’s an honor and a blessing to be here. I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. I’m just so excited about the opportunity.”

On the factors that went into the decision to come to Notre Dame:
“The biggest factor is Coach Kelly. Coach Kelly is the reason why I left Virginia to go to Cincinnati. Coach Kelly is the best head football coach in the country. But in particular, as it pertains to being a defensive staffer for Coach Kelly, if you are a self-starter and you enjoy work and you enjoy having an opportunity to think outside the box and operate within his shared vision, but at the same time run on your own gas, there’s not a better guy in the country to work for. Truth be told, I would have continued to work for Coach Kelly had he stayed or gone. It just so happens to be two perfect worlds right now that I’m at Notre Dame with Coach Kelly.”

On what he learned from playing and coaching under people like Hayden Fry, Al Groh and Brian Kelly:
“Everyone in the organization felt loved by Coach Fry. The custodians, the administrative assistants, the coaches, the players. You felt like you had an intimate relationship with Coach Fry. Coach not only knew my immediate family, but he knew my extended family. If my uncle showed up to practice one day and then showed up again 18 months later, Coach would remember my uncle’s first name. The love that I felt from Coach Fry propelled me to want to impact young men in that same fashion, and he has really shaped a major portion of my interaction with players. And that’s a developmental paradigm where you take a young man and grow him into a man culturally, spiritually, intellectually, physically, etc. Then the rest of the stuff on the field takes care of itself. You never believed that Hayden Fry would compromise you for some sort of end result, and on that basis you’d go the extra mile. He called that the extra heartbeat. He always got my extra heartbeat and he always will. I consider him to be a father away from my own father. Learning how to treat young men and learning a perspective on what is really important as it relates to football and young men are what I took from him.

“Operating an organization is what I was able to take from Al Groh. He is meticulous and has an incredible work ethic. He’s an absolute machine when it comes to work. He has an uncanny ability to absorb information. He just has a huge brain. And to get more specific, it was his defense. He is one of the best defensive coaches in the country, period. He is a dynamic teacher. I picked up so many things from him, besides his system. How to teach. How to communicate. All the real small nuances. I had an opportunity for three years to not just work with him but to observe and listen to everything he had to say to all positions on the field.

“Coach Kelly is a developmental coach. He, like Coach Fry, has built his resume and success story on taking a young man from whatever level he’s at to way beyond the same way: spiritually, community, academically, physically. He’s a great manager of men and a great energizer of men. He can mobilize a group of coaches or administrators or alumni and just make everyone feel so great about what they are about to do and have everyone buy in 100 percent. He’s a real craftsman in that way. Those are a lot of the principles I have picked up from Coach Kelly. Lastly, his offense is really fun to watch. He’s what some might call an offensive guru. Now, he would never say that, because he’s a regular guy. That’s the beauty of Coach Kelly. He’s just a regular guy. He’s a family man and sets a great example if you are looking for balance and priorities or perspective in your job and how it relates to your life. I’m continuing to learn from him every day because he is masterful at it.”

On if he has had a chance to look at Notre Dame’s defensive personnel yet:
“I really haven’t. I’ve had a chance to read about the personnel, such as tangible traits. The standards: height, weight, speed, etc. I’m not too interested in people’s opinion on those guys. I’m interested in meeting everyone and seeing everyone. I’m sure everybody has something they can contribute positively to the organization. I’m looking forward to getting involved a lot more and learning a lot more about each guy. I know they switched systems midstream through the Coach Weis era, so I’m sure there is personnel to fit whatever need there is.”

On his defensive scheme:
“It bases out of a 3-4. We’ve created a system where we go quickly from three down linemen to four down linemen and we can get that reduced player wherever we need it to be. That’s part of the overall package. One great thing about basing out of a 3-4 is the element that the offense doesn’t know where the fourth rusher will be coming from. A fourth rusher can come from the field. A fourth rusher can come from the boundary. A fourth rusher can come from the inside.”

On his personality as a coach:
“My personality as a coach is no different than my personality as a person. I try to be the same guy every day. I’m an early-riser. I’m a bit obsessive compulsive in how I operate and how I keep my stuff, my locker, my office, my car and so on. There’s a lot of respect there. I’m very detailed. I would say I’m very aggressive. I’d also say that based on the treatment I received as a player where I was never berated, dehumanized or demoralized by any of my coaches, I carry that over to my own coaching style and how I teach young men. At the same time, I’m still an aggressive person and an aggressive coach. There will be consistency, there will be detail, there will be aggressive coaching. I’m an energized, positive person who loves what I do. It all begins with the players.”

On his history of working with linebackers:
“I’ve been with so many coaches and coordinators that teach their linebackers different ways, there’s a thousand ways to get it done. The fundamentals of teaching begin with running. It’s a running man’s game. You’ll see our linebackers play a little differently than some. There’s not a lot of shuffling and popping the hip or shuffle stack or some of these other words and terms that people are using. It’s more based in running and fits in the system. I would say I’m more in line with how Al Groh teaches linebackers. I’d say that fits more with what I believe to be true about linebacker play from playing it myself.”

On recruiting:
“I love recruiting. I’m passionate about it. Most predominately, I’ve recruited New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Florida. Early in my coaching career I was in Chicago and I know that area well. I’ve also recruited in Ohio, Michigan and Virginia based on where I was coaching at the time. Now, recruiting is recruiting. It doesn’t really matter where you go. If you’re asked the questions, you have the answers. If you say you’re going to get the information to the coach or whomever, you promptly get the information to that individual. If you’re diligent, detailed, consistent and forthright, it won’t matter if you are recruiting in Connecticut or Texas or California. That’s what people are looking for.”

On immediate plans:
“Sounds like I’m going to hit the road and go recruiting. I’ll visit some committed players and get on the phone with some targeted prospects.”