If anything in this world could make me feel like a fat, lazy tub of goo it was Dante Scarnecchia’s post-practice routine every training camp.
Standing with the media herd, waiting to collect words from players who’d just worked hard under the summer sun, I could see Scar – 60-plus years old – running sprints across the field. Sometimes he’d be wearing a shirt that had been a sweatshirt once upon a time before Scar went medieval on it with some scissors and lopped off its sleeves. Other times he’d be wearing one of those rubberized shirts designed to make you sweat.
The guy was probably about 165 pounds and 90 percent quick-twitch muscle already. Yet here was, springing stride propelling his hairy little body back and forth. And doing this after about two hours of hollering, cajoling and browbeating 300-pound linemen to bow to his will so he could make them into useful NFL players.
Scar’s all set with that business now. I spoke to him Wednesday night.
“I just feel like this is the time,” he said. “I always told the players when we’ve lost guys out of our meeting room that this game isn’t forever. It’s not forever for the players or the coaches. I could keep going. I feel a lot of energy. I feel great. But do I want it to end at 66? 70? 75? There’s a lot of things I want to do. We have two grandkids and our kids and I’m anxious to step into [the next part of my life].”
Scarnecchia was a fascinating guy to observe even though our official media interactions with him were infrequent.
When the Patriots were in Super Bowls and he had to speak to media who could just walk up and bombard him with questions, he could be tight-lipped and curt. When Patriots assistants were given the green-light to talk to the local media, he would seemingly relish the chance to set us straight on any misconceptions we had about the way things were headed.
In 2012, when the preseason focus was on the limitations of left tackle Nate Solder as he took over for Matt Light, Scarnecchia’s eyes flashed angry and he answered, "I think Nate Solder's a better player today than he was all of last year. So you figure that out. Next question."
And when we weren’t talking shop at all and he came through the locker room or, by chance, ran into us at a bar on Block Island, he couldn’t have been more engaging. Briefly though, because he was a guy with stuff to do.
“I feel really good,” Scarnecchia said when asked if he felt good with the decision now that it was announced. “I don’t have any second thoughts on this. I feel this is the absolute time to do this, I’ll be 66 in three weeks. I’ve done if for 44 years and to give you one perspective, 12 guys on our staff weren’t born when I started coaching.”
I asked Scar about coaching under Bill Belichick.
“I really liked it,” said Scarnecchia. “He was easy to work for. You know what he wants in no uncertain terms. It’s just a matter of sharing that vision and getting guys to do it. You guys will never know what its like to sit in those squad meetings and hear his knowledge. He’s great. A special head coach.”
I began to ask specifically about players he coached but Scarnecchia warned me off. “I promised myself I wasn’t gonna talk about any one player. When you talk about one you leave hundreds out. Every one of those guys has been special and gave me the greatest memories forever.”
Before I said thanks and goodbye I told Scarnecchia how much I enjoyed covering him and his directness. If he ever wanted to do some TV...
“I’m not looking for a new job,” he interrupted. “I just quit one.”