- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our friends at ESPN The Magazine embarked on quite the task -- finding the friendliest college football coach in America. How exactly could this be accomplished?
Ryan Hockensmith tells us all about it. The magazine invented a superfan named Jim Smith with a simple request. In a letter to all 120 college football coaches, Jim asked for a voicemail to be left in his inbox to be used as his outgoing greeting. A handful of coaches actually took the time to fulfill the request.
But like a bumbling idiot, Jim deletes all the voicemails he receives. So he makes a second request for another voicemail. Two coaches come through, but one stood out.
So the friendliest coach in America is ...
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.
Hockensmith asked Marrone a simple question. Why are you so friendly? Here is what Marrone says in response:
Marrone laughs. "When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, my grandmother took care of me," he says. "On the subway she'd always say, 'Get up and let that nice lady sit down.' I'd argue with her, but she would say, 'Doug, what's the right thing to do?' In my head, I still hear her saying that."
There is one more story Marrone shares, a story every coach and player should read for some perspective.
Flash forward to 1989. Marrone has concluded his career as an offensive lineman for Syracuse and is a backup guard for the New Orleans Saints. One day on a road trip, he watches his friend and fan-favorite teammate Jumpy Geathers get mobbed for autographs in a hotel lobby. "I'll catch up with you later," Marrone tells him. An hour later, he goes looking for Geathers. He's still standing in the lobby scribbling his name. "Geez, Jumpy, have you been signing autographs all this time?"
Marrone asks. Geathers glances at Marrone and says something that, like Grandma's speech, sticks with Marrone to this day: "They're not going to want my autograph forever, Doug."