Randy Edsall's Story, From May 16, 2004: As Kid He Kept It In; As UConn Coach He's Going All Out

Randy Edsall was hired last week to return as UConn's football coach. In the winter and spring of 2004, with UConn set to join the Big East, The Courant's Mike Anthony spent several weeks with Edsall, then five years through his first stint as the Huskies' coach. The following piece, Edsall's life story, ran in The Courant in May, 2004.

There had been a couple of free throws to shoot.

Make both, the game goes to overtime. Miss one, well, that's what young Randy did and now, in the days and weeks following this recreation league basketball game in Glen Rock, Pa., the situation begins to quite literally eat away at him.

He's replaying it in his mind, wondering why he wasn't perfect, how many people might have pictured him in a position of weakness. The thoughts swirl around without much of an outlet. The details of every sporting event the boys take part in are replayed and rehashed ad nauseam during those frequent evening sit-downs at the kitchen table with their father. But Randy seldom speaks as the conversations seem only to touch on what was done wrong.

So emotions stir, stress grows. Randy, the reserved 11-year-old, remains quiet.

Until the pain has him doubled over.

Until it has him lying on the floor.

Until he's off to the hospital.

Various tests eventually reveal a stomach ulcer. Soon, he is on medication and soon, even at 11, he begins reminding himself that the pressure and the expectations and the worry and the stress just aren't worth it.

The bottled-up emotions, the importance he placed on competition, had chewed up his stomach. The quest for perfection had put him in a hospital bed.

Nowadays, Randy Edsall is not the kid who took in so much and kept it there. He's seen and heard plenty. And along the way to Storrs, where 5 1/2 years ago he took on a task deemed impossible by so many, he found his voice. It's loud. It's demanding. It's convincing.

Still, he carries a similar burden of expectation as he moves around the Field House on the UConn campus this February morning, hands on his hips, then clasped behind his back. He's 45. There's no ulcer. Not yet, anyway.

"You're not tired," he tells players during an hourlong winter workout. "You are not tired."

He's not either. He has been here for a couple of hours, arriving as fog settles over the grounds of a lifeless campus. He'll spend a good 12 hours here. It is, after all, winter. It's the off-season, when Edsall tends to get in a little late and go home a little early.

In between, he'll refer to his meticulously planned schedule, printed weeks earlier and showing Edsall where he or his assistant coaches will be at a given hour on a given day. He'll break down film in the darkness of a trailer near the football practice field, walk the campus sipping a Diet Coke. He'll call out players who irritate him or disrupt his progress. He exudes confidence, which he never lacked, anyway, but he has a charismatic delivery now that astounds those who knew him as a boy.

No, he's not the reserved kid anymore, the one who, in the words of his brother, Duke, almost needed to be treated with kid gloves. He's building a football program at what is first and foremost a basketball school. There are great differences between the teenager who chose not to attend the prom for fear others would see what a terrible dancer he was and the man who stalks practice fields and works 100-hour weeks. But, with a close look, those differences blur. The evolution doesn't seem so far-fetched, and to him, neither does the arrival of UConn football.

The Huskies are coming off the two greatest seasons in their brief Division I-A history and Edsall is about to be rewarded. At least one school has put out a feeler, a phone call of the 'If-this-happened-would-you-be-interested?' variety, as Edsall's stock has risen. With each victory, it seems only to make more sense that another school will come calling with an offer that might be hard to refuse. But for now, Edsall will continue building what he started in Storrs — with deeper pockets. Edsall's base salary when he was hired in 1999 was $125,000, with $25,000 added for a maximum of 15 appearances and a $25,000 annuity. He also had a $7,000 car allowance and 16 tickets to each game, home and away. Today Edsall, whose four-year deal is renewed every Jan. 4, makes about $200,000 a year.

But Article 12 in his contract is about to change that, even double it. It says that once UConn is in the Big East Conference — which the Huskies will be this season — Edsall's compensation must be in the lower to middle range of conference football coaches. That could mean about $400,000 a year. The school and Edsall's lawyer are hammering out the details.

"I know I've worked hard," Edsall said. "Nothing has been handed to me."

The Huskies went 9-3 and reached a new plateau last year, coming up just short of a bowl game. On several occasions, 40,000 fans packed Rentschler Field to watch Edsall's team. Memorial Stadium is used only for practice. Even that will be a memory soon, as plans call for the Burton Family Football Complex to be erected by 2006.

But all this can make Edsall uncomfortable. The Huskies won nine games last season. The shovel for the practice facility will be in the ground next season. Looking back at strides made or ahead to tomorrow's potential only makes him squirm. The present demands enough. Steering a program with his thumb on every button, his fingerprints on every detail, he still feels great pressure. It's his own. He has vowed there will be no greater pressure than that.

Featured Speaker

After the workout, the players gather in the middle of the Field House, still breathing heavy, some pulling shirts up over their faces, then holding them with their teeth, a group succumbing to exhaustion barely an hour after sunrise.

Their minds seem to wander like their eyes, but now their necks snap to attention as Edsall's voice pierces the air with what equates to a familiar message: Don't waste my time, your time or that of those around you.

He had started out in a relaxed tone. Two months before, the team ended the season with a 51-17 victory at Wake Forest, the latest leap toward legitimacy. Now, a day after many of the football coaches, including Edsall, returned to campus after a week off, there is a certain self-righteousness that seems to need addressing. Trainers were taping far too many ankles. The wind-sprint line to the far left, the one reserved for those slowed by injury, had swelled. Players coasted to the finish line. Edsall was to set things straight, but with a certain leniency.

"Some guys here in this group still don't understand about the whole team concept in terms of how they have to give as much as they need to give in order for this team to get better," Edsall says calmly, peering over his players. "We've got to get those guys with the group ..."

Then it happens. Players on the periphery look disinterested, peeling off from the pack.

"All the guys in the back, well, that's what you're going to do," Edsall says, his voice rising. "Stand in the back. Sit on the outside. You know what? That's where you're going to be on Saturdays — on the bench, on the outside."

Louder now, he continues.

"Stop feeling sorry for yourselves, and understand what it takes! If you don't want to push, go somewhere else!"

Now his voice cracks as it bounces through the Field House, the hum of the lighting system the only sound when he pauses. He's screaming.

"We've got too many guys standing on the side! We've got too many hamstrings! We've been doing this for three or four weeks, men. How the hell can you get a hamstring? It's probably because you're not taking care of your bodies! We have some guys that have been on the sideline all winter, because they're not in shape. They came back and they think they've got a job. Guess what? When spring ball starts, you might not have a job. You can believe me."

Eventually there is a long pause. And after Edsall turns his head, scanning the group, he continues talking, now with a much softer voice.

"I don't understand, men. When you come in here, it's about getting better. It's not about staying the same. It's not about staying the same."

He taps the right side of his head with his finger.

"It's all up here, men," he says. "It's all up here. That's all it is. You might be pretty tired right now, but you have to learn to push yourself.

"All right. Everybody in."

The circle tightens as players reach for the middle. Edsall, his hand also outstretched, looks across the faces of his players.

"Don't ever let your teammates down, men. Don't ever let your teammates down."

Difficult Home Game

A few days later, Edsall walks into the living room of his Glastonbury home — situated in the middle of a fairly new development — and approaches the fish tank in the corner. The kids wanted a dog, you see, and the fish were a compromise of sorts by Edsall and his wife, Eileen. The children, daughter Alexi, 14, and son Corey, 11, had presented the argument most kids do at least once in their lives: We'll walk it. We'll feed it. Pleeeease ...

"We got the fish," Edsall said, his left hand atop Corey's head as they stand together in front of the tank. "Who ends up feeding them every day?"

Corey doesn't answer. He just smiles and nudges up against his father's leg.

"Me," Edsall says, laughing.

That indeed is what happens. Soon after he wakes each morning, Edsall is down the stairs, pinching flakes of fish food, then heading into the garage, hopping into the silver Ford Explorer and heading back down I-384 toward Storrs. Back to the job. Back to his other family.

It's dark when he leaves. It's dark when he returns.

The kids are asleep when he leaves. They are asleep when he returns.

Oh, he might poke his head in their rooms soon after he pulls in the garage and slinks up the back stairway before settling in for his four or five hours of sleep, but most conversations he has with them during the football season are over the phone.

"He comes home to sleep," Eileen says.

The family has learned to tolerate his absence. After all, this is the way it's always been, bouncing around the country for Edsall's latest job, house to house, every few years as other opportunities arise.

"When we go someplace," Edsall says, "I tell them, 'Look, you tell me where you want to live because you're going to be the ones living here, not me.'"

His presence can even be disrupting.

At work, Edsall is obsessed with time management and structure. He doesn't waste a minute. Anyone who would doesn't have a place in his life. It's life at a blinding speed, which makes it quite difficult to take in or appreciate one's surroundings. He lacks patience, although he says that's an area he has improved. He's more tolerant of others' quirks, but only to a point, and he is carried by a drive that makes it difficult for others to keep up.

At home, Edsall can be more mellow. He jokes around, even goofs off from time to time, Eileen and the kids say. And that's what he's doing on this Thursday night, sharing a couch with the kids, laughing and stopping his own stories to allow them to tell some of theirs.

Edsall has time for this now. Twenty-seven recruits have recently faxed their letters of intent to the UConn football offices, and he's not working the 17- or 18-hour days he does during the season. Now, and then for the month or so after spring practice ended with the Blue-White scrimmage April 17, he's around a little more. Still, he doesn't leave his eccentricities on campus.

"Actually, he gets in our way when he's home," Eileen says. "We have our routine down and all of the sudden he jumps in the picture. We love the fact that he's there but he tries to take control, and it's kind of a wrestling match."

"They roll their eyes when all of a sudden I do something," Edsall says. "They've got it down now. They kind of just look at each other. They go, 'OK, Dad's home. Let him go.'"

The Look Of A Coach

After each game at Rentschler, the Edsall house is full of commotion. The neighbors are over. Friends and family are in town. Food and people are scattered throughout the house when Edsall arrives.

He'll say his hellos, humor those who want to talk about the game, maybe grab a bite. Once 30 minutes pass, however, he's up the stairs to his office, a spacious room with brown walls reached by an entrance through a bookcase in his bedroom. He breaks down game tape as evening turns to night. Corey might trudge up the stairs, turn the corner into the office and wonder what his dad is up to.

Soon, Corey might realize his father has that look. The glazed eyes, the trance-like demeanor, the result of his emotional investment over so many hours perhaps not having attained perfection on the field. Edsall might be agitated and, once in a while, he might burst. What Edsall asks of himself is a tall order. He functions at levels so high that there is little room for the unexpected. His nature is to deal well with all that is planned, not necessarily what catches him off-guard. Additional or unexpected emotion only causes something else to — pop! — come out at the wrong time.

"Sometimes he'll be mad, and we won't know why," Alexi said. "And it might not be our fault. It might be something one of the players did."

"There are probably times where I come home and, like Lexi said, not that they did it or something, but I just had a bad day," Edsall said. "Instead of exploding there, I might explode here. My fuse might be short and they might just say something or whatever, that it just hits me at the wrong time. But it's nothing they've done or anything."

He smiles at his daughter. "Right?"

"Yeah."

"They know," Eileen says. "They sense what it is."

"We know when not to bother him," Alexi says.

"The good thing is they keep it in perspective," Edsall says. "Even on a Saturday after a game things can go bad. And probably more so Corey than Alexi, he'll say something to me that will just totally make me forget about it and say, 'You know what? There's more to life than a game.' He's got a way to say things that will make me laugh, to get me off of that downer that I'm on."

Edsall is torn, like many coaches. There's a job he has spent a lifetime preparing for on one side, the closing window of opportunity to see his children grow up on the other. In many ways, he chooses the job.

He feels guilty because he doesn't make it to as many of Corey's hockey games as he would like, and because he has never been to a parent-teacher conference. The pangs of guilt surface after Corey stands in the doorway holding a football, but subside when he finds a few minutes to take him into the backyard. Edsall is explaining this while on the couch, remembering that his parents never missed a game or practice, and now his family is chiming in with examples of his sense of priority. Like the time in January when Alexi was honored as Student of the Quarter with a breakfast at her school.

"Sometimes I have to put my foot down," Eileen says. "Like, he was even hemming and hawing about going to the breakfast and Alexi even said, 'It's OK, you don't have to come,' because she knows. And I said, 'No, you should come to this.'"

Edsall looks up.

"It was the first morning we were going to have workouts," he says with half a smile.

"I thought, 'Oh, come on,'" Eileen says. "Sometimes you've just got to nudge him. Not that he doesn't want to go. He's just programmed.

"I feel bad for him."

Still, she appreciates why it is this way.

"Every time he gets up before sunrise and gets in that car," Eileen says, "he's a living, breathing example of what hard work can bring. Our kids have grown up with that."

Edsall made it to the breakfast. And on April 3, he actually pushed back spring practice a day so he could attend his niece's wedding in Pennsylvania. These are the efforts of a slowly changing man. One who is still not perfect, of course.

"I'm used to it," Alexi says. "I don't really care."

Corey starts to talk but is cut off by his mother, who is explaining that the arrangement is most difficult on Corey.

Edsall then leans over to his son.

"What were you going to say, Bud?"

"Well, it's kind of hard," Corey says. "I've kind of gotten used to it, but in some ways I haven't."

At 11, he is realizing there are some things not worth worrying about, but also that some things will always weigh on you.

Examining Table

Recently, Edsall picked up the phone to hear his father's voice.

Richard Edsall had been reliving the way he raised his children in much the same manner he would make them relive their time on the playing field during those evening sessions at the kitchen table. Randy and his brother, Duke, would have every mistake picked apart for analysis. It was an unrelenting practice. For the young boys, it was quite draining.

"It was probably wrong," Richard Edsall said.

Their older sister, Diane, a field hockey player and cheerleader, could often peel away.

"It was sometimes not a real pleasant situation," she said in March from Hershey, Pa., where she works in a high school guidance office. "I felt sorry for them because, no matter what they were doing, they would have to rehash the whole thing."

Richard Edsall came from a broken home. He was raised by his grandparents after his parents left him and his four siblings. He roared through childhood with the means to get away with anything. By the time he was old enough to have such thoughts, he was wishing someone had kept a tighter rope on him.

He decided as a young father that — damn it — there is no way his kids were going to be allowed to act as he did. Richard Edsall ruled without compromise. He sent messages with a belt. He used to tell his children 'No,' just so they would know what the word meant and Diane remembers her father's mantra being "Kids have no opinion."

His practices could be peculiar, harsh. "It was very difficult to understand," Diane said. "It's not the way I chose to raise my kids."

So here he was calling and, a few minutes into the conversation, telling Randy something he had never told him before: I'm sorry I was so tough on you.

"That was the first time he ever said anything," Randy said. "He said, 'If there's one thing I regret it's that I was probably too hard on you guys.'

"I said, 'What are you worried about? It's over with. If you weren't that way, we wouldn't have turned out like we did.' As you get older, you understand those things. My father was not a guy that ever showed his emotions. But he didn't get a whole lot of love from his parents."

Today, what his father taught him is the foundation for everything Edsall is — organized, prepared, tireless, committed. He isn't about to lament the way those lessons were taught, even if he says they were "over the top."

Randy and Duke faced these difficulties and everything else in life with opposite stances. Duke was jeans and T-shirts. Randy was slacks and sweaters. It was brash Duke, skipping school to ride the neighbor's motorcycle — then crashing it. It was conservative Randy, hands in his pockets and learning the value of keeping his mouth shut and knowing his place — a lesson he says still serves him well.

They fought and competed until it drove Richard and Barbara Edsall crazy. There was a basketball hoop in back of the brick house in which they shared a bedroom, a recreation center a bike ride away, a baseball diamond up the street. Heck, they even made their paper routes a competition. On Sundays, they would pack the Volkswagen Bug and start at the top of the street. The doors would fly open and out Randy and Duke would go with gusto, running a mad dash down either side, tossing papers toward front steps to see who could make it back first as their father sat behind the wheel.

"We were close, but we had our knock 'em down, drag 'em outs," Duke said.

So many, in fact, that Richard Edsall began regulating the fights.

"They used to always get to arguing and get to fighting, so one day I decided to fix that," he said in March from his home in York, Pa. "I went out and bought some boxing gloves. So every time they would get in an argument, I would make them put on the boxing gloves."

For a handful of years beginning when Randy was about 6, he and Duke would settle arguments by exchanging blows in the basement under their father's watch until one of them quit. Randy, about 18 months younger, would often absorb quite a few punches.

Duke, the acknowledged troublemaker among the two, would take his licks from his father. He'd then tell his rowdy pack of friends he got beat once a week whether he deserved it or not. Today, though, he says he can't remember one time he didn't deserve it.

"To be honest with you, I thought he was a real mean son of a bitch," said Duke, an ACC basketball referee living in Virginia. "But he would never let us quit anything we started. I was a little more vocal in terms of back talking and raising hell with him. Randy kind of just took it. I don't think there's any question that we wouldn't be where we're at today without him instilling that kind of work ethic and pride in what you do."

Reserved Section

Growing up, sports became Edsall's release, his way to rechannel those pent-up emotions. Dad got mad? Go out back, throw some elbows at Duke during a game of one-on-one.

Edsall wouldn't attend many parties, he skipped the prom and went to the homecoming dance only because, as a football captain, he had an obligation. He wasn't shy, and he had plenty to say when asked for his opinion. But he often stepped back.

"I would never put myself in a position where people could see my weaknesses, but I never lacked confidence," he said.

He remains hesitant today. His reluctance to step forward as a teenager has carried into adulthood as a reluctance to let people in. They might disrupt his progress. There's no time for that type of investment. He steps back and analyzes, priding himself on his ability to read people — not letting people read him. Edsall admits he doesn't have many close friends, maybe two, because he trusts himself so much more than he trusts anyone he might ever let in.

That's the way he wants it.

On the field, Randy never hesitated. On the field, he was the unencumbered free spirit, never looking weak. Man, could he play.

His parents put all of their being behind the family's dedication to sports. Richard worked in a steel factory during the day and coached his sons' teams in the afternoon and night. Barbara Edsall worked for a parts manufacturer. She never missed a game either, driving the boys to all corners of the county, keeping them on schedule.

"The only thing I ever told any of my boys is that no matter what you do, if you're going to do it, do it right or get out," Richard Edsall said. "That's the only thing I tried to instill in them."

So Randy became a perfectionist, bent on winning every time, being known as the kid you could count on. That meant making every free throw.

"I remember him having the ulcer," his father said. "If things didn't go right, he would really worry. We tried to alleviate that fear a little bit, but he's so competitive, it was tough to do. It's something that still drives him, but I don't think it bothers him anymore. Not as much as it did. He's reached a point where, 'This is what I am, this is what I do, and if you don't like it you'll have to find somebody new.'"

By the time he was 11, Edsall was a division finalist in the national Punt, Pass & Kick competition. Later, he was the best player on three varsity teams at Susquehannock High — a quarterback on the football team, a guard on the basketball team, an outfielder and slugger on the baseball team. He left for Syracuse University in 1976 without a thought of ever slowing down.

Career Move

Edsall vividly remembers the sound of his football cleats on gravel as he walked toward Manley Field House and toward what he now says would have been the biggest mistake of his life.

In Glen Rock, a town of less than 2,000, he was a standout. But after two-plus years at Syracuse Edsall was overshadowed by players such as Bill Hurley, whom Giants coach Tom Coughlin, the quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator at Syracuse in the mid- to late 1970s, called a "spit-in-your-eye runner."

Edsall carried clipboards and, behind the scenes, began to carry on conversations. He knew he wasn't the best quarterback, but he was the smartest. Still, for a kid whose identity and focus and image and sense of freedom all revolved around playing, settling in as a backup was unsettling.

So this day after a preseason practice his junior year, he heads off the field and — crunch, crunch, crunch — crosses the gravel and carries his equipment toward Manley. He tosses his pads in a locker and sets out to find coach Frank Maloney. Edsall already had called home to tell his parents he was unhappy.

"I was saying things to them, and finally my dad said, 'Hey, if you want to come home, come home,' because he was fed up with my whining," Edsall said. "He said, 'But the first thing you're going to do before you go home is tell that head coach face to face.'"

That's what Edsall tried to do, but Maloney talked him out of it. From then on, Edsall embraced his role. And in those meetings among quarterbacks and offensive coaches, he began to find out more about himself. He could pick apart the smallest details of the game and he could capture the attention of those around him. He could make people listen, make them want to work.

By the time Edsall was a senior, he had met Eileen, who played basketball and volleyball at Syracuse. And by the time he became a graduate assistant in 1980, he had taken her on a date. They would marry in 1983, two years after Eileen graduated and a year after Edsall earned his master's in health and physical education. That same year, Edsall was named running backs coach at Syracuse.

When Edsall was a graduate assistant, the Syracuse staff was full of now-recognizable names — guys like Maloney, now the director of ticket operations for the Chicago Cubs; George O'Leary, now the coach at Central Florida; and Coughlin. Jim Rudgers was there, too. He and Edsall spent nearly two years together on the Syracuse staff. And today Rudgers sees a little bit of everyone in Edsall — the strict regimen of Coughlin, the motivational skills of O'Leary and the folksiness of Dick MacPherson, Syracuse coach in 1981-90.

Edsall would observe and massage those lessons into his own style, then take time to ask questions and seek advice. He loved feeling a part of the group, being asked for his opinion. The guys wanted Edsall around, too, so after having him fetch cheeseburgers on campus during the day they would invite him out at night, when they might wind up at a bar for a few beers. Randy often sat quietly on the outside, but he was there.

"Some wouldn't even bother," said Rudgers, who remains one of Edsall's closest friends. "They'd be afraid."

Not Edsall. He would listen to his bosses hoot and holler and he would just laugh. Rudgers remembers the look of amusement on Edsall's face being funnier than the stories themselves.

When Coughlin was hired as Boston College coach in 1991, Edsall followed, serving as the Eagles' defensive backs coach in 1991-93. Then when Coughlin was hired as coach of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL in 1994, Edsall followed, again as defensive backs coach.

He thrived under the structure Coughlin provided, perhaps because it wasn't too different from the structure he was raised with. The environment was demanding. It was long hours, high expectations, a relentless pursuit of perfection. It was damn hard work, and Edsall loved it.

"I always thought working for Tom was easy," Edsall said. "You knew exactly what he wanted."

What Edsall wanted, he began to realize, was to be a head coach.

"When Paul Pasqualoni was named coach [at Syracuse in 1991], I had the idea he might be disappointed that he wasn't chosen," Coughlin said. "So I called him up immediately and asked him a lot of questions and did a lot of listening. I knew the quality of person and coach I was getting. When I went to Jacksonville, I indicated he was one of the first guys I wanted to take with me. Our first few years there were successful, but I could see him getting itchy about what would happen to his own career and that's when he hooked up with George O'Leary, and the rest is history."

O'Leary was the head coach at Georgia Tech. He made Edsall his defensive coordinator. One year later, with his family still in Jacksonville, Edsall took the UConn job without having seen the campus.

His Favorite Program

For 18 months — the time he spent in Atlanta and the time he spent in a hotel before purchasing the home near Minnechaug Golf Course — Edsall was removed from his family. He calls that one of the most difficult times in his life.

Now he's settled in, of course. As a coach, he has collected the thoughts and actions of those who bred him and spun it all into the driving force behind UConn's ascent in Division I-A. He is scaling a football mountain with doubters pulling him back and those with unrealistic expectations pushing him over the other side.

"He's created a monster," Edsall's close friend, Chris Fraser, likes to say.

It is time with guys such as Fraser, CEO of a chemical company in Shelton, and Rudgers that helps Edsall balance the stress, helps him step back. It's time with Corey and Alexi, too, and he is finding more of that. He tries to make it to more hockey games. And if you don't think he's making an effort here, know that he's in his first year as an assistant coach on Corey's Little League team.

He finds time for golf, and for breakfast at Lotties in Glastonbury. He attends church when he can. His wife teaches CCD. He listens to country western music. He's a Republican. His favorite color is purple. He likes steak and pork dinners.

But mostly, he's up on campus, trying to push UConn onto the national map. Trying to push a group of kids further than they might dare to push themselves.

"I'm totally astounded," his mother Barbara said. "This is the fella that came from an area where this kind of stuff doesn't happen to people. He just puts his total being into this program. And he just believes."

As he goes, he can be heard reading to children, speaking to groups small and large, in the field house, across the practice field, at the lectern. Still going as he yawns while watching tape during a coaches meeting in February, stopping before he enters the trailer, bending over and saying, "Hey, a dime. My lucky day."

He can be heard just about anywhere in Connecticut, saying things in such a way that has his family wondering: Where did this come from? When did Randy step forward? When did he find that voice?

And he can be seen — pacing the sidelines, red in the face, nearly blacking out during a game a few years ago, an episode that had Eileen reminding him that this type of emotional investment isn't worth it. He can be seen throwing a tantrum here and there, exploding at the smallest imperfections. And he can be seen walking into a recruit's living room with a smile. He can be heard winning over parents.

"There was just something about his honesty," said Susan Atwell, mother of UConn offensive tackle Chad Atwell of West Springfield. "He cares and he listens. It's such a safe feeling to know your son is being taken care of. And he really treats his players like they are his sons. He's brought out the best in Chad, and Chad swears by him."

"His word is gold," said Terri Hernandez, mother of incoming UConn quarterback D.J. Hernandez of Bristol. "He has personality. He came into our house and we had grinders. He was here until about 11 p.m. He also demands a lot, and I respect that."

"`To me," Edsall said, "you've got two things in life — your name and reputation."

Still, some might not understand Edsall. He's narrow-minded, some might say, fails to see every angle. He can be overbearing. His motives aren't questioned. Sometimes his practices or mannerisms are.

"Randy Edsall and I have had a strained relationship at times," said Dan Orlovsky Sr., the father of the UConn quarterback.

Orlovsky didn't want his son to attend UConn, but Dan was won over by Edsall, who came to their Shelton home and, as Orlovsky Sr. puts it, sold a dream but not a song and dance. Immediately, the young quarterback believed in Edsall. And even Orlovsky Sr. said Edsall was the most honest and genuine coach throughout the recruiting process.

Now he has a son who, assuming all goes well in the coming months, will enter the NFL as a highly touted player, and even more important, as a well-rounded young man. Orlovsky Sr. says his son would run through a wall of fire for Edsall, that everything promised to Dan was delivered, that the ambitious coach has helped the young quarterback in countless ways off the field. He said his son will leave UConn with a deep love for Edsall and that, he says, is the mark of a truly great coach.

Still, there have been bumps. Orlovsky Sr. has at times been disappointed to read less-than-flattering comments from Edsall about his son in the newspapers. Another time, according to Orlovsky Sr., Edsall accused him of going to the newspapers about his son's status on the team. More recently, there was a time when Orlovsky Sr. said Edsall accused him of giving Dan's cellphone number to an agent, which Orlovsky Sr. vehemently denies. And there was the time Orlovsky Sr. called Edsall asking for Dan's results from Pro Day, when pro scouts come to watch juniors and seniors work out.

"Randy's comment was, 'I'm not going to divulge any football information,'" Orlovsky said.

And that's what Edsall tells all parents. Want to talk grades? Fine. Is your son having personal trouble? Let me help. You want to know about playing time or anything else that takes place on my fields? Bye-bye.

"I'm not here to please everybody," Edsall said. "My job is to make decisions that make these kids a better person, a better student, a better athlete. I'll never please 100 percent of the people, and I'll never try. What I'm going to do are the things I think are best for this program, and the only thing I really care about is whether people have respect for what I'm doing. They don't have to like me, because this is not a popularity contest. It's a situation where I'm trying to develop young men. And, yes, the bottom line is the number of wins and losses. But you know what? Wins and losses are just numbers. The other things are human bodies. And human beings are very precious to me, and that will always be the bottom line for me."

Ultimately, Orlovsky Sr. realizes that. He also realizes it's Edsall's way all the time. In many ways, Edsall coaches his players the way his father raised him.

"The way I picture Randy Edsall at times — no kidding — is this guy sitting on top of 100 kids' heads," said Orlovsky Sr., who admits his similarities with Edsall lead to the stress in their relationship. "The one thing that you learn is that this is Randy Edsall's baby. When you look back and you cut through all the garbage, he's a protective parent. I think it takes a while to A) figure that out, and then B) deal with it. He's very protective of his players and his program."

There has been the dismissal for a violation of team policy of Cheshire's Jason Dellaselva, whose father Peter declined to comment for this story. There has been the transfer of Chris Meyer, who left for Sacramento State amid charges that he tampered with evidence in an alleged rape.

Asked about those situations, Edsall said, "You always have disappointments. Maybe not regret, but disappointment. You look back and there's always things you wish you could do different to make sure kids don't make mistakes. I always look back and examine myself. But you could really kill yourself doing that too much because you know sometimes in the end a young man, in the heat of the moment, will make a poor decision. But you also think, 'What could I have done different to make a situation better for the kid and the program?' Any decisions I've made have been for the good of the program. Some might not have always been the best for the individual kid, but for the good of the program."

And it is his program. Whether the status of UConn football ever reaches what the dreams call for, the first few years of Edsall's endeavor have pulled those dreams within reach. Edsall won't worry about the future, of course. He won't worry about the past. He'll worry about the present, pushing himself forward and, in some ways, holding himself back, with an unmatched and certain drive.

There will be times when the pressure and the expectations and the worry and the stress might seem to get the better of him, times when the great complications in finding the right balances in life make choices difficult, too.

But we'll hear his voice. The emotions will not remained bottled up. The quest for perfection will not go unheard.

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