A regimen of 'Vitamin Addazio' for Temple

"He can inspire, motivate, and drive," an ex-player said of coach Steve Addazio, here watching a spring-practice drill at Temple.
"He can inspire, motivate, and drive," an ex-player said of coach Steve Addazio, here watching a spring-practice drill at Temple.
Posted: April 10, 2011

"This is going to be a big day for Temple football!"

A fast-talking voice cut through the silence of a meeting room in Temple's football complex at 7:17 on a Monday morning the third week of spring practice, a time when spirits can dip with the novelty worn off and no game in sight.

New Owls head coach Steve Addazio, realizing all that, wasn't shouting. He wasn't going for anger. In a brief early-morning meeting with his team, Addazio got Owls players laughing and clapping by showing outtakes of their assistant coaches filmed from practice.

After Temple players broke into position groups, Addazio, 51, speed-walked between rooms, a human Red Bull, stopping for no more than a minute at each, alternating between complimenting and cajoling, explaining about the need to "show up on tape." He mentioned to Temple's wide receivers that former Florida wideout Riley Cooper is with the Eagles now not just for his pass-catching but for being "such a lunatic blocking the perimeter."

When Addazio used to address the Florida Gators each week, they had a name for his talks: Vitamin Addazio. Former Gators players occasionally showed up just to hear "Daz" bring the juice at the team hotel the day before games.

At Monday's practice, with a roster stuck into the front of his sweatpants, Addazio blew a couple of short tweets on his whistle and then a long one. He stopped practice and called everybody back, had the entire team redo a drill because one defensive player didn't run to the next drill. He called out the player by number. (He's still matching names to numbers. Temple players had their last names taped to the front of their helmets). No fool, the player full-out sprinted to the next drill, ahead of everyone.

"It's kind of complicated," former Florida and St. Louis Rams lineman Phil Trautwein said of the relationship Addazio had with Gators players, especially the offensive lineman, his unit. "On the football field, he's in your grill. He won't take any crap. He doesn't like 'primos.' That's what he calls guys who think they're good and think they have all the answers and don't want to be coached."

But Trautwein, who grew up in Voorhees, wanted this to be clear: Addazio isn't some caricature of a fire-breathing coach. "Off the field, to me, he was like a dad. He earns your respect. He taught me how to be a man. Every few days, he'd sit down and start talking. We'd call it the soapbox. He'd talk about how he grew up, how he was raised."

These days, the most successful college football coaches are mostly insular types, running football programs like corporations. This new guy at Temple is more like the movie version of a football coach. Eyes gravitate his way. Ears can't miss him. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he'd play for Addazio after hearing him at a banquet.

Mark it down: If all this works - if Temple wins enough football games - you'll know what Steve Addazio looks like, what he sounds like.

And if he doesn't win? If he can't continue the progress made by former coach Al Golden, who left for the University of Miami?

There already is a firesteveaddazio.com.

Favorite part of his day

Addazio has a different word for the soapbox. Fireside chats, he called them. He didn't mind telling his guys what he was all about, where he came from. His father, Louis, originally from Staten Island, "grew up in poverty," his son said, "a tough guy," who worked in a foundry at night during high school in Waterbury, Conn., while still graduating in three years. Louis Addazio was in the Navy during World War II, an aviation mechanic, then got through college on the GI Bill and started teaching school.

Louis Addazio didn't stop there. He went on a scholarship to Hawaii, taking his wife and two young sons for the year. He got his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut when Steve was 11 years old. He became a popular history professor at Central Connecticut State, fluent in Italian but specializing in Asian studies. He took Steve's older brother to China before Nixon went there. His father always was a popular professor, Addazio said.

"He had a magnificent personality, a real presence about him," Steve Addazio said. "If he was talking to you, you'd be engaged."

Louis Addazio died while Steve was a football player at Central Connecticut. Asked for the greatest hurdle of his life, Addazio said that was it. It forced him to get more serious, to grow up. He briefly worked as a stockbroker after college, but it wasn't for him. ("It was just a job.") Sports had always been his life, football practice the favorite part of his day.

His first coaching job was at Western Connecticut State, coaching under Paul Pasqualoni. It was like a coaching boot camp, all the young coaches trying out their techniques on each other before teaching the players. After four seasons, Pasqualoni persuaded Addazio to take the head coaching job at Cheshire High, Pasqualoni's own high school. During Addazio's eight years at Cheshire, his teams won three state titles in a row before he rejoined Pasqualoni, who had become head coach at Syracuse.

It was about that time that Addazio made a recruiting trip to Pennsylvania. As he remembers it, his first stop was at 5 a.m. He aimed to be the first recruiter to an early-morning workout in the weight room at Central Bucks West High School. Except another guy also got there at 5 - a young Notre Dame assistant named Urban Meyer. They both laughed about that, went out for coffee afterward.

Espresso, preferably

Is Temple's new practice regimen much different from what the Gators did?

"Let me put it like this: The coaches who become head coaches, who came from Florida - you bought a franchise," Addazio said.

Addazio coached under Bob Davie at Notre Dame - he joined Meyer on that staff - and under Gerry DiNardo at Indiana, in addition to Pasqualoni at Syracuse. But it was his six seasons at Florida working under Meyer in Gainesville as offensive line coach and later associate head coach and offensive coordinator that provided the final touches.

The comparison to make isn't with Temple but the Eagles. Every play call is dissected, and anything short of a national title has the whiff of failure.

"You've got to be sure of who you are and what you are," Addazio said. "Let me put it in perspective here. In 100 and something years of football at Florida, there were three national championships. I was there for two of them. Does this mean that they had 97 years of misery? That if you don't win a national title it's all misery? Come on. As a coach, you've got to learn how to handle that, right?"

He meant take the hits, which he did as offensive coordinator the last two years. The Fire Addazio website popped up, and other hit squads took dead aim, seeing Addazio's play-calling as the natural scapegoat as the Gators went 8-5.

"The year before [in 2009], we had the No. 1-ranked offense in the SEC, No. 5-ranked nationally," Addazio said. "We lost one game, to Alabama, which won the national championship. We had a big-time explosion in the Sugar Bowl. That's like the year that kind of disappeared. This all happened the year before. Last year, there was a transition." (For one, Tim Tebow graduated.) "No excuses. But were those good plays and then they were bad plays? That's a little funky right there."

It no doubt ticks Addazio off that he even has to defend his resumé - it was just Meyer and him in the room, he said, when Florida's running game needed to be revamped in 2006 - but he gets it.

"The highs are really high," Addazio said of coaching at a program like Florida. "The lows are really low. No one makes excuses."

In Gainesville, they remember how Addazio was put in charge when Meyer took his leave of absence between the 2009 and 2010 seasons. (When the players were told Addazio was in charge, they gave him a three- or four-minute standing ovation, a little Vitamin Addazio back at him. At the time, Tebow told the New York Times: "He's got the best leadership qualities of any coach we have on the team. He can inspire, motivate, and drive people like not many people I've been around."

It was a wild time. Meyer had resigned before that Sugar Bowl game, then rescinded it, deciding he just needed a break. Nobody made a point of publicizing it, one administrative source at Florida said, but Addazio was basically in charge of everything that spring, including disciplining players, staffing issues, everything.

"Never, ever did he bat an eye about any of it," the administrator said.

Addazio doesn't talk much about the time Meyer wasn't there when describing what he learned at Florida. He emphasizes what he picked up, how Meyer really emphasized the importance of "direct teaching," asking questions of players, getting constant feedback, not just talking to them until they tuned out. He had witnessed Meyer's all-consuming attention, "to a fault," Addazio said, referring to the health problems that eventually caused Meyer to resign after last season.

There is no mattress in his office at Temple, and there won't be, he said. If you can't get everything done from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 at night, something's wrong. Coaches need to spend time with their families, he said. He understands that the image of a grinder isn't the image of a leader.

"I'm not going to text in church," Addazio said.

At 10th and Diamond, there are constant reminders that Addazio isn't in Gainesville anymore. SEPTA trains go by on an elevated track just past the northeast corner of the practice facility. Competing for attention, a condemned 11-story public housing project is being torn down across Diamond. Addazio is smart enough to embrace all this.

"I love the feel of Philadelphia. This place fits my personality," he said. "The more I'm here, the more excited I am."

Addazio knows his job now isn't to drive a particular group of players as he did at Florida, he said, but to manage and motivate the entire program. The walls in his office are purposefully spartan, he said. He's not looking to lead by slogan. ("I've seen a million slogans on T-shirts.") So far he's getting good reviews at Temple for his willingness to engage, for wanting to hear about issues and address them, not just get cc'd on e-mails.

"There are a lot of great coordinators who don't have the skill-set to be a great head coach," Addazio said. "I've seen it. Really, if you want to be a college football coach, you need to have been one of the top recruiters - because if you're a good recruiter, you're a good communicator."

Although unspoken, his goal seems straightforward, to be as good a head football coach as Louis Addazio was at teaching Asian studies. In both professions, the good ones share something. They don't need caffeine. They are the caffeine. Espresso, preferably.

"You have a presence about you," Addazio said.

A Closer Look at Steve Addazio

Age: 51

Hometown: Farmington, Conn.

Previous assistant coaching posts: Florida (2005-10), Indiana (2002-04), Notre Dame (1999-2001), Syracuse (1997-98).

Profile: Steve Addazio took over the Temple football program on Dec. 23, 2010, following the departure of Al Golden, who left the Owls after five years to become the head coach at Miami.

Addazio was offensive coordinator his last two years at Florida, including Tim Tebow's senior year. His Florida coaching career began in 2005 as tight ends coach.

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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