For Father’s Day, a short read on what it’s like to grow up as a coach’s son — as it was first published in late November. (Taylor Mazzone has since been promoted to quarterbacks coach, after initially replacing Marques Tuiasosopo as Y receivers coach.)
Taylor Mazzone has a vision. A beautiful home in a football- crazed town, a wife and kids, and a bit of job security.
Simple conditions, but difficult to come by when you’re vying to become a football coach. Mazzone, a UCLA graduate assistant, is no stranger to the profession’s winding path, the packing boxes and new ZIP Codes. After all, he’s a coach’s son.
Noel Mazzone, UCLA’s first-year offensive coordinator is the classic coaching journeyman. A sampling of his stops: Arizona State, Oregon State, Ole Miss, Auburn, North Carolina State, Minnesota, TCU.
Then throw in some high school coaching years and a brief stint with the New York Jets. All in all, that flurry of moves meant seven schools in seven years for Taylor, who followed his father to Westwood after serving as a Sun Devils graduate assistant.
The 25-year-old hopes he won’t be quite as transient. He doesn’t need a high-profile location like Oklahoma or Texas. Somewhere smaller will do, perhaps at a smaller conference like Conference USA. A place where he can build a program. A place for him to root.
“You always want your kids to be able to say, ‘That’s home for me,’” Taylor Mazzone says. “You move around too much, and it’s like, ‘Where’s home at? I don’t really have a home.’”
But by no means is he complaining. For the record, he calls North Carolina home now. He went to two of his four high schools there and finished his college career as an East Carolina quarterback. His mother still lives in the Tar Heel State.
Like most coaches’ offspring, Taylor looks back on his nomadic lifestyle with a smile. Many think of the days they spent in the locker room, being adopted as a little brother by the dozens of hulking athletes. Some may not have spent more than three years at a time in any one place, but the constant upheaval enriched their childhoods and strengthened their character.
The Bruins are a roster uncommonly filled with coaching lineage.
There’s Gray Mazzone, Taylor’s brother, a receiver who is still undecided on whether he wants to join the family business.
There’s Jerry Neuheisel, the scout team quarterback whose father, Rick, was fired as UCLA head coach last season.
And there’s current Bruins head coach Jim L. Mora. His earliest memories include his father coaching at Occidental College. Eventually, he even ended up on the same staff, working as an assistant when the elder Mora was head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
“It’s all I ever knew,” the Bruins coach said. “Since the day I was born, there’s only been one thing I’ve ever done and that’s football.”
Adds Jerry Neuheisel, who has no doubts about his own career ambitions: “That’s the curse. As soon as you become a coach’s kid, then you want to become a coach yourself. It takes a different personality. Some guys hate it because they see the business side of it. Some guys love it because they see the game side of it.”
The ones who choose to make the leap get a head start on thickening their skin. Turnover is incessant in the industry, and criticism is downright inextricable. When games go south, coaches’ children must listen to neighbors, classmates and even teachers play armchair quarterback – often with unflattering language.
They learn to tune out the chatter.
There are other obstacles as well. Long hours and near-tunnel vision make raising a family more difficult. Making it requires both time management and self-sacrifice. No time for golf or boys’ nights out.
When the Mazzone brothers grew up, their mother warned them not to follow their father’s footsteps. Don’t do that to your family, she said. Don’t do that to your wife.
Taylor couldn’t resist. Nearly three years ago, when he was a little-used senior quarterback at East Carolina, Mazzone felt the pull. Halftime at the Liberty Bowl, Jan. 2, 2010. The Pirates were up 17-0 over Arkansas. The Memphis air chilled, the temperature flirting with the freezing point.
He sat back on the sideline that day, realizing he was playing in his last football contest. It wasn’t enough.
“I thought, ‘You know what? This game is too beautiful and means too much to me to leave it.”‘