Cold Calls, Grandparents & American Idol: The Brian Daboll Story
Daboll was a fan of the Buffalo Bills and Sabers. He played multiple sports, but quickly settled on one.
“Football was my favourite,” he said. “You played these sports — whether it’s baseball, soccer, hockey — all your life, right up until you were a teenager. Sometimes you burn out So I tried a new sport and I’m glad I did.”
Daboll was a starting running back and cornerback for his last two seasons and was a senior captain at St. Francis High.
“My high school team was really good,” he said. “We had a lot of guys from our high school who played college football — a tremendous crowd from my team.”
After graduating from St. Francis, Daboll set family precedent by visiting Rochester.
“I was the first person to go to college out of my grandparents, my mother and my aunt,” he said. “Nobody went to school. I wanted to go to a local school near my home (Daeman University) and become a physical therapist. My grandma was pretty happy about it. I was close. You would make 40, 50, 60 grand… That would be a great living. Then I went on a trip with one of my high school buddies just to see Rochester and they recruited me. I had a good weekend and I said, ‘This is a nice place. ‘ Good school, academically challenging and hard to get into. I got in and it’s been a good four years. I met a lot of good friends.
The Yellowjackets were not as successful as his teams in St. Francis.
“We didn’t win much,” said Daboll. “I went from high school, where we won every game, to scratching and fighting and scratching. So, we appreciated the victories we had.”
Daboll was a security guard who started as a sophomore and junior. On September 9, 1995, he made three pass interceptions in a 9-5 win over Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. The third pick came in the last second in the middle of the end zone.
In the final game of his junior year, Daboll “bump” his neck, forcing him out of uniform in his senior season. He began working with the coaching staff and the foundations for his long career were laid.
“That’s when I fell in love with being outside, being around the boys, doing everything I could do in the office with the coaches,” he said. “That was two years after starting. And I liked doing it. I liked the camaraderie. I would say I’m very competitive.
A year later, Daboll proved his commitment to coaching by working at William & Mary without drawing a paycheck.
“I lived in a tiny apartment,” Daboll said. “I helped out Russ Huesman. He was awesome. Good man. Treated met correctly. I helped with everything he needed. I alternately helped film coordinator, defense, special teams every other week. After the game I cut these up and exchanged them with the school we are playing against. I thought it was great because you’re still part of the team. It’s all about this. Contributing to the team in a positive way, hopefully influencing the team in a profitable way.
“I also got a job to make some money in the mornings in a place called Kingsmill. It was a country club. I handed out towels.”
After spending his first season in the basement of his profession, Daboll set out to climb the coaching hierarchy. After that season, he sent letters to the head coach of each Division I school. He received “a lot” of standard replies, but no offer. “I said, ‘This doesn’t work,'” Daboll said.
He tried a different tactic and sent letters to all of the school’s offensive and defensive coordinators.
“I had nothing left because I had to pay for the stamps and all that other stuff,” he said. “Then I tried to find out who was responsible for hiring graduate students. I took my top 20 schools and called them. I asked the secretary, ‘Can I speak to so and so?’ When they put me through, I left a message or spoke to them. They put me through to a guy from Michigan State University named Chris Cosh. He said, ‘Hey, if you don’t send any more letters – because I have four of your letters on my desk – or don’t call anymore, I promise I’ll call you when there’s a vacancy.’ So I interviewed Coach Saban and got this job as an assistant.”
Daboll worked two seasons in defense. He lived with three other assistants, including Josh McDaniels and Mel Tucker, who are now the head coaches of the Las Vegas Raiders and Michigan State, respectively. Future head coaches Mark Dantonio, Todd Grantham, and Bobby Williams (father of Giants special teams quality control coach Nick Williams) were also on Saban’s staff.
“I was able to work with a lot of good coaches,” said Daboll. “I was a defensive research assistant. You didn’t get much sleep between tearing down the tape, making the scouting reports, and all the things you had to do. In the first year I was in the office most of the time and not in the field. The next year I was on the field, and that was the year Coach Saban left to go to LSU.
At Saban’s recommendation, Daboll was given the opportunity to interview in New England with Belichick, who hired him as a defense assistant. “There were a few people who were interviewed,” Daboll said. “I was lucky to get this job. It didn’t do much more than being a research associate, but it was a great job.”