Archive for October, 2015

BC Women’s Hockey Pioneer Kelly McManus Souza: Raising Standards and Expectations Wherever She Goes

October 5, 2015

kellyIf this were a story about business, we’d say that Kelly McManus Souza is a change agent. If our subject were chemistry, then she’d be a catalyst. But this is a story about sports. Kelly McManus is an athlete. But she’s also both a catalyst and a change agent. Throughout her career, almost wherever she’s laced on a pair of skates, Kelly has transformed teams and programs, bringing them to new and higher standards of performance.

Her college hockey days began at the University of New Hampshire. She got a full scholarship to UNH, the East’s dominant women’s hockey program of the late 1990s, and was ECAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman. In her two years there, the team went 47-17-5. Kelly scored 17 goals and 37 assists for 54 points. She was on a roll.

But in the spring following her sophomore campaign, Kelly made a bold move. She left UNH and accepted a half scholarship offer from Boston College’s second-year coach Tom Babson. The Eagles wanted to build their program to national prominence. She was looking for a change and had always liked BC.

She was one of five transfers and five new recruits to arrive in the fall of 2000. But it was Kelly, more than anyone else, whose presence showed that Boston College was serious about competing at the highest level.

“I had an official visit at BC when I was in high school, but UNH was coming off a national championship at the time, and I wanted to play against the best of the best,” Kelly explains.

“Then, two years later, BC seemed committed to improving the program. I had known Coach Babson through Ben Smith and the Olympic Development program. I thought that I could be one of those players who had an impact. I had done that at Nobles, and it was nice to see that kind of development take place.”

Impact? Here’s what Babson has to say.

“You have to understand that BC Women’s Hockey was not the incredible juggernaut that it is today. We were an after-thought program with very few scholarships and no reputation to recruit upon. There were even voices at BC wondering whether women’s hockey was worth the expense.

“To have someone like Kelly McManus take a chance on us was bewildering to the stronger programs. UNH was used to winning and had made the ECAC finals 9 out of the previous 10 years. After 14 consecutive loses to UNH, we tied them in Kelly’s senior year. Then we were a program that the college hockey community began to take notice of. That season saw us also beat Cornell and Maine, both very strong programs that we hadn’t beaten in years.”

mcmanus action 2McManus, a left-hand shot, played both center and wing. Her linemates for her two BC seasons were primarily Jen Buckley, Alaina Clark, Kerri Sanders, and Thia Connolly. As Connolly puts it, “Teammate or competitor, I’ve witnessed Kelly on both ends of the spectrum. It was much more comforting to have her on your side than on the opposing bench.”

The first year McManus played, BC’s record was 6-26. She had 13 goals and nine assists for 32 points. In her senior season, she had 17-17-34, good for third in goals in the ECAC. The team’s record was 9-19-4 and it included a first-ever berth in the playoffs. Boston College women’s hockey had arrived. Kelly became BC’s first nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award.

Even though Kelly only played two BC seasons, she set several team records. As of graduation, she held the single-season mark for goals, assist and points. For her career, she was fourth all-time in points and goals, and third in assists.

Earlier in her career, Kelly had singlehandedly elevated the athletics program at Noble and Greenough School. Nobles won the Independent School League championship in her senior year and has remained at the top of that league ever since. Kelly was a high school All-America for coach Todd Stirling at Nobles. For her high school career, she scored 137 goals and had 98 assists. She also was all-ISL in lacrosse and soccer, and she captained all three sports.

“The support I got at Nobles was critical in my development in soccer and lacrosse,” she says, citing soccer coach Beth Riley and headmaster Vic Baker in addition to Stirling.

Before Nobles, Kelly played on the boys’ team at Dedham Country Day School. Hockey had been curtailed there, and she successfully petitioned for its reinstatement. She also was a member of the nationally prominent Assabet Valley Girls Hockey Team under coach Carl Gray. Assabet’s Pee Wee team dominated New England and finished second in the national championship tournament in Minnesota.

“Coach Gray was the one who really taught me how to deal with adversity, how to play under pressure,” said Kelly.
Kelly’s very first hockey coach was her father Mike. He had insisted that Kelly and her sister Krissy stick to figure skating and forgo Dedham Youth Hockey. Bored with that scene after a few years, they badgered him until he relented – but only if he could coach them.

Kelly and her husband Mike were married in 2006 at St. Ignatius Church. After graduation, she earned a law degree at Massachusetts School of Law while Mike was playing professional hockey. They lived in Italy for the four years he played at Cortina and have two daughters – Ella, age 8 and Ava, age 5.

Both Mike and Kelly have been coaching since returning to America in 2010. She was head hockey coach at St. Mary’s Academy Bayview in Riverside, RI and head coach for the Team Elevate Elite Lacrosse Club at Brown. Mike recently returned to his alma mater to be associate head hockey coach.

Mike and Kelly met at the rink while at UNH. Both good scorers, they would compete for the best statistics. “He’s a bigger and more physical player than me,” she says. “But I’m smarter.”

BC Soccer Hall of Famer Paul Keegan: Learning Beautiful Soccer Made Him Ireland’s First MLS Player

October 5, 2015

KeeganHeadandShouldersEarly in his freshman year at Boston College, Paul Keegan scored two goals in the first half of a soccer game at Northeastern. Coach Ed Kelly was not at all pleased.

“He was shouting at me from the sidelines, and in the locker room he was telling me that I should have passed rather than scored,” said Paul.

“I’m a striker, and strikers are greedier than other players. But Ed wanted the beautiful game. That’s how he taught me. I had to look around and not be selfish. He instilled that in me, and that’s what prepared me for MLS.”

Paul was the first Irishman to play Major League Soccer in the United States. He was the Number One pick of the New England Revolution the first MLS college draft in 1996, and he stayed with the Revs for five seasons. But his path to the big time began with Kelly’s exacting tutelage.

“When I came to Boston College I was raw. I could score goals. But I didn’t have that vision yet. Ed was a great mentor and coach,” said Paul.

The oldest of five children, Paul grew up in Dublin. His father Peter was a big fan of the Liverpool club and took his sons to England for games. Times were different back then. Irish kids who played soccer, which was considered an English game, weren’t allowed to play other school sports. Paul’s Crumlin United team won the Dublin League and Youth Cup in 1991, and Paul was Player of the Year in the Under-18 category.

Paul’s scoring touch brought him to St. Patrick’s Athletic and got him into a development course under the League of Ireland, that country’s version of Major League Soccer. It amounted to an unpaid apprenticeship for aspiring pro soccer players. Paul got hurt along the way, breaking an ankle and three toes. That turned out to be a blessing. He started to consider other options, like getting a good education.

“I got to thinking, what if this happens when you’re playing professional football. You just get laid off. You have no job, no career,” he said.

When a team from Elizabethtown, New Jersey came over for a game, Paul was duly impressed – especially by the quality of their uniforms and equipment. He decided then that he’d be interested in coming to college in America, and told his coach. The coach knew Ed Kelly and made a phone call. A year later, Paul Keegan was a Boston College freshman.

“It was hard. I was the first in my family to go away. Not just away, but thousands of miles. My dad was pushing me, telling me that America was the land of dreams,” he said.

Paul’s younger brother Wayne followed him across The Pond and ended up playing for Southern Connecticut State’s Division Two NCAA champion team. Though Paul had a lot to learn about the fine points of the game, he had an immediate impact at BC. In 1992 he was Big East Rookie of the Year and a regional All-American for the 10-8 squad.

Kelly appointed Paul captain of the team when Paul was a sophomore. Kelly brushed aside Paul’s objections about being too young and told him just to lead by example. As Paul put it, “He instilled that fighting spirit in me.”

He was captain or co-captain for three seasons and, as teammate Mike Calise stated, “Paul’s impact on the field was trumped only by his impact in the locker room and on his teammates. Paul represents the best of Boston College, our soccer family, and what it means to be an Eagle.”

Sophomore season of 1993 was rewarding, in a way, but also one of the most frustrating. The team went 12-5-1, despite having no home field for games. Shea Field was rendered unplayable for games by the football tailgaters, Paul recalls. The team did practice on Shea and “picked up a lot of chicken bones,” he says. Worse yet was the politics. The committee that selected teams for the NCAA Tournament snubbed BC.

During Paul’s four seasons the Eagles compiled a record of 42-25-6. He was a regional All-America pick all four years, national All-American twice, and three times was picked for the All-Big East first team. he was chosen Eagle of the Year for 1995-96. He holds the all-time point scoring record with 31 goals and 21 assist for 83 points in 69 games. He is second all-time in goals and third all-time in assists.

Paul’s favorite college memory came right at the end of his undergraduate days. Two years before receiving his diploma, he started for the Revolution in Foxboro and scored his first MLS goal against New York. His four brothers, his sister, and his father had all come over from Ireland to see that game and to be at graduation. His mother, tragically, had died from injuries suffered when she was stuck by an automobile a few years before.

Paul picked up a master’s degree in education while playing professionally. He also spent a tremendous amount of time as the Revolution’s ambassador to the communities in and around Boston. If there was an event involving pro athletes, he’d be there – soccer camps, charitable fund raisers, kids’ birthday parties, he’d be there. He was named Boston’s Sportsman of the Year in his last MLS season.

He returned to Ireland after that, resuming his soccer career and helping to care for his father for a year before he passed away. Paul played for a variety of teams over the next decade-plus before retiring. For the past six years he has combined his athletic background and his love of community service in working for Sports Scotland.

“It’s an active skills program, a massive program, and not just for one sport,” he explains. “It lets me reach kids, a grass-roots way to get them involved in clubs and out into their community. It’s a really enjoyable job, seeing people changing and creating new opportunities for themselves.”

BC Soccer Hall of Famer Mary Guarino: All She Needed was a Little Motivation

October 5, 2015
Mary and Alison with twins Liam and Rowan and triplets Stella, Declan, nd Reese

Mary and Alison with twins Liam and Rowan and triplets Stella, Declan, nd Reese

When high school senior Mary Guarino arrived at Storrs, Connecticut from Florida on a recruiting trip, the first thing she asked was “How far are we from Boston?”

Maybe that didn’t tip off the UConn soccer coaches that Mary had her heart set on Boston College. But it should have. Two years before, she’d visited Chestnut Hill with her father John, who’d grown up in Cambridge. Mary decided then that she wanted to go to Boston College. It was up to her to make it happen.

Mary had played soccer and many other sports – football and basketball with older brother John, track cross country and tennis in school. She was a star for the Plantation, Florida Eagles Club and had made it to the U.S. Olympic Development Player Pool. Mary also played for St. Thomas Aquinas High of Fort Lauderdale, national and state soccer champs and a renowned breeding ground for athletes.

She did make that enrollment at BC happen, although her final year of high school had many an anxious moment too. After verbally committing to Eagle coach Terez Biancardi but before signing a letter of intent, Mary blew out her right knee.

She had meniscus surgery and would need a brace for at least a year. The damaged knee could have changed everything, but Biancardi and BC didn’t flinch. Mary came north. It wasn’t an easy first year. She started in three games and didn’t score her only goal of the season until the fourteenth game. Being away from home was hard, and she’d never experienced a winter before.

“I didn’t think the game was all that different in college, except for the speed. I was the fastest player in high school. When I got to BC, I found that I wasn’t as fast as I thought. I also had to get used to playing with the brace. I also thought I’d be able to walk on top of snow,” she said.

Mary blossomed in sophomore year under new coach Alison Foley. She led the team in scoring with seven goals and one assist for 15 points. Foley pushed and challenged Mary constantly, demanding that she work harder. Mary was a fearless, aggressive striker. She also had an outstanding vertical leap and scored many headers during her career. But she needed better footwork and technical finesse for maneuvering in close quarters. Just crashing into opponents to get to the ball wasn’t enough.

“I attribute my biggest development to Alison Foley. She knew how to motivate me. I was on a full ride, life was good. But she said that ‘Mary’s got more than she’s showing us.’ She told me I wasn’t good enough, and that I’d have to do more if I was going to play here.

“That did it for me. You tell me something like that and I’m going to do everything in my power to prove you wrong. I needed help on technical things and finishing around the goal. That’s where I struggled early. Alison changed that whole aspect of my game,” said Mary.

Foley thus stepped into the role that Mary’s mother Margaret had played back in Florida. “My mother never let me settle for less, and always pushed me to do more than I thought I was capable of,” she recalls.

Mary usually played as a striker, but Foley sometimes put her at outside midfielder against better teams when BC needed a one-on-one defender. But it was in scoring that Mary Guarino made her mark. She had seven goals in both sophomore and junior years and scored 18 times as a senior. Now fourth on BC Soccer’s all-time scoring list with 33 goals and 23 assists for 87 points, she was first in that category at graduation.

In Mary’s final year the Eagles went 16-7-1 and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985. She scored a hat trick in the first round in a 4-1 win over Fairfield. Next up was a match at Harvard, who’d crushed the Eagles 4-0 during the season. The Harvard Crimson writers scoffed at the mismatch; BC had never beaten Harvard.

“We were such total underdogs. We played 99% defense and won 1-0,” she recounts of the victory that brought BC to the Sweet 16.

Mary scored the only goal of the Harvard game on a left-footed shot. She took a pass from Meghan Moore and beat defender Gina Foster, who’d been a teammate of Mary’s back in Fort Lauderdale.

The next game was a different story altogether. UConn eliminated the Eagles 5-0 and Mary, knee blown out again, was carried off the field at the 20-minute mark.

“But I’ll take that Harvard game any day,” she says.

After graduating, Mary signed a semipro deal and took a fling with the Boston Breakers. She also launched a 12-year coaching career, first as Foley’s assistant at BC. She then was assistant at Hobart William Smith and at Westchester University. She was also head coach of the West Chester United Under-16 team.

From 2005 to 2012, Mary was head coach at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Her teams had a 100% graduation rate and an overall 2.9 GPA. Then it was time to come home and take care of the kids.
Mary and partner Alison McWilliams gave been together for ten years. They are the proud parents of twins Liam and Rowan, age 3, and triplets Stella, Declan, and Reese, age 5. Mary and Alison recently announced a new venture, a BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Center in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Mary also teaches aquatic survival skills to children aged six months to six years. She is one of only five instructors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who are certified by Infant Swim Resource to instruct the youngsters how to swim and survive in the water.

“It’s been very rewarding, giving kids a skill that could save their life. Since I started about a year ago, I’ve already had two reports of lives being saved,” she says.

BC Hall of Famer Chris Georgules: Distance Running Put His Life on Track

October 5, 2015

Chris-G-for-webHe wasn’t exactly Smith, the street-tough borstal boy of Alan Sillitoe’s “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.” But Chris Georgules’ story is strikingly similar. Like that fictional lad, Chris was an at-risk youth who found a purpose, an outlet, and a depth of excellence in himself when he took up distance running.

Chris first distinguished himself on the tracks and cross country trails at Saint John’s High in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. He ended up at Boston College, where he became one of the best and most versatile distance runners in school history.

Like most elite athletes, Chris can tick off the names of many coaches and teammates whose influence and advice were indispensable to him along the way. But none of those track people would have even met him, were it not for Chris’ grandmother, Annie Culhane.

Annie raised Chris, his brother Stefan and his sister Audrey from the time Chris was seven. She sent him to Saint John’s and demanded that he not only study, but also take part in extracurricular activities. He’d been to four different grammar schools and was hanging out with a number of less-than stellar companions. He needed direction and discipline, and Annie told him to go find it.

Though he was lean and athletic, Chris hadn’t enjoyed much success at sport either. He’d been cut from all the teams he tried to make. Cross country was different. Anybody could take part, and there were no squad cuts. He joined up.

“I’d be nowhere without my grandmother. She forced me to do something extracurricular. I wasn’t going around with the greatest crowd and was a problem child until I got to Saint John’s. I think I had some anger issues from moving around so much. When I started running, I did pretty well right away. And I found a different set of friends,” he says.

Chris didn’t just start running. He started winning. He took two state championships in cross country and the indoor mile, and competed on the national level in cross country. More importantly, he learned the responsibilities that come with being a champion athlete. Cross country coach Raul Laborde and track coach Jerry Frew both boosted his confidence and self-esteem in a way that he’d never known. Frew also reminded Chris that younger athletes were now looking up to him, and that he had to behave in an adult-like, responsible way.

Julia, Chris, Ian, and Benjamin

Julia, Chris, Ian, and Benjamin

Lightly recruited despite his high school success, Chris accepted Randy Thomas’s offer of a partial scholarship to BC. By the time he got to college, Chris had made tremendous strides in personal maturity, but he was still a work in progress. He recalls an early cross country meet when he lost a race right at the wire, threw a temper tantrum, and flung his glasses away in frustration.

In stepped team captain Brian Murphy to give the young Mr. Georgules a stern warning that he’d better not that again – ever.

“He was two years older than me at the time, and he made me realize that maybe I wasn’t the best on the team, but that there was a certain attitude that was expected. There were other team members, — Jamalh Prince, Keith Yuen, Pete Hogan. I looked up to them all. They showed me how it could be done, and they also showed me how to relax and have fun. That was something I’d never done in high school either,” he said

“Once I found running, I found my niche. But it wasn’t a passion for me. I liked it and was good at it, but the best parts were the practices, the training runs, the travel, the bus rides. It was the camaraderie, spending time with my team mates. That’s what I valued most. As a runner, I had decent speed but I didn’t set the pace. I was a stick-in-the-pack guy, would stay in third or fourth place, and rely on my speed at the end.”

We’ll take his word that Chris was not a single-minded, triple-A personality competitor. But you’d never know that from the record he set at Boston College.

In cross country, he was the 1992 U.S. National Junior Champion. That same year he competed in the World Junior Championships and finished 55th. He was also the National Catholic Champion and led BC to the team title. In 1994 he was National Catholic Cross Country Champion and paced the Eagles to the team championship.

In indoor track, Chris was a two-time All-American in the 3,000m indoor event. He set BC’s all-time best record for that distance with a time of 7:59.27. He also ranked fourth all-time in the 5,000m indoor, the 5,000m outdoor, and 1,500m outdoor events.

He was 1994 New England champion in the 3,000m; in 1992 and 1993 he ran the mile leg as the Eagles won the IC4A and Big East Distance Medley Relay. In 1995 he was Big East 5000m champion with a time of 14:18.99. He was New England champion in both the 5,000, with a time of 14:29.38, and the 1,500, with a time of 3:47.22.

In outdoor track, he was 1994 New England Champion in the 5,000m with a time of 14:29.38, and 1995 New England Champion in the 1,500m with a time of 3:47.22.

All in all, not bad for a kid who never made another a sports team.

Chris has been teaching English at Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley, California for 15 years. He and his wife of eight years, the former Julia Kilpatrick, are the parents of sons Ian, 4, and Benjamin, 2.

Before moving to California, where he also ran for the Stanford Farm Team and took up triathlons, Chris taught at St John’s in Worcester for five years. In the Golden State he reconnected with former BC teammates Ronan O’ Flaherty and E.J. Sarraille. Right after graduation, that trio had spent ten months touring the world – Europe, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and home by way of Fiji.

Damien Woody: Dominator and Dancing Bear of the Boston College Offensive Line

October 5, 2015

Woody head and shouldersOn Damien Woody’s first day of practice at Boston College, head coach Dan Henning tossed the eager young lineman a football and proclaimed,

“You’re a center.”

The reaction was predictable. “Who, me? I’ve never played that position in my life. Both sides of the line, but never center,” thought the former high school All-America from Patrick Henry High in Roanoke, Virginia.

Henning went on to tell Woody,” Don’t worry. We’ll teach you all the nuances of the position. You’re just what the pros are looking for. In three years you’ll be the top center in the NFL draft.”

Dan certainly knew his business. After a redshirt year and three varsity seasons, Damien Woody, degree already in hand, became the first center selected in round one – 17th overall – in more than ten years. He played a dozen seasons in the pros at center, guard, and tackle.

Damien embraced the challenge at BC and flourished, especially under line coach George Warhop. He learned long snapping. He figured out how to block the guy who was leaning over him as he crouched low. He got the knack of calling out blocking assignments before the snap – as “quarterback of the offensive line,” as he dubs the position. The other linemen make calls too, after the action commences, but the center takes the lead at the beginning of the play.

Teammates at BC called him “The Dominator.” He topped out at around 335 pounds and, at 6-4, was taller than most centers. His practice-day battles with defensive tackle Chris Hovan, who went on to play a decade in the NFL, made each one’s game days seems like light workouts.

Were it not for his grandfather, Franklin Woody, Damien might never have played football. He wasn’t an especially big youngster, standing 5-10 and weighing 200 pounds in ninth grade. He was naturally athletic, playing basketball and running track, but his parents were reluctant to let him pad up for football. Grandfather Franklin took up the cause, and they relented. Damien joined the team.

Two years later, pixie dust fell on Damien Woody. In the summer between sophomore and junior years, in a span of about four months, he grew six inches and gained 60 pounds. The same thing happened to his best friend Aaron Kinney.
Woody explained that his growth spurt didn’t bring on any of the usual awkwardness or clumsiness. He was able to move about as well as ever — just a bigger version of what he was before, as he describes it.

Patrick Henry High became a juggernaut. Colleges came calling. The offers rolled in, first of which was a full ride to the University of Virginia when Damien was a junior. Woody and Kinney visited Boston College together. Damien opted for the Eagles while Kinney committed to Florida.

“I wanted to be a true student athlete,” Damien explains. “My parents and I both valued a good education, and I wanted a geographical change.”

That move brought him north but lost him a girlfriend. Word of his decision to spurn UVA and go to BC got back to Nicole Young even before he could tell her himself. She broke up with him on the spot. They’d been close since meeting in ninth-grade home room. She stayed home in Virginia. He was off to see the world.

The combined record of BC teams for Damien’s three varsity seasons was 14-21. It was a time of transition, from Henning’s tenure to that of Tom O’Brien. However, the offensive line remained a potent and formidable component, clearing the way for Mike Cloud and other runners to roll up hundreds of yards per game.

Damien kept growing too, putting on another 30 pounds while still maintaining his agility. “I was the dancing bear,” he says. “An offensive lineman has to be smart, and tough, and he has to have good feet. If you’ve got those three things, I can work with you at any level.”

Woody could have played another year at BC, but all indications were that he’d be a first round pick. He declared, and wasn’t disappointed. Taken by the Patriots, he earned Super Bowl rings in 2001 and 2003 and went to the Pro Bowl in 2002.
After five years with the Pats, Damien played four years for the Detroit Lions and three for the New York Jets. He played in 173 NFL games and started in 166 of them.

“I was fortunate enough to play for the best coaches in the business,” he states. “Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick for the Patriots, then later on Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan.”

Damien’s body told him when it was time to retire. He tore a meniscus while playing a full season for the Jets. He rehabbed quickly, but at the end of the playoff game against the Colts, his Achilles tendon tore. He hadn’t even touched anyone on the play.

“My wife and girls were in tears after that game. But I knew it was over for me. I was at peace with it. I’d done everything I’d set out to do,” he says.

Shortly after that, ESPN approached Damien’s agent, Ben Dogra, about an audition. It was another ideal fit for Damien’s talents. He became a football analyst and a fixture on Sports Center.

By the way, you knew that lost-girlfriend story would have a happy ending. About midway through Damien’s sophomore year, the phone rang in his dorm room. It was Nicole. She’d been thinking of him, as he’d been thinking of her. They talked for five hours and got back together.

Damien and Nicole now have seven children: Kamille, 16; Jalynn, 15; Alexandra, 13; Domonique, 11; Damien II, who’s known as Deuce, 8; Dontrell, 7; and Jacoby, 3.

he Woody family launched the Pros Foundation, which raises money to help send terminally-ill children’s cancer patients and their families to Disney World. They also organized a fashion show for the Robin Hood Foundation, which helps to feed needy families in New York.

Doug Brzezinski: A Real Student of the Game at O-Line U

October 5, 2015

BrzezinskiheadandshouldersDoug Brzezinski was too big for youth football until he got to the all-boys Detroit Catholic Central High School. So he played soccer instead. But he looked forward to the day he’d don pads and helmet for close order battle.

Maybe that’s because he was also a devotee of Dungeons and Dragons. He liked to imagine himself clad in gladiator get-up, wielding his sword and shield in one-to-one combat. That’s the kind of football player he became.

“I’d rather be in a phone booth and duke it out with you, instead of running all over the place,” he said. “I was a brawler. I wasn’t overly athletic, so I’d try to out-effort you or outmuscle you.”

That approach, along with a scholarly approach to learning his craft and an appreciation for good advice and coaching, served Doug well.

Doug arrived at Boston College in the fall of 1994, redshirted a year, then started at left guard in all 46 games in four seasons. Two were under Dan Henning and two under Tom O’Brien. He twice was All-Big East First Team and won the Thomas F. Scanlan Award as a senior.

The Philadelphia Eagles picked Doug in the 1999 draft’s third round. He played six NFL seasons before a spate of injuries sent him into retirement at age 30.

In Doug’s BC career, the Eagles’ combined record was 17-29. It was a time of coaching transitions, and the wins and losses reflected it. But for Doug Brzezinski, it was also a chance to get a superb education – in football, in academics, and in the game of life.

“The biggest thing I learned was how to deal with adversity. In high school, we had only lost one game. At BC it was frustrating at times, but it opened up my eyes. A naïve, straight-laced high school kid meets reality,” he said.

Doug and Co-Captain Mike Cloud

Doug and Co-Captain Mike Cloud

A 49-7 loss to Army in Doug’s first season was a dose of that reality. So too was that 26-31 Notre Dame loss in his final home game three seasons later. The stymied fourth-and-one call to Mike Cloud was “a slow-developing play, a counter-action to the right that gave time for their second-level guys to catch people up,” he recalls ruefully.

“I learned that you’ve just got to go out and do your best, regardless. You can only control yourself. Work hard and let the chips fall where they may, you might get lucky,” he says.

Doug had been looking forward to play for Tom Coughlin and his line coach, Mike Maser. They departed shortly after Doug accepted the scholarship offer, picking Boston College over Notre Dame. Doug was shown around by Ben Velishka on his recruiting trip. He liked the friendliness and good humor of the players.

Doug also liked Eagle players’ work ethic, and that Boston College seemed to accomplish more with less than some other programs. Maser’s candor was also appealing. Rather than promising him an immediate starting berth, the coaches warned that he’d have to earn everything he got, and would have to go to class and study as well.

Getting the starting assignment as a redshirt freshman was a surprise. Doug had expected a lengthy apprenticeship like the one he’d gone through at Catholic Central. But he was a quick study, and he loves to talk about the intelligence and discipline that offensive line play demands.

It might look like a brawl in a phone booth, with behemoths shoving other behemoths. But as Doug describes it, O-line play is a combination of delicately choreographed flash mob and high-speed physics lesson. He also maintains that, unlike the skill positions where natural talent reigns supreme, the offensive line is a spot where anyone who’s willing to work at it can become proficient, if not a star player.

“Offensive line is a game within a game. You’re making about a hundred calls within the space of five seconds. A linebacker moves, a safety comes over, and as the ball’s been snapped you’re still adjusting the blocking scheme to what they’re doing.
“It’s not just ‘you block that guy, I block this guy.’ It happens organically, the flow of whole unit working together,” he explains.

Doug liked what he learned at BC from line coach George Warhop. He also pointed out that Jeff Jagodzinski was particularly good at analyzing opposing defenses and designing offenses to exploit weaknesses. Tom O’Brien’s arrival at the helm was another life lesson for Brzezinski.

“Tom was like Lee Marvin in ‘The Dirty Dozen.’ He had that dry sense of humor. He also said ‘you’ve got to put it in the bank.’ The effort and hard work you put in during the offseason will be there to call on when you need it during the season. That still works for me now. Things I did, efforts I put at work eight years ago, relationships I made, are paying off. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated.”

Halfway through the 2004 season with the Carolina Panthers, Doug felt something give way on the third play of a game. He played the rest of the half with a broken pelvis, one leg flopping around and virtually useless. The surgery was his fourth procedure in two years. He’d also had shoulder problems.

Surgery was another experience that has served him well. He is now with Stryker Medical, a supplier of orthopedic devices and other advanced medical technology. Doug is officially a sales rep covering the region around Washing DC. But his real job is working alongside surgeons in the operating room as they replace hips, knees, bones and joints with his company’s products. Operations can demand on-the-fly changes in strategy and materials, just like offensive line play,

Perhaps the best part of attending Boston College, he says, was meeting his with during freshman orientation. He and the former Alise Karchmer – who wasn’t into football at all – hit it off immediately. They started dating in junior year. They live in Maryland with son Luke, 3, and daughter Natalia, 5.

Alissa Murphy Richardson: Hard Work Prepared Versatile BC Basketball Hall of Famer to Step in and Lead Team to Its First NCAA Tournament

October 5, 2015

AlissaHeadandShoulderswThe first big year, that breakthrough season, of the Cathy Inglese era of Boston College basketball was 1998-99, Cathy’s sixth as head coach. The team went 22-8, made it the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, and knocked off both second-ranked UConn and tenth-ranked Notre Dame along the way. The reasons for the surge were many. But none was so important as the emergence of junior guard/forward Alissa Murphy.

As Inglese puts it, “If Alissa didn’t step up to the plate, it would have been a much different season. The freshman class stepped up too, but we had a leader in Alissa and everybody looked up to her.”

Murphy had been a solid contributor to the team for her first two seasons. She had averaged about 24 minutes and seven points per game. In mid-season of her junior year, Alissa’s roommate, co-captain, and future Hall of Famer Cal Bouchard went down with a torn ACL. She was gone for the year.

The team needed to replace both Bouchard’s scoring and her leadership. Inglese called on Alissa Murphy and showed why the judgment call she’d made in recruiting the San Diego native three years before was spot-on.

Alissa was more than ready for the challenge. She led the team in scoring with 16 points per game. She scored in double figures in all 30 contests. She led the team in three-point shots. She led the big East and was third in the nation in free throw percentage. She bagged a career-high 32 points in a monumental 78-66 win over Connecticut. The Big East named her its Most Improved Player.

“Alissa wasn’t a prize recruit, but I liked when she came out East to go to a camp. She had a scorer’s mentality, and you can’t teach that,“ said Inglese. “I could see that she loved the game and she brought the intangibles. She wasn’t overly athletic, but she had that mindset and a nose for the basket.

Alissa Murphy for Women's Basketball ad“She heeded our advice and made her shot release quicker. And she went above and beyond with what she did in the weight room and watching what she ate. She transformed herself from a medium build to someone who was strong and aggressive.”

Murphy had always been a diligent worker. But the summer between her sophomore and junior years was when she molded herself into a scoring machine. Every day she worked on her shooting technique with assistant coach Kelly Cole.

“She overhauled my shooting motion. I started at three feet away, then four, then five. She’d rebound for me and I’d shoot until I got the form. I locked it into muscle memory, shooting the same was every time, until it was as smooth and as quick as it could be. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that I made out to the three-point line,” said Alissa.

Becky Gottstein Holden, another who’s already made the BC Hall of Fame, was in that year’s freshman class that also included Nicole Conway, Brianne Stepherson and Kim Mackie. She gravitated toward Murphy, remarking,

“You have to re-learn how to work hard when you get to college. And with Alissa, it was what she did outside of the game, in practice, taking extra shots, making sure she was in great shape. There was always that extra piece to be sure that she was a strong competitor.”

Wherever the Eagles needed her, Murphy would play. She could be the point guard, the shooting guard, or the small forward. She was also aggressive under the boards and a rugged rebounder, a trait she’d developed back in California when she played mostly on boys’ teams until she got to high school.

Alissa is from a family of athletes. Her brother Michael played rugby in college and for a U.S. national team. Her brother Sean played college soccer. She was into every sport as a kid, but she especially loved basketball. There were no girls’ leagues, so she’d go to the next town, Mira Mesa, and hang out at the recreation center with the guys.

By the time she got to Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, Alissa was almost college material already. She started for the varsity as a freshman. She led the state of California in scoring as a sophomore, but she’d always wanted to travel east for school. One of the summer development camps she attended just happened to be at Boston College. Mutual interest quickly blossomed, and Alissa became an Eagle.

“I don’t think BC had great aspirations for me,” Alissa said. “I wasn’t a heralded recruit, and San Diego is not really known for basketball. Coach Inglese was always on me. I didn’t like it at the time, but she’s the reason I was successful She was always asking me for more.”

Her senior year was almost as successful as junior year, for both her and the team. She averaged 13.5 points, was second in team scoring, and led the big East in free throw percentage. The Eagles finished 26-9 and again made it to the second round of the NCAAs.

Alissa finished her career ranked fifth all-time on BC’s scoring list with 1,361 points. She became the 12th BC player to score 1,000 points and the sixth to have 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. At the time of her graduation she ranked in among BC’s top six in rebounds, three-pointers, free throws made and attempted, and steals. She also holds the Boston College record for most points in an NCAA Tournament game with 26.

After graduating, Alissa hit the road and played basketball in five countries over five years – Israel, Sweden, France, the UK, and New Zealand. While in Christchurch, New Zealand, she got engaged. Her now-husband Adam, whom she’d met at a barbecue, flew all the way down there to pop the question.

Adam and Alissa live in Poway, California with son Adam, 7, and daughter, Mia, 5. Alissa teaches physical education at Adam and Mia’s elementary school.

The Coachable Mike Mottau: A Boston College Hockey Hall of Famer

October 5, 2015
Mike accepts the Hobey Baker Award

Mike accepts the Hobey Baker Award

Anyone who questions the value of coaching to a hockey player’s career ought to talk to Mike Mottau.

The Avon, Massachusetts native is the all-time assist leader at Boston College, totaling 130 for his career. His 157 points in four seasons, most ever for an Eagle defenseman, place him 21st on BC’s all-time scoring parade. He holds the Hockey East career record for assists with 97. That makes him an “offensive defenseman,” by any measure.

Or does it? Mike was also voted the league’s best defensive defenseman in his senior season. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top college player. He took home the both the Walter Brown Award as New England’s best college player and first-team All-America honors for the second time.

If ever there was an all-around player who excelled at both aspects of the game, aspects which are frequently mutually exclusive, it was Mike Mottau. He followed up his college career with 14 professional seasons than included seven in the National Hockey League.

When asked how it all happened, Mike is quick to credit his coaches and mentors, from youth up through the NHL. And even before he received formal coaching, there was brother Rob, five years Mike’s senior, who’d played at Division One Illinois-Chicago.

A familiar scene from Mike's BC career

A familiar scene from Mike’s BC career

“Rob let me play pond hockey and street hockey with him and his friends when I was five or so. I had to elevate my game, even at an early age,” said Mike.

When Mike was about seven, youth coach Vin Magno introduced the concepts that started him along the road to lifelong development of his Hockey IQ, as he puts it. He learned, among many other things, how to recognize a forechecking pattern, and why moving the puck to a breaking teammate was better than trying to carry it up ice himself.

“Those ideas and concepts were foreign to me at that age, but when I got to Thayer Academy I was able to make the varsity as a freshman because my thought process about the game was so accelerated,” stated Mottau.

Thayer coaches Jack Foley and Kevin Sullivan used advanced, European-style drills, stressing puck movement and protection. They had defensemen play as forwards in practice, and vice versa, to expose their players to every nuance of the game.

”Looking back on it, it was the influence that those guys had on my hockey IQ that allowed me to eventually play in the NHL,” says Mike.

When college approached, Mike seemed destined to play at Boston University. The Terriers were riding high, and Jack Parker was interested. But before committing, Mottau decided to look around. His former Thayer teammates Dave Wainwright and Dave Hymovitz showed him the campus.

Mixing it up in the NHL

Mixing it up in the NHL

Mike had played against Marty Reasoner, who was already in board, in national junior competition. He also knew Jeff Farkas, who had committed to BC earlier. “I could see the upside at BC. And my parents let me do my own due diligence and make the decision without any outside pressure. Best decision I ever made,” he says.

Mottau became a regular right away, as part of Jerry York’s youth movement. It wasn’t easy at first. The speed of the game, and an inability to recognize what was going on around him brought growing pains.

“I was fortunate that the coaching staff would keep putting me out there after I had made mistakes. I can remember especially a couple of big turnovers in bad spots. They could have easily benched me, but they didn’t. They had the confidence I’d pull through it.”

Mike scored 38 points as a freshman when the team went 15-19-4. Sophomore season was the breakout one. He led the nation’s defensemen in scoring with 49 points. The 25-9-5 team made it all the way to the national title game and lost a heartbreaker, 3-2 in overtime to Michigan.

With all of his point production over the years, Mottau is prouder of what he did on the defensive side. On being named Hockey East’s top defender, he states,

“D is very personal. You don’t want to get beat. Defense wins more games than putting up the points. It was nice to get some points on the power play, but I carved out a niche by still playing well defensively.”

BC Coach Jerry York and Mike at the dedication of a sign honoring Mike in his home town of Avon, Massachusetts.

BC Coach Jerry York and Mike at the dedication of a sign honoring Mike in his home town of Avon, Massachusetts.

Continued perceptive coaching and heady defensive play led to Mike’s lengthy professional career. Drafted by the Rangers, he played mostly in the minors for seven years. It was some contrarian advice from minor league coach John Paddock put Mike on the path to the National Hockey League.

“Most people told me I had to get bigger and stronger, because that was the way the NHL was headed. John told me that instead I should be leaner and quicker, so that I could get to the spot sooner and use my head. I’d never been told that before, but that’s what I’m good at. The next year, I started doing better as a pro.”

A training camp injury to another defender brought Mike up to the New Jersey Devils for four exhibition games before the 2007 season. He made the most of that opportunity won a full time spot. Coach Jacques Lemaire recognized and appreciated his heady play, and rewarded Mike with more than 20 minutes a game of ice time.

“Lemaire was one of the best coaches I ever had. He ‘got it’ in a different way from many pro coaches. He valued good decision-making,” said Mottau.

Mike retired from the game at age 36, after 14 professional seasons and 321 games with six different teams. He had a wife and four young kids by that time. It was time to hang them up after the Florida Panthers offered him a two-way contract.

Mike and his wife Courtney, who met in freshman year at Thayer, have four children: son Ryan, age 10, and daughters Rowan, 8, Madelyn, 7, and Brooke, 5. Mike scouts part-time for the Chicago Black Hawks and works in wealth management with Morgan Stanley.