"Jim, I think, has a place in his heart for the not-so-great player that has passion for the game," said Pat Yanchus, the Prep Hall of Famer and head baseball coach that's been on O'Leary's staff since '84.
"If they put the helmet and the pads on, we love them," O'Leary said. "If you're a good player, not-so-good player, big or small, it doesn't matter to us.
"This is a hard game, and if a kid shows up every day and sticks it out they deserve to be here."
That care that O'Leary shows for each of this players comes out before kickoff. The Eagles are always ready to fly.
"He's very quiet all week, and then come game day he's like no coach I've ever had," said Zardas, who was an All-CAA honoree at UMass and is still hoping to catch on with an NFL team. "We were so prepared he'd have us convinced we could beat anybody; we thought we could've beaten the Patriots. His speeches were unbelievable; you'd be ready to take a bullet for him."
The Prep's great teams — and great wins — over the years are almost too many to list. O'Leary is most proud of the triumphs that came as his Eagles battled through adversity.
St. John's scored a huge overtime upset win over Brockton — then ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation — to open the 1991 season (a game St. Pierre says sold him on the Prep as an impressionable young boy). The Eagles later finished that regular season unbeaten, only to learn that player Chip Schruender passed away tragically the night before.