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July 9, 2010FOLLOW RIVALSHIGH: Follow us on Twitter | Friend us on Facebook
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
DUNCAN, S.C. - His players call him "fiery."
He paces the sidelines, screaming and losing his gum.
They use adjectives like "accountable" and "tough" and "motivational."
In the post-game huddle, he points out who made the errors that cost them a touchdown and ultimately the game.
But they also use the word "love."
"I can honestly say I love having him here," senior defensive back Nick Latesta said. "As seniors, we are so lucky to get to leave here with him as our coach."
This mythical creature the players at Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic speak of is their new head football coach, Nunzio Campanile.
Campanile came to Bergen Catholic from rival New Jersey Catholic power, Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco, where he was the athletic director and offensive coordinator for its national championship winning football team.
What he brings with him is a toughness that the players - all of the players - at Bergen Catholic have longed for.
"Mental toughness," the school's all-time leading receiver-turned-quarterback Tanner McEvoy said. "We thought we were working hard before, but this is something else."
"We would always say we were getting better and working hard, but we weren't," senior Spencer Kulcsar said.
Campanile, for his part, thinks he is just doing his job.
"We are working hard and preparing for the season," he said. "I think we have what it takes to win and be a very good team."
He says it very casually.
And it's that sort of "been-there-done-that" attitude that the players at Bergen Catholic are gravitating to.
"It's a completely different style for our team," Kalcsar said. "It is mental toughness all the way."
For a team in New Jersey, where toughness is a way of life, admitting a football team was lacking in that area is a tough pill to swallow.
"He knows what it takes to win," said Latesta, who just received his first offer from Yale. "We want to win a state championship and we are all willing to work hard to do it."
And work hard they are.
"When he says we are going to run all day, we run all day," Latesta added.
And no one, from star players to substitutes, seems to mind.
They also don't mind that he came from the school's primary rival.
"I don't think anyone cares that he came from over there," Latesta said. "He is an awesome coach and it wouldn't have mattered what school it was. If he can help us get a state title, we welcome it."
Campanile, just 33 years old, doesn't think about the transition either.
"I am at Bergen, now," he said. "I am here to win. We are working hard to make that happen. I think we have the guys here to make that happen."
And the team loves that about him.
"The intensity level is something else," Dickerson said. "We haven't had that here in awhile."
And it isn't just the tough, fiery attitude that has Bergen Catholic believing this is its season.
It is the presentation, too.
"When he says it, he means it," Latesta said. "Before, we would have coaches who said we were going to do this or that in practice and in games and we never did. We didn't believe in what was going on. With him, it is different."
Different, or better?
"He talks to us on our level," Kulscar said. "He pushes us, he yells when we mess up, but he does it in a way we get. He talks to us like he was a player himself. He's our leader."
And for all the blind faith that the players are putting into Campanile, his resume backs it up.
He has coached six-straight Division I quarterbacks (including one he left behind at Don Bosco), won section titles and a national title.
And he has done it his way.
Which is just the way the kids at Bergen Catholic love.
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