Eric Haftel sat down with Kean University’s head football Coach Dan Garrett to talk about the success last season and to find out how recruiting for next season has gone so far.
Eric Haftel- Last season was the best in program history, between winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference title and earning the program’s first trip to the NCAA playoffs, while also winning a school-record 10 games. What would you say was the highlight for last season?
Dan Garrett- “Football is a unique sport. It is the ultimate team sport and that was the most fun. Spending time with the guys that we had. Seeing this team mold together from last January through the end of November and December. Their chemistry and leadership, on top of, their lack of egos, that’s the most impressive thing for me to acknowledge about this team.
E- You, personally, won the Coach of the Year, what does that mean to you? What do you receive for winning that?
D- “I think it means a lot because that award is nominated by your peers. When you get nominated by your peers, that is a great sign of respect. I think it’s the ultimate team award. It says coach of the year and it goes to me but I have 14 assistant coaches and 100 players that work tirelessly. It’s a shame that it just says coach of the year, meaning me, because it’s about the team.”
E- You said, “after the season is when you’re busiest”, why is that?
D-“We lost on Saturday. We had a meeting as a coaching staff on Sunday and then we had a team meeting with the players on Monday. Then we go right on the road recruiting. We hit about 232 high schools all in New Jersey and a few in Staten Island. It was usually 3-4 schools a day. So from Dec. 1, right up until Christmas, everyday from eight in the morning until four, I would go there. Then I would come up here and meet with every single player to have an end of the year evaluation. Then in January there is a national convention that we go to for four days. Then we come back and the kids are back on campus. So we have our spring meetings and weight room in the morning for three hours a day plus recruiting. I also speak at different clinics including the Nike Coach of the Year clinic. Plus I spend five to eight hours a day watching highlights from our games and the players we are recruiting. These last three weeks, I have been at home less than at any point during the season.”
E- It sounds like Kean’s program isn’t a Division III but closer to a Division II or Division I.
D-” I don’t coach Kean like it’s Division III school. I make sure my coaches and players understand that. Our mindset and our mentality is we are going to run this like a Division I program minus the scholarships. We want to make Kean University the place that everyone sees as not only good students, good people in the community but a really, really good football program. We have a saying that we have used since the start of last summer. The old Kean football program, that’s not around anymore. We have a new standard and our job is to uphold the standard. Our standard is to carry ourselves with class and humility and be the class of college football.”
E- How many recruits would you actually bring in?
D-” Out of those, give or take, 800 students that we initially sat with, we are going to have 120 kids visit the campus. After that we are going to have 25-30 that we are going to say, we want you to be a part of us. We want good people, who want to go to college, that can play ball.”
E- I know that both quarterback, Thomas D’Ambrisi and running back, Chris DiMicco are done but what other starters are done with their careers and do you have any idea who will be the new starters?
D- “At the end of the day we are going to play the best people, whether that’s an incoming freshman or a guy who has been in the program. We won’t promise anybody any playing time until they come here and compete for it. We are losing 3 offensive and defensive linemen, a tight end, safety Jamahl Williams, Tommy, Chris and a senior wide receiver. So we are losing a bunch. Six years ago I would be nervous but then we just had a team. We have a football program now. We aren’t in that rebuilding phase. We have guys who have been waiting a year, two years, three years, who have established themselves and are ready to play for us. Even though we are losing a lot, we have a lot in the tank.”
E- Are all coaches, including coach Mike Teel, going to be returning and how big of an impact did coach Teel have?
D- “Mike was a phenomenal addition to the staff. It’s very hard to find a good quarterback coach who are smart football guys and Mike is a guy who hard all those football smarts and didn’t have to research it. He had a huge impact because we had a good quarterback and he made that very good quarterback, better. Mike’s network is huge. It includes everyone he was coached by at Rutgers, the Seahawks, Bears and Patriots. Mike is going to be a phenomenal young coach and I don’t know how long we are going to be able to keep him. He’s going to have a huge amount of opportunities because of what he has been able to do.”
E- What do you expect from this upcoming season?
D-“The expectations moving ahead are to have great expectations. We don’t accept mediocrity.”