In addition to being Boston College’s first-year head football coach this fall, Steve Addazio will be a de facto assistant coach at Burke High without even realizing it.
After Addazio spoke to 30 Burke athletes Tuesday morning as part of the Boston Scholar Athlete’s Speaker Series — telling the student-athletes to stay away from marijuana, to respect women, and to just be a “good dude” — Burke football coach Byron Beaman said he recorded the speech so he can show it to his players anytime he feels they need to hear the message from a higher authority.
“What coach Addazio is saying is the same things we preach every day, all day,” Beaman said. “It definitely helps to have a guy that’s the head coach of a Division 1 program really echo what you’ve told your team. And it’s not like we met in the hallway prior to this, saying, 'This is what they need to hear.'
“It’s just a constant coaching message: In order to be successful, you can’t be selfish, you have to work hard, you have to make sacrifices. And he’s coached some of the best; Heisman Trophy winners, things like that. Coming from him, I’m hoping that the message resonates and these guys get it and take it to heart.”
At the same time, Addazio said during his talk that the message works best when it comes from a trusted mentor or coach.
The former University of Florida assistant coach talked about a group of high-profile former Florida players, including brothers Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, who are now the starting centers for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins, respectively.
He talked about how they used to skip over bricks in the sidewalk outside Florida’s stadium that were designated for the names of future All-Americans.
“They were pretty headstrong guys, and I told them, ‘If you keep going to that club, you’re not going to be an All-American,’ ” said Addazio, who was Temple's head coach last year and an assistant at Florida for five years before that.
The Pounceys were involved in some incidents, said Addazio, including a shooting and a stabbing.
"I said, ‘You guys have to get away from the ring of fire or it’s going to pull you down,' " said Addazio. " 'You guys have worked too hard. You guys are going to put your future in the hands of some guy in some club who is pissed off and going to get in a fight and something happens, they take out a knife and they are going stab you or shoot you. Is that what you are going to do? Get away from the ring of fire, get out of there.’
“The problem was, those guys didn’t trust me. I developed a relationship with them and I loved them and they loved me. They gave me their heart on the practice field and off the practice field. And they trusted me enough to listen to me. And I got them to get away from the ring of fire. And I got them to go to class and I got them to get their degree.”
Addazio said while those players used to talk about tattoos, gold chains, and making money, now that they are in the NFL, their priorities have shifted and they drive modest cars.
“You know what they talk about now, ‘Coach, I miss college, I miss the camaraderie, the relationships,’ ” he said. "The money doesn’t mean much to them anymore.
"It’s interesting when you talk to guys and their perspective from when they are 18 years old to when they are 23 years old.
“It’s amazing the things that used to mean something to them and now what means something to them. Now you know what they want to do? They want to buy their mother a house, they want to put money aside for their kids’ educations.”
Addazio also told a cautionary tale of a high-profile player at Florida who liked to smoke marijuana. He said the player went from being a top-three draft pick to being picked in the bottom of the first round, leaving about $20 million on the table.
“There is a big difference between $6 million and $26 million,” he said of the player's eventual signing bonus. He said, ‘I don’t have a problem,’ but I said, ‘You can’t stop.’ ”
Addazio told the students they need to surround themselves with positive role models and peers. He challenged the players to be positive leaders at school rather than disrupting class and trying to get attention.
“Get yourself around peers that are about the right thing, doing the right thing," he said. "Because, unfortunately, you are who you hang out with. And look to some older guys, gals, some role models that can help you, that you can go to that care about you and listen. That’s really important.
"I've got a little saying and I believe this: Good things happen to good people that work hard.
“It’s not luck, guys, not luck. Just be a good dude. Work hard and good things will happen.”
Burke sophomore fullback and defensive end Brandon Newton said it’s important to keep the message in mind all the time.
“Most people are going to leave it to be a ghost -- nobody knows it anymore until someone comes back and says it again,” he said. “We have to have those few people on the team that keep bringing it up repeatedly. Like when one person feels like they don’t want to go to class, it’s like, ‘You gotta go to class if you want to play football. Keep your GPA up.’ "
The players were also invited to BC’s home opener against Villanova Aug. 31, which Newton said will be another reminder of Addazio’s message.
“A really good reminder,” Newton said.
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