CHESTNUT HILL -- Listen to Steve Addazio for 30 seconds and you're sold.
You're sold on him as a college football coach. You're sold on his ability to recruit Division 1-quality football players to Boston College, the lifeblood of any relevant program these days.
You're sold on his passion for the sport. But most importantly, you're sold on his desire to rekindle the the fire on The Heights that produced NFL-caliber linemen year after year and the occasional superstar in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Let's be honest. Division 1 football coaches are supposed to be salesmen. But there's a big different between a Mercedes-Benz dealership and a pre-owned shop down the street. College coaches have to be great salesmen. But the successful ones consistently close the deal.
The Eagles, while maybe never in the elite class year after year, don't want to fall into used-car status among the sports-mad Boston and New England clientele. Some would argue it's too late. But not Steve Addazio. It's his job to make BC football relevant again.
The Eagles were 2-10 in 2012 under Frank Spaziani with a program that was hemorrhaging blue-chip recruits. They were 4-8 in 2011. But before that, there were 12 straight bowl appearances -- impressive by any standard.
"I told you when I came here that we're going to recruit, we're going to recruit and we're going to recruit, and I'm going to head that recruiting and we're going to drive that effort. That's what college football is," Addazio said. "We can't draft people."
Addazio's attitude on selling the program to the locals starts with recruiting locals.
"It starts right here. We have really good football in the state of Massachusetts with some really good high school football programs. We have to dominate here and then we have to expand. I believe that there's got to be a tremendous amount of pride in Massachusetts about their Division 1 football program, the premiere, eminent Division 1 program in the state of Massachusetts and New England is Boston College.
"Every kid growing up around here should feel that. It's our responsibility to make sure that we make everyone -- fans, alumni, high school programs -- feel terrific. So, how do we do that? Make them feel like they're part of this thing. We take care of our state. That's the philosophy and that's the mindset. That's how you have to build it."
Enthusiasm was the first quality that struck the likes of athletic director Brad Bates, who hired Addazio from Temple on Dec. 4, 2012.
This week, Addazio had a microphone in front of him in the classroom hall for media day, but he hardly needed it. His voice booms. His charisma makes up for relatively dim lighting in the room. He speaks with the passion of a revival minister and the authority of a coach who has worked under Urban Meyer at Florida (2005-10) and under "Touchdown Jesus" at Notre Dame (1999-2001).
Temple was a laughingstock in the 1980s and '90s. The program had to start all over again, and that meant joining at mid-level class in the Mid-American Conference, with the likes of Kent State, Bowling Green, Toledo, Ball State and Miami of Ohio. The Owls were 9-4 in his first year in 2011 in the MAC before stepping up to the Big East and falling to 4-7 last season.
Boston College is turning its hopes and Division 1 football dreams to the 54-year-old native of Farmington, Conn. BC has always had a football program in the midst of a culture of high academics. That's not going to change as long as the Jesuits call the shots. But it's culture inside the football program I asked Addazio about. How do you make winning a priority again?
"I think the culture of good people, welcoming, that's good," Addazio said. "I think the team concept of not being fragmented, that's come a long way. That's still a work in progress. What you don't want is a bunch of little cliques. The seniors have done a great job of trying to embrace this whole, 'It starts within your unit.' The tight ends going out and getting a bite to eat together.
"The offensive line going out together. That kind of stuff started happening, which is really encouraging, really great. It's not hard to lead great people in that direction, because that's fundamentally what they want."
What did he learn about the 2-10 team of 2012, a team he wasn't around but most of the roster was?
"They just seemed to have fragmented and cliqued-out a little bit," he said. "Now, they're coming back in together."
When you're rebuilding a program, it always helps to have the support of the alumni, alumni that have played a prominent role in the past.
Steve DeOssie ('84) came in Monday night and, with no guidance from Addazio, spoke to the players, repeating the message of toughness.
"He talked about three things," Addazio said. "He talked about toughness, BC has to be a tough football team. He talked about being a 'team' team, accountable to each other and having an edge of being able to be on top of your assignments and using your mind.
"Number one, beyond a doubt, if you can't play defense you're not going to win. That's my opinion. That's our opinion. We want to have a staff that's an aggressive staff, that's a get-after-you scheme. There's a positive and negative to everything you do, but we're just committed that's the way we want to play. It's all about the defense."
It may be all about the defense, but Addazio conceded the Eagles are not reaching their potential and goal of bowl eligibility without senior quarterback Chase Rettig showing the way. He's liked what he's seen from Rettig and the team, but it's early.
"It's easy to be a great leader when the sun's shining and it's 70 degrees and everything's going pretty good. Sometimes it's not as easy when you're beat up and you're tired and it's 97 degrees and you've had about enough, and you're in Day 13. We'll find out then how good our leadership is. Well, I'm hoping it's going to be good.
"I don't have the answer to that right now. But it appears to me it's been good. I like the attitude and I like the mindset. I think the intentions are all great. I don't think that it's going to change. It's just that everything is a learning process. You learn how to handle that. It's my job, our job to put them in those stressful situations, to create stress to learn how to handle stress, stress from fatigue, stress from hard coaching."
Hard coaching is something you would figure comes naturally for a guy with a booming voice and a passion for the game.
"We really get on their case pretty hard. 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. So, you have to learn to train for that. I could make it zippty-do-dah every day, but that wouldn't really help them get ready. That's not my job. We try to create those situations and we'll continue to do that. When I see the right opportunities here, 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. It's all part of training camp.
"Everything is shaping. I still feel like we haven't been put in enough stressful situations in training camp to really test that mental and physical toughness yet. Those other pieces are really getting better and coming along and we have great kids. But, we also have to make sure we're tough."
Addazio is attempting to mold his program around a certain type of player.
"It's great to be a good guy, but you have to have the real competitive side," Addazio said. "What's beautiful is when you have a great person who's a vicious competitor, right? That's what you're always striving for. That's what I want us to be, a group of great people, great people, but when it's time to compete, within the rules, you compete as hard as you can compete. Finding that balance is critical. We're working on that."
That work starts with Villanova on Aug. 31 at Alumni Stadium before dates with Wake Forest and Southern Cal (in Los Angeles) after that.
Even though he coached Temple, Addazio regularly attended Mass at Villanova's St. Thomas Church.
A few prayers couldn't hurt as Addazio begins the reclamation project at Boston College.