SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

August 25, 2010

Gentleman Jim

League titles, great competition, hundreds of college players — Jim O'Leary has done it all at St. John's Prep

(Continued)

Indeed, St. John's has had some ferocious defenses over the years and hasn't needed much in the way of wizardry and trickery to put some gaudy offensive numbers, either. By mixing up formations, the Eagle offense ends up like novocaine — give it time and it always works.

"It was an 'if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it' approach. Basically, we ran what we ran until they stopped it — and for the most part, nobody did," Zardas recalled.

A self-professed film nut, O'Leary always has his teams prepared no matter what the final score is.

A Nest of Eagles

When you're an Eagle, it's for life. O'Leary hasn't just built a football team, but a community of brothers that help each other and pass traditions down.

"We've always told our kid that it doesn't end when you go out the door," said O'Leary.

It might be as simple as NFL players Brian St. Pierre and Jonathan Goff helping current Eagles work out during the summer, or former NFLer and 1993 Prep alum Rob Konrad stopping by to say hello. O'Leary admits there have been some jams he's helped former players out of, too, always with an eye on getting them on the straight and narrow.

"He always made it seem like we weren't just playing for us, but for the whole Prep community," Zardas said. "The guys before us always came back to talk with us — it's a big family. As a player, you want to do well for those guys and leave your own stamp and name on the tradition."

O'Leary instituted a no-cut policy in his second year as head coach, and it's helped the Prep's football program grow to include upwards of 175 players per year. The Eagles have a dedicated sophomore team (a rarity in the state) and it's a big part of O'Learys motivational skills that every player — not just the stars — are on board.

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