Q: When did you begin coaching at Princeton?
A: Three seasons ago. I came on as the defensive coordinator for a year. Then at the end of that season our head coach [Thomas Cocuzza] resigned. Then I was promoted.
Q: What changes did you have in mind coming in as head coach?
A: Our biggest thing was that we wanted our guys to be treated like varsity athletes. So one of the first things that we did was that we had our alumni buy us video cameras and projectors so we could watch film. And then after that we started instituting organized offseason workouts. From there we filled out our staff. We have an entire offensive staff, an entire defensive staff. We wanted to start to walk and talk like a varsity program. And when you walk and talk like a varsity program, your results tend to get better.
Q: Where does the enthusiasm of your team come from?
A: It comes from the fact that my guys are so dedicated to one another. And they can start to see the improvements. Maybe it wasn’t in the final score of the game, but maybe it was that we had more yards then we ever had. And they’re Princeton University students. They want to be successful. But when you have a 14-year losing streak, our guys want to be on that foundation that breaks the streak, so they know that they can’t be negative. If you want to turn things around you always have to be positive. One of our mottos is, “It’s just another day to get better.”
Q: Why did you decide to become a coach?
A: I fell in love with football when I was 9, and it just seemed to me that the people that were of great influence to me were either coaches or teachers. So [after] falling in love with football and everything I gained from it, I wanted to make sure there were going to be young people that could also gain from it. I just love being around the game, and to be around a great bunch of guys is just icing on the cake.
Q: What was your “welcome-to-college” moment as a coach?
A: The very first game, we were down 14-nothing, but we were playing pretty well. And I turned to my linebackers coach and I was like, “OK, if we can get out of this half ...” and then we both turned to look at the clock, because the college game is so much longer than a high school game, and we were like, “Oh my goodness, we’re only through the first quarter.” We just weren’t used to the pacing of the college game. Now when I bring my new guys onto the staff, I tell them the first thing they have to get used to is the timing of the game.
Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?
A: I’m usually sitting at the desk. Maybe I’ll listen to a little bit of music, read a bible verse or two, and then I just try to enjoy the moment. I usually have an index card that I write down just notes to remind myself, and one of those things is always to have fun. You know, I’m living the dream. I always wanted to be a teacher and a college coach, and now I’m a college coach.
Q: Do you have a pump-up song? Any embarrassing ones?
A: Not really any embarrassing ones — no, that’s not true. Probably Melanie Fiona’s “Running.” I guess if anyone ever heard me listening to that one it would be like, “Alright coach, really?” But I like those feel-good songs.
Q: Do you have a quirkiest player?
A: Yes. Our senior captain [and lineman] Ben Foulon. He’s probably our quirkiest, and it’s not so much that he’s quirky. He’s very measured. He’s always very well thought out. He always has an “Uhhhh” before he speaks because he’s already thought it out and he’s thinking about every avenue the conversation could go down, and so it’s funny because you’re just like, “Come on, let’s go, get it out.”
Q: In a Sports Illustrated article about the team, you had that comment about how you expect your guys to eat six meals, but you want them to be salads. How does that play out?
A: You always have to be concerned. It’s very hard for an 18-22 year old guy to keep a weight of 172 pounds. I couldn’t do it. There’s no way in the world. We don’t want our guys to starve themselves, but we have to be careful what we eat. It’s not a whole bunch of junk food being eaten. To our guys that are of age, we’re like, “Stay off the beers, or make it light beer.”
Q: You’re a high school teacher. How does the balance of coming from a full day of teaching to coaching work?
A: Lots of sleepless nights. Luckily, I don’t need much sleep. I can get by on about four hours of sleep a night. I just get so excited when I come here and get to coach my guys, and I’m always excited when I go into the classroom. I’m a bundle of energy, and when it’s time for me to crash, I just take a nap right there behind my desk.
Q: What is the draw of sprint football for your fan base?
A: I guess it’s ’cause we are the normal-sized guys. People think, “Wow, they’re just like us, so why not go out and back them?” And then we’re on Friday night, so when you’re looking for that good study break, you can go on a Friday night, blow some steam and go watch the average-sized guys play a little football. Why not follow us?
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/24/31612/