The most impressive part of Brian Polian's resume just might not be his eight seasons as an assistant coach at BCS schools Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas A&M.
It might be his playing days at tiny John Carroll University near Cleveland in the 1990s.
The Division III Ohio school has produced a long line of coaches in the NFL and the college ranks. And that list starts with Don Shula, arguably the greatest coach in National Football League history.
Shula played at John Carroll in the late 1940s and now owns the NFL record for career victories at 347 after coaching for 33 years with the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins. Shula also played seven years in the NFL (1951-57) before beginning his coaching career.
Shula, though, is just the best of a long line of NFL and college coaches and administrators who were schooled at John Carroll. The Blue Streaks football program has gotten a lot of attention lately with the hiring of Polian at Nevada as well as a couple of NFL general managers in Dave Caldwell of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tom Telesco of the San Diego Chargers.
“We’ve gotten a lot of national attention that seems to come in waves,” John Carroll sports information director Chris Wenzler told the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union recently. “We got the first wave when (NFL linebacker) London Fletcher became such a great player and another when the Polians (Brian's father Bill and brother Chris) won the Super Bowl with the Colts. Now we’re getting another wave."
Shula, of course, will likely always be the standard by which all John Carroll graduates strive for, much like retired Pack coach Chris Ault will always be at Nevada. Shula's 1972 Dolphins are still the only unbeaten, untied team in NFL history. Shula's Dolphins also won two Super Bowls.
The Blue Streaks' 5,416-seat stadium was named in honor of Shula in 2001.
Shula played in the NFL for legendary coaches Paul Brown and Weeb Ewbanks. Brown and Ewbanks played for another small Ohio school (Miami of Ohio), which earned the nickname the Cradle of Coaches because of his coaching heritage that also includes former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian.
John Carroll, though, might be stealing that title now from its Ohio neighbor. A partial list of John Carroll graduates who have enjoyed great careers in coaching and administration . . .
- Carl Taseff, who played with Shula at John Carroll, went on to have a long NFL coaching career, mainly with Shula in Miami.
- Gary Stevens coached under Shula in Miami.
- Dick Walker coached with the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers teams in the late 1970s.
- Chuck Priefer coached at Georgia Tech and the NFL.
- Nick Caserio is the Player Personnel Director with the New England Patriots.
- Josh McDaniel, the former Denver Broncos head coach, is also now with the Patriots.
- Chris Polian, is now an Atlanta Falcons scout.
- Tom Telesco is the San Diego Chargers general manager.
- Dave Caldwell is the Jacksonville Jaguars general manager.
- Greg Roman is now coaching former Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers.
Brian Polian's head coach at John Carroll, Tony DeCarlo, explained the success of the Blue streaks' graduates to the Times-Union. DeCarlo also coached Caldwell, Roman, McDaniels, Telesco, Caserio and Chris Polian.
John Carroll was a combined 30-8-2 in Brian Polian's four years there (1993-96). DeCarlo is the most successful coach in Blue Streaks' history with a 90-27-4 record.
“Kids out of John Carroll aren’t writing in crayon,” DeCarlo told the Florida newspaper. “They’re bright, articulate kids and hard workers, which is what NFL owners look for. Guys don’t usually come to John Carroll with the idea of going to the NFL. But they love football and some of them have done what they could to stay in the game.”
John Carroll NFL alumni also includes Graham Armstrong, Ed Ecker, Burrell Shields, Gene Stringer and Tom Lahey. Fletcher, with the Washington Redskins, is the Blue streaks' best NFL player.
DeCarlo, reported the Times-Union, said Brian's father, Bill Polian, the former Indianapolis Colts vice president, with opening up the John Carroll-to-the-NFL pipeline. Bill Polian first met DeCarlo when Chris Polian was on a recruiting trip in the late 1980s.
“Chris’ parents loved the campus and loved the fact that we were a Jesuit school,” DeCarlo told the Jacksonville newspaper. “Chris came to play for us and Bill Polian got to know some of the kids through his son. When Chris got involved with his father in Buffalo, then in Carolina, some of the guys followed them.”