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Gyrenes Benefit from Veteran College and NFL Coach Jagodzinski

jagsbc1aJeff Jagodzinski, the wide receivers coach for the Ave Maria University Gyrenes, has coached at the highest levels of college and professional football for more than two decades. So he clearly anticipated the first question during a recent interview. "You're probably wondering, 'What am I doing here?'"

Five years ago, in his first year as head coach of the Boston College Eagles (right), Coach Jags, as he's known, led the team to an 11-3 record and the ACC championship game.

Now, pointing to a headline over his desk that read "Making God Laugh," he said he couldn't be more content as an assistant coach for a nascent college football program.

"Hopefully, I can help young guys," he said. "At Boston College, that's what I really enjoyed."

jags-350"He's been a great blessing to me and the other players," said Head Football Coach Kevin Joyce, who said he got an unexpected email from Coach Jags over the summer saying he was living in Tampa, wishing him luck and inviting Joyce – in his first year as head coach – to let him know if there was anything he could do.

"I called him, and we really hit it off," Joyce said.

Coach Jags (left, in his office at AMU) said that he became interested in the Ave Maria program when it was mentioned to him at a meeting of a Catholic men's group in Tampa.

"I figured that as a first-year coach, I knew a lot about what Kevin was going through, and told him I might be able to help."

Coaching for the Gyrenes is certainly different from what he's experienced for the last few decades of coaching for the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the BC Eagles.

"These are smart, tough guys," he said, "but they're much younger and less experienced than the teams we play. And there are challenges in that it's a brand-new program, still figuring out how football fits in the school."

Some aspects of the job take him back to his earliest football days, like the long bus rides to road games. "I joked with the guys that when I was in the NFL, we could have gotten to Japan faster than the 14 hours it took to get to a game in Alabama," he said.

"But I'm giving back to the profession, helping guys out. It's what mentoring is all about."

For the coach, it's also about being able to spend more time with his family, and the Ave Maria location means he's not too far away from his wife and five children.

"In almost 25 years of coaching, it was hard to put family first. In the last few years, I've been able to do that."

jagsryan1Coach Jags may well be back at the professional or Division One NCAA level. At BC, he compiled an enviable record of 20-8 in two seasons (the Eagles have a record of 22 wins and 23 losses since his departure) and he gave the impression that there may be other opportunities for him. Right, the coach with then Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, an NFL 1st-round draft pick who is now playing for the Atlanta Falcons, the only undefeated NFL team after the first eight weeks of the season.

"But it's important who you work for," he said.

Meantime, Joyce couldn't be happier to have the benefit of his experience.

"He's an offensive genius, and he's giving the guys the level of coaching they'd have if they were at a Division One NCAA team. I'm grateful he's been so generous with his time – he didn't want money, he didn't want anything."

"I didn't' come here to get something," Coach Jags said, "I came here to give something. This is exactly where I'm supposed to be at this point in my life."


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