The hallmarks of St. John's Prep football under Jim O'Leary are honesty, integrity, preparing young men for the next level of both football and life, and taking on absolutely all challengers.
And winning. O'Leary and the Eagles have had more than their share of that attribute, too.
In 26 years as head coach at St. John's Prep, O'Leary's teams have posted 20 winning seasons, taken seven Catholic Conference championships, earned several national rankings and appeared in four Super Bowls, with a championship in 1997.
With 178 career victories heading into his 27th season this fall, O'Leary is the Prep's all-time wins leader and ranks among the winningest active coaches in the state.
"We say at St. John's that we don't rebuild, we reload. That's a testament to Coach O," said Chris Zardas, who rushed for nearly 4,000 yards for the Eagles from 2000-04. "We've had a strong program for as long as I can remember."
Seldom does a preseason Top 20 list in the Bay State not include St. John's Prep, another testimony to the respect O'Leary has built up over the years. It doesn't matter what type of season the Eagles are having; as an opponent, when St. John's Prep comes to town, you know you're in for a tough afternoon.
For O'Leary, who turns 59 in October, the road to success on the field is relatively simple. After a standout career at North Reading High School that led to a stint playing (and then coaching) at the University of New Hampshire, O'Leary became defensive coordinator for Fred Glatz at St. John's.
The Eagles' basic philosophy still holds true to those defensive principals.
"The first day of practice this week, we'll work on special teams," O'Leary said. "After that we're going to focus on playing great defense. Then, last, we'll play offense. From Day 1 that's what we'll do — because that's how you win."