When Chuck Pagano got the call to coach in the 2019 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, he saw it as a perfect fit. Not only did he serve as an NFL head coach for the Indianapolis Colts and defensive coordinator for the Ravens, but he also made waves at the collegiate level, heading up the defense at Miami and North Carolina, among other schools. As Pagano prepares to lead the American Team, he took some time to share his thoughts about coaching and how players can best position themselves for success in the NFL.
What do you hope to bring to the Collegiate Bowl?
The most important thing to me is that when we put the group of guys together, we can put together a practice that will allow them to go out and showcase their talents and skillsets. All of us have experience and have been around the game for a long time and have put together practice plans, and the number one thing is to put them in a position to showcase their talents.
What advice can you offer guys trying to get to the next level?
The first thing is nothing comes easy and nothing is for free. You must show up and earn your way. Earn the respect of the organization and the locker room. It is a different group of kids, but at the end of the day, you can’t go in expecting anything. So keep your head down, know your role, do your job, come to work every single day and be a pro. Also, don’t forget that you work amongst a group of men who have been there before you. Utilize the pros in the building. Grab a tape, grab a veteran and seek out advice and when they give it, just listen.
As a former NFL head coach, what advice would you give to the current upcoming generation of players?
Keep your circle small. There are a lot of distractions that come with the NFL and there will be a lot of people pulling at these players. They must be disciplined with their day to day business while they are away from the facility, the free time they have and the choices that they make. We see a lot of great players get sideways because of bad choices that were made. Choices come with consequences and it’s awful hard for young guys who have a lot of money in their pocket.
Don’t go out and spend all of your money. Depending on your type of contract, it is important to take care of your finances and be very smart. Make sure you know and you trust those people in your small circle and get great advice when it comes finances.
Those guys, they have their hand out and they are asking and its hard to say no but you must learn how to say no. So set those boundaries even when it comes to family.
What do you recommend that the athletes know going into the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to prepare them for the week?
It’s a job interview and they need to come prepared to work, put the time in and do their very best. At the end of the day, it is a job interview and the most important one of their lives. They are going to be nervous because this is a great opportunity to showcase their talents but they need to remember to not put a lot of pressure on themselves and trust in what got them there. Remember, you didn’t get there by chance. The body of work that put you in got you there. Give it everything you got. If you come, do your very best, work your butts off and have fun.
What would you say to the guys who don’t end up getting drafted?
Keep going, pick yourself up and keep moving forward. I know a bunch of guys that didn’t make it the first time around, but they just kept working and kept training. It’s never over because I’ve seen guys come and go and be back in a building five, six, seven times in a season. It’s a small percentage, it’s hard, and there are many stories where it took guys two, three, sometimes four years. If they are ready and they haven’t given up on their dream the opportunity might present itself.