UConn RB coach excited about player engagement role
There's no question that Ernest Jones' role as the new running back coach will put him under the spotlight considering the struggles the Huskies have endured in the running game in the last couple of years.
However, there the player engagement role is a part of his responsibilities that Jones is equally fired up about.
“It is not just about playing football not for Coach Diaco and not for me,” Jones said. “We want them to understand that they need to care about others more than they care about themselves and that is the staple of who you are. If you are an ‘I’ guy it is not going to work for us. We are going to visit retirement homes, visit churches, visit elementary schools whatever it is in that in the community. They are going to see us and we are going do it. We are going to go around the campus and make sure they have a voice in our program. We are going to be engaged with this campus, engaged with this community. They are going to know who we are. We are not going to sit up in this office and watch video and (have it) is all about football. It is going to be all about other people.”
So what are the priorities in the player engagement program?
“What we do is develop them in five areas,” Jones said. “We are going to develop them socially, intellectually, spiritually, physically and we are going to develop their skills. That is what they are going to get if they come to the University of Connecticut, we want to handle the social and spiritual piece. What we want to do is make a difference in their lives, make them men of character, men of integrity. What is going to be important about it is they are going to be around people who are going to be their best friends; be their best men in their weddings, this is where they are going to be in the next four or five years so we want to teach them how to grow in that environment to be better at that.”
During his 17 seasons as a college assistant coach Diaco had the chance to work at some elite academic institutions as seven of his last eight seasons were spent at either Virginia or Notre Dame. Somewhere along the way he decided that if he were to become a head coach that he would have tangible goals for what he wanted to instill in his players when they away from the football field.
"It is teaching them how to write a resume, it is teaching them how to do an interview; it is teaching them how to set a table and place the fork and knife properly for etiquette,” Diaco said. “It is teaching them different life lessons, different social lessons and also developing a year-long plan where we are out in the community."
Jones expounded a little more on what he is looking to accomplish in the role of player engagement director which is similar to his role at Notre Dame during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
“We are going to have people in our program that this is how you write a resume,” Jones said. “This is how you dress, this is how you go and say hello to this young lady and invite her to dinner, these are people who can help you get jobs, our parents are going to love it and they are going know that we care about those young people and it is more than just football
“One of the reasons why I came is that I know that he cares about these young people and he truly wants to make a difference in their lives.”
Jones wants to make it clear, however, that he came to UConn to help improve a running game which has had its issues under the previous regime.
"I take a lot pride in that," Jones said. "We are going to make sure that they are smart, they are going to be physical and they are going to be able to run, they are going to be able to go out there and execute our offense. We don’t want to be in the bottom portion of the nation in terms of running the football. If they need us to get a first down we are going to get a first down, if they need us to catch the football we are going to catch the football, if they need us to run and score a touchdown, we are going to run and score a touchdown. If they need us to pass protect we are going to pass protect so we are going to pass protect. Some of the greatest running backs to play the game wore that helmet, wore those shoulder pads and played for the University of Connecticut so we have to understand that and we are going to try to continue that tradition in regards to running the football. That is going to be something that I am going to bring to the table. I am real energetic, I am excited and this is what they are going to get every day. They are going to take this to the football field and that is how we are going to run the football."
He is also going to take that energy into his role as the point man for recruiting Fairfield County. UConn has lost its share of top players from FCIAC schools to other program but Jones said he is determined to change that.
"I have a little piece of Florida, I little piece of New York and a piece of Connecticut," Jones said. "I talked to some coaches (Tuesday) night and they were excited that I was reaching out and they were telling me about some players that they had. We are going to leave from here and do some recruiting and I am going to be one of the first guys that is going to get some Connecticut players on the table because before I called New York, before I called Florida, I called Connecticut and talked to every coach in my area and said ‘who do you have?’ I am going to put them in front of our staff and I am going to give our staff a chance to know the Connecticut people in our area before I go somewhere else. If they say yes, why I do I need to go to Florida? Why do I need to go to New York?"