Homer City native lands third NFL coaching job
GREEN BAY, WIS.--Becoming a coach in the National Football League was a career goal Homer City native Ben McAdoo never considered in college.
But, one year spent away from coaching the game he loves changed everything, and left him longing for the gridiron.
"I spent a year away from coaching, and I was miserable," McAdoo said. "I didn't realize how badly I wanted it until I took the year off."
Now, McAdoo is on top of the world, after being named the tight ends coach for the Green Bay Packers in January. But the humble McAdoo still doesn't think of himself a coach.
"I just teach. That's what I was trained to do, and the NFL is an ideal environment for teachers," he said.
He said his players "know I have a lot of passion for what I do. I enjoy the game, and have respect for the game. I enjoy the work I do, and I try to pass my enthusiasm and blue-collar mentality to my players."
McAdoo, who didn't play college football, was a member of the 1994 Homer-Center team that won the District 6 championship under then-coach Rick Foust.
"I think anybody who has been involved with Ben will tell you what a wonderful person he is," Foust said.
McAdoo played many positions early in his high school career, but it was at left tackle that he made his biggest impact. Foust explained that McAdoo was willing to do anything, including giving away plays to the opposition, to achieve his goals.
"Ben was the kind of guy who would come to the line of scrimmage on a third and short, and he would look at the defensive tackle across from him and say, 'Hey, I have really bad news for you. We are going to run the ball right here, and I'm going to run right over you,' and he would tell people where we were running the football," Foust said.
After graduating from Homer-Center, McAdoo made his schooling at Indiana University of Pennsylvania top priority.
"I enjoyed football, and loved the game, but I was looking forward to finishing my education," he said.
But McAdoo's passion for the gridiron still burned deeply, and, after a year away from football, he began to work as a coach, assisting at Homer-Center and Indiana high schools.
McAdoo graduated from IUP summa cum laude in health and physical education, and quickly set out to earn a master's degree, by applying to the biggest schools in the country.
"I did well as a student so I thought that I was going to go big, and find the best school for me," McAdoo said. "It was all about maximizing my experiences, and getting the most bang for my buck."
McAdoo decided on Michigan State, where he earned his master's degree in kinesiology, and worked as a graduate assistant at the athletic office.
In 2002, McAdoo took his first collegiate coaching job as an offensive line and tight ends coach with Fairfield, (Conn.) a small Division I-AA school that competes against Duquesne.
During the off-season at Fairfield, McAdoo met current Green Bay Packers head coach, and western Pennsylvania native, Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy, who was the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints at the time, turned out to be one of the biggest influences in McAdoo's career.
McAdoo drove from Connecticut to the NFL combine in Indianapolis to meet with McCarthy, and another IUP graduate--current San Diego Chargers offensive line coach Jack Henry, who was the Saints offensive line coach at the time.
The three western Pennsylvania natives became quick friends and began to build a strong relationship based on the way they see the game, and how they want it to be played.
Henry explained how McAdoo's demeanor blew away McCarthy in their first meeting.
"I think it was his organization, and his presentation of himself," Henry said. "He is a very confident young man. He has a belief that he can get things done, and he backs that up by actually getting it done."
Unfortunately for McAdoo, Fairfield dropped its football team a year later, and he was left without a job.
Instead of finding a secondary job, McAdoo continued on the coaching trail.
In 2003, McAdoo found his next opportunity closer to home, working as a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, under Walt Harris.
Harris and McAdoo also hit it off quickly. It was an important time for the Homer City native, providing him early preparation for the NFL level.
"When I look back, the biggest thing I learned at Pitt was that, as a coach, you have to be a teacher, but you also have to demand that it be done the way you're teaching it," McAdoo said. "(Harris) was a very demanding coach, and I have a lot of respect for him and what he did at Pitt."
McAdoo left Pitt for an assistant coaching position at Akron, but it didn't last long.
McCarthy apparently liked what he saw when he met McAdoo in Indianapolis because the then offensive coordinator interviewed the Homer City native for a position in New Orleans.
In 2004, McAdoo accepted his first NFL job with the Saints, as an offensive assistant and quality control coach.
McAdoo was the youngest member of a staff that was filled with western Pennsylvania natives: then head coach, and IUP graduate Jim Haslett, Frank Cignetti Jr., Henry, and McCarthy.
McAdoo was told by Haslett and McCarthy that his job was the most difficult in the NFL, based on time constraints and workload, but that didn't stop McAdoo from finding success.
"I worked with him on a daily basis, and he was always prepared," Henry recalled. "He's like a sponge, he absorbs everything. It's one of the reasons why, for a guy his age, he's so knowledgeable, because he's always listening and taking notes. He's a bright young man with an intense capacity to learn."
McAdoo left New Orleans in December of 2004, to re-join Harris in Stanford as the tackles and tight ends coach.
McAdoo stayed at Stanford until the end of the recruiting season. Then he teamed with McCarthy again, joining the San Francisco 49ers staff, as the assistant offensive line and quality control coach.
McAdoo said the decision to leave Stanford, and Harris, was difficult, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"Leaving Stanford to go to San Francisco was a tough decision due to my loyalty to Walt, (Harris), but at the same time you have to be loyal to yourself," McAdoo said. "My loyalty to Walt hasn't changed because I took another position."
Foust believes the move to San Francisco with McCarthy was a testament to McAdoo's character.
"Ben has just been a really good person," Foust said. "It's so evident by the fact that people are willing to look at him and take him with them. That means more to me than whatever his coaching abilities are. Just the fact that he's a great person."
His stay in San Francisco was short-lived, ending when he accepted a position on McCarthy's staff in Green Bay, as the tight ends coach.
Green Bay is one of the most hallowed cities in the NFL, accounting for 12 championships, including three Super Bowls. Lambeau Field is one of the most historic, and easily recognizable stadiums in all of professional sports.
McAdoo explained why Green Bay is quickly becoming a special place for him.
"It's tradition is rich, and the fans are unbelievable," he said. "I've been here since January, and every day I drive to the stadium and get chills up and down my spine.
"It's exciting to come to work every day. You really can't put into words the type of environment that has been created here."
McAdoo looks to have found comfort in Green Bay, after working with four teams in two years. The Homer City native is at the professional level because of what he has accomplished in the present.
"My philosophy is that you have to take care of the job you have now, and be the best possible coach you can be," McAdoo said. "You have to take care of today before you prepare for tomorrow. I'm not worried about the next job."
Whether the next job is becoming an offensive coordinator, or even a head coach, remains to be seen. But McAdoo feels he has been the underdog throughout his coaching career.
One thing McAdoo isn't afraid to do is to set lofty goals, and he says reaching them begins with education.
"I've always been the dark horse in every job I've received, so I usually go in with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "To me, it's all about dreaming big, working hard, taking care of business, and having a little fun while you're doing it."