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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Addazio looking for leaders to emerge

By Jack McCluskey, Special to ESPNBoston.com



NEWTON, Mass. -- After just two days of practice, there wasn’t a lot new Eagles coach Steve Addazio could say for sure about his team at Boston College’s annual media day.

They’ve retained a lot of information -- maybe more than players at some other schools might have -- which is good. They’re working hard and have a good attitude, which is also good.

But, then again, they hadn’t even put pads on yet.

“My question to them after practice was ‘How are you gonna handle the Day 4 and 5 installation?’” he said. “And then fatigue is setting in and then you’re in physical contact and your body’s beat up and then you know what happens? It’s the old saying, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all.’

“When you get tired, things start falling apart on you and that’s part of toughness. You talk about physical toughness and mental toughness and you have to learn how to fight through that.”

Addazio said in the week prior to camp that he’s spent a lot of time trying to work on developing leadership skills in his players. He’s had “leadership seminars” with them, talking about great leaders from the sports and business worlds.

He cited Steve Young and Kobe Bryant as two examples and JPMorgan Chase CEO James Dimon as another.

Classroom learning is all well and good, but Addazio knows that in football real leaders emerge on the field.

“I say to them, ‘It’s easy to be a great leader when the sun is shining and it’s 70 degrees and everything’s going pretty good. It’s not as easy when you’re beat up and you’re tired and its 97 degrees and you’ve had about enough and you’re in Day 13.’ Then we’ll find out how good our leadership is,” he said. “Well, I’m hoping it is going to be good. I don’t have the answer to that right now.”

To find out just what kind of caliber character they have, Addazio and his staff plan to put the Eagles in as many adverse situations as possible during camp.

“It’s my job, our job, to put them in those stressful situations to create stress to learn how to handle stress,” he said. “Stress from fatigue, stress from hard coaching. We really get on their case really hard, and why? Because it’s really intense when the game is on the line and it’s fourth-and-1, on the road.

“It’s not a pleasant thing and you need to learn to train for that. I could make it zip-a-dee-doo-dah every day but that wouldn’t really help them get ready, that’s not my job. ... When I see the right opportunity as we head down into this thing, I’ll turn it on pretty good when I can to start to really see if we can maintain our composure, our toughness.”

Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Kasim Edebali, for one, likes the tough-minded approach the coaching staff has taken.

“[Addazio’s] an emotional guy and I mean that in the best way possible because there’s not a lot of people who care that much,” Edebali told reporters Tuesday. “When I have a good play, he’s the first one that’s on me and says ‘Good job, Kasim.’ But if I do mess up, he’s the first one to criticize me and encourage me to do better.”

It’s the same with the other coaches. Ryan Day, the fifth offensive coordinator at BC in the past four years, said leadership has been a big focus with quarterback Chase Rettig.

“The first thing we talked about was learning how to lead, learning how to lead 10 men,” Day said.

That wasn’t the first thing on Rettig’s mind.

“The first two weeks, all he wanted to talk about was the offense we’re putting in,” Day said. “What kind of routes we’re putting in, and the run game.”

He’s made strides since, Day said.

“That’s what I talk to Chase about all the time, ‘You have to find your right way.’ We talk about it all the time,” he said. “He’s gotta set a standard and then make everybody live up to that standard. That’s the supreme function of a leader.

“Everybody has their own style. Some days you have to use a style where you’re really direct with a guy. Some days you have to put your arm around him and show him the way. I think Chase is finding his own form of leadership.”

To illustrate, Day recounted a conversation he had with the signal-caller in spring practice.

“You really need to talk to these receivers about running the right route,” Day said.

“Every time a receiver makes a mistake,” Rettig replied, “you and the receiver coach run over and correct him before I can.”

“Well, then beat us over there,” Day said.

Sure enough, the next time a receiver ran the wrong route, Rettig was the first one to the wideout, pulled him aside and showed him how to run it correctly. It was a tangible piece of evidence that all the talk of leadership hasn’t fallen on indifferent ears.

“I think I’m just in a position now to do it,” Rettig said of being a leader. “You never want to be the one talking if you can’t back it up. I’m not saying I’ve done all these great things or had all these accolades, I’m just saying that with three years of experience I can pay it forward to someone else.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.