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Jan. 18, 2007 • Volume 15 Number 9

Jeff Jagodzinski

Return to Heights Gladdens Jagodzinski

Eagles' new football coach got boost for job from unlikely source

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

While Boston College's new football coach Jeff Jagodzinski was building a successful 22-year coaching career and, along with wife Lisa, raising a family of five children, it seemed highly unlikely that he would draw the attention of the vocations director at a small Catholic college in Wisconsin.

Yet Jagodzinski says he thinks that an endorsement from the priest at the College of St. Norbert in DePere helped him land the job of his dreams.

"I heard on ESPN that [former BC coach] Tom O'Brien had just taken the North Carolina State job," Jagodzinski recalls of the Dec. 6 announcement that BC was seeking a new football leader. "I had always been interested in the BC job since I was coaching here eight or nine years ago and I always thought that if it ever came open that it would be one of those things that I would want to pursue."

Jagodzinski, whose notable football resume includes a two-year stint as assistant coach and offensive coordinator at BC (1997-98) and his most recent assignment as offensive coordinator of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, has developed contacts with people at every level of the game. But when he decided to apply for BC's head job he opted to ask just one of them - Rev. James Baraniak at St. Norbert, an 1,897-student Catholic school located five miles south of Green Bay - to provide a recommendation on his behalf.

Fr. Baraniak, who is in charge of recruiting new members for the Norbertine order and pastor of St. Norbert's church, also holds a "second" Sunday job: team chaplain for the fabled football Packers.

"'Jags' is one of my favorites," says Fr. Baraniak, who says he contacted University President William P. Leahy, SJ and joked, "'What are you doing trying to take away not only one of our best coaches, but one of my best friends?'

"I told Fr. Leahy that he is a very good person, he will represent the Jagodzinski family well, he will represent Boston College very well, and he will represent the Church and the Jesuits very well.

"He just does things well," Fr. Baraniak says. "I think that Jags is being tapped not just to be a coach to some fine athletes, I know that he will do that, but he will be a tremendous role model and a mentor figure to all sorts of students at Boston College.

"When Jags told me what was going on with the job at BC, I said to him, 'What do you want me to pray for?'" Fr. Baraniak recalls. "He said, 'Wisdom. Wisdom that I make the right choices and they make the right choices.'"

On Dec. 12, Jagodzinski met in Green Bay with BC Athletics Director Gene DeFilippo and Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan, who were traveling the country interviewing top-rated coaching candidates.

"I could tell in the first 20 minutes of our interview that Jeff was special," said DeFilippo, who also cites as a positive factor the rapport they formed during Jagodzinski's time at BC. "I think that the excitement, the enthusiasm and the passion that Jeff showed in wanting the job and that he would bring to this job set him apart."

After the Packers played a game at Detroit on Dec. 17, Jagodzinski boarded a private jet furnished by University Trustee Jack Connors '63 and flew to Boston to meet with Fr. Leahy.

"We sat down for about three hours and just talked," Jagodzinski recalls. "He had a list of things he wanted to ask me, but it really didn't go that way. We just started talking about our lives - he of course was at Marquette and I'm from Milwaukee - and I think we hit it off pretty well right from the beginning.

"At the end of our talk, Father said 'I think I have just about everything covered,'" Jagodzinski says.

Two days later, Jagodzinski was named Boston College's 33rd head coach of football.

Jagodzinski can't hide his enthusiasm for his new post. "I had a great experience here before," he says in his pitch-perfect Wisconsin twang. "The thing that stuck out the most for me was the kids. I still talk to some of the kids that I coached here 10 years ago. When this job opened up, I had a bunch of BC guys that I had coached call me up and say 'You need to try and get this thing.'

"I thought that it was pretty good that after all of these years that they still thought enough of me to do that," he says.

"I know the kind of young person that comes to BC," says Jagodzinski, who praises the work of O'Brien and his staff in building a program that has been successful athletically and academically. "Academics are very important to the kids who come here. They're smart and they're tough. They're 'blue-collar' type guys. That's a pretty good combination to win a lot of football games, which Tom did."

Jagodzinski, who arrived in Chestnut Hill a few days after the Packers completed the pro football season, is involved in a whirlwind of activity as he hires his own coaching staff, puts the finishing touches on recruiting a new class of freshmen players and resettles his family into a Boston-area home.

"Our family is really excited," he says. "They are already on the Internet picking out houses."

After leaving Boston College in 1998, Jagodzinski spent six seasons as an assistant coach for the Packers before taking a similar position with the Atlanta Falcons. After two years in Atlanta, he returned to Green Bay while his family chose to remain in Atlanta for "the schools and stability," he explains.

"Being apart was tough on the family," he admits. "I'll never ever do that again. I hope I can be at Boston College for a long, long time. I have no desire to go elsewhere. Boston College is a great opportunity for me and my family. We plan on making to most of it."

Read more about Jeff Jagodzinski, and watch his introductory press conference on-line.

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