Friday, March 07, 2014

UConn coach gets rave reviews from one of his former stars

The mere mention of Bob Diaco's name led to just one word popping into Carlo Calabrese's mind.

Calabrese, a standout linebacker who was the second-leading tackler on the Diaco-coached Notre Dame defense during the 2013 season, uttered the word three times in one sentence when discussing what he thinks the former Notre Dame defensive coordinator will bring to UConn.

"He will bring a winning attitude to the team and we will bring in winning people to the team and just all around winning mentality to the team ," Calabrese said from the New Haven hotel room where he is in town for a weekend of charity events organized by agent Joe Linta. "He will do whatever it takes to that.

"I like his intensity, he is a very intense coach. He has a passion for the game."

The first thing Calabrese learned about the person who would put together the Notre Dame defense was that Diaco hailed from the next town over in New Jersey.

"My first meeting with him he was a coach at Virginia," Calabrese said. "I was in high school being recruited by him and when I met him he was a nice guy. It was a pretty normal meeting with him and it was pretty cool to have him there to recruit me was pretty nice because he grew up in a town over from me and it was my rival so it was pretty cool to be recruited by him."

So what did Calabrese learn from Diaco in his time at Notre Dame?

"He showed me how to watch film, how to get better and he made me better as an all around player," Calabrese said.

Calabrese admitted that he was caught a little by surprise when Diaco accepted the job as the head coach at UConn but the more he thought about it, the less shocked he was.

"I was surprised but I always knew one day he was going to be a head coach so I was surprised it was going to be this quick," Calabrese said. "I was surprised but I wasn’t surprised."

Calabrese said it meant the world to him and his teammates when Diaco returned to South Bend to say goodbye to the Notre Dame players after news broke of his hiring at UConn.

"It just shows how much of a relationship that he has with his players and how much respect he had for us," Calabrese said. "To see him come back after he took that job, it meant a lot. There are other coaches that leave the team and you never hear from them again. This shows us that he has a true relationship with us as players."

This weekend gives Calabrese a chance to unwind from the pressures that come with trying to better his draft status with workouts, individual meetings with teams and various other football-related activities.

"It is awesome," Calabrese said. "I love doing charity events and any time I can give back, I enjoy doing that. "We have a youth football clinic tomorrow and I am excited to go out there, play football with the kids and put them through drills and stuff just give back to the community."

As for the upcoming NFL draft and his future as a pro?

"I just want to know soon what my future is going to be because I have been training so long and so hard and I am pretty excited for that day to come," Calabrese said.


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