Hofstra head coach Joe Gardi spoke today about offensive tackle John Ciampi's death... |
On how he's keeping the team's focus as memorial services proceed:
"I think that's our biggest job-to make sure we keep the distractions at a minimum...but I can't tell our men not to go up tomorrow night or tonight. They're going to have a viewing tonight and tomorrow night. I can't tell them it's not a good idea. I can't tell them you've got to be careful about distractions this week...I had a similar experience as a player at the University of Maryland. In my senior year I was co-captain-we had a young man die in practice, which was tragic...It hurt me, and I can sympathize. I remember it like it was yesterday. I know what a player's going through. There's a lot of emotions here. There's a lot of emotions involved with our coaches. I promised John's grandfather that I'd take care of him when we recruited him. Coach [Rob] Spence has known the family, and he's hurting as bad as anyone. Coach [Kyle] Flood, his offensive line coach, is hurting, and our players-God knows what emotions are going through them. We think we've done a great job. We were together with them Sunday. We called our players together-I was the last one here. They were talking with some counselors right from Sunday. I don't mean to sound cold and calculated, but we've been here before. The number one concern is John's family, and our number two concern is our players. We believe as a coaching staff based on my experience with these kind of things, the best thing is for them to stay focused. The best thing for them is to go to class and not take a week off, and the best thing is for them to practice. We look great in practices."
On how he's interacting with the players:
"Our doors will be open. I've talked with several players who I knew were close to John. The first thing I did Sunday was pray with the team right in this room (Pride Club Lounge) for John and for his family, and I asked God to give me some direction and hope I say all the right things-which is tough to do-and do the right things. We are firm as coaches in our commitment as to what we have to do. It would be easy not to practice, but we've been here before, and I know that we just carried on. We haven't changed a thing. We've talked to them a little bit after practice and before practice. We asked our youngsters if they wanted to say anything, because they're going through a lot of mixed emotions."
On how he's dealt with death in the past/b>:
"I can remember my reaction exactly when my brothers told me my Mom passed away. Those things you remember. It was a guilt trip. My Mom-I got all upset and said, 'I knew it, I shouldn't have gone away this weekend,' and my brothers said, 'What's he talking about?' Why wasn't I there? Why did she have to die when I was away and couldn't be with her? It's those kind of guilt feelings."
On what he plans to say in the locker room before this week's game:
"Probably one of my downfalls in life is my wife says, 'you think you're George Washington.' I say too many things right from the heart, and I'm not gonna change. I'm not gonna use this as a motivational tool. I don't think I have to. I think our players are gonna play."
On how the team will honor Ciampi:
"It's amazing what our young men come up with. I thought of getting decals for the helmets, but they want to bring a game ball signed up to John tonight [at the memorial service]. That was their idea. We're gonna wear decals on our helmets. That was my idea...They deserve credit, too. They've got some great thoughts. Our biggest problem is Friday we're gonna delay our flight because we want to send a contingent of players [to Ciampi's funeral]. Khary [Williams] is gonna be a pallbearer, and we're not gonna leave Khary here, so we delayed the plane by an hour. We're gonna hopefully go up for the [funeral] mass-coaches and players-we think it's important, and our players want to...There's no way as a head coach I can tell my players not to go. I told them [to] be careful because we're gonna have a ton of distractions. And I want them to go to class. I want them to carry on, and I said, 'John would want you to.'"
On how the team is responding in practices:
"They're practicing pretty good. They're flying around, but that doesn't mean anything, because all the sudden the ball can pop loose a couple of times like [against] Richmond. I thought we had a great week before Richmond. I've never been able to figure it out. I wish I could. I'd make a lot of money. I really told them I'm proud of them the way they've practiced Monday and Tuesday...There's not a lot of horseplay. There's not a lot of clowning around. It's sharp and crisp practices, and good focus."
On the recruitment of Ciampi, and his progression since:
"Not a lot of people know it, but we looked at John as a senior in high school. I don't think Rob [Spence] was here. I didn't get goose bumps. He was a lot smaller-thinner-same height probably, but about 250 [pounds], and I didn't get goose bumps about the tape...so we passed on him. We wanted to get him as a walk-on, and he went to Southern Connecticut. Then when Rob came back, his closeness with the family-and the grandfather in particular-[prompted John's] Grandpa to [come] see me, I believe without John, and I fell in love with Grandpa. He wanted to have John play for us. I'm sure Rob's affiliation and closeness with the family was a big factor. When [John] walked into my office, I saw the change in him physically, and I said, 'Well, the Good Lord's taken care of me.' Holy Mackerel. He was a man...And he walked-on. His grandfather paid his way the first semester. After about a week...I walked over and said, 'Son, you have a scholarship next semester.' That's how good he was. I couldn't believe it. I think DeMingo [Graham] was still here. Next to DeMingo, he was one of our best football players on the field. What I'll remember about him is he's a head coach's dream. He has all the tools-runs a 5.1-5.2 40 [yard dash], strong as a house, and has a nice way of nastiness, which you need to be an o-lineman. He'll finish people off, and he's cute-he got so many penalties because he'd swat thin defensive linemen, and he was so strong, it would look like he was holding. They'd go down like John grabbed them with the other hand, but in most cases, he didn't. I said that you can't knock DeMingo and [Dave] Fiore, because they'll get mad at me, but at this stage, he was far ahead of them in talent and a chance to make pro ball."
On Ciampi's prospects to join Graham and Fiore in the NFL:
"I won't tell you who it is, but a scout came and said to me, "Coach, I can't believe it. I just graded that young man 100 percent. I've never done that before. Never had someone grade out 100 percent.' John's come close to 100 percent with us several times...I honestly believe that next year with another year, John had a chance to be a number one draft pick."
On rumors Ciampi was considering declaring for the NFL early:
"We heard some rumors, too...I think that he was not going to, and I think if we were worried about it, I would've had people from the NFL Management Council, friends of mine, David, my son, or agents that I know simply show him the difference between a number one [pick] and a number three or four. That's very simple."
On who will replace Ciampi in the lineup:
"Mike Brigandi, who took over for "Champ" in [the] Cal Poly [game] and graded 95 percent, will be our starting right tackle. We are really excited about this young man. We think he's gonna be a good football player. We're not worried. We're certainly gonna miss John, but Mike's an excellent football player. I don't know if he's gonna be John Ciampi, but he's a good football player."