Special teams is supposed to be one-third of football, but we all know better. Because if they were truly one-third of the game we’d have more than three special-teams specialists in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
So how do coaches today impress upon young players that what they do on special teams really matters?
Good question. It’s one we asked former special-teams coach Bobby April on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, and he surprised us by comparing the process to a Broadway play that later became a popular Hollywood film.
Would you believe … “A Bronx Tale?”
“The job itself is teaching,” April said of coaching special teams. “But (there’s) another aspect of the job, and it’s to a high degree. I don’t know if it’s 50-50, but it’s pretty close. It’s a sales job. Like any endeavor in sales, you’ve got to sell them on it, and you’ve got to constantly preach it. Most people won’t do any job, much less football, without seeing the rewards.
“It’s kind of like ‘A Bronx Tale.’ The kid’s being brought up to make good grades, do everything right and he turns to crime because he sees all the rewards … and the cars … and the women … and the money and everything else. And special teams is similar to that.”
Excuse me … what? Special teams have been likened to plenty of things, but one of the best gangster movies of all time usually isn’t one of them … unless, of course, you’re speaking with Bobby April. Which is why he had to explain.
“There’s a lot of selling,” he said, “(with the stress on) what can happen for you, your development and what can happen for the team — that, when we win, everybody benefits. That’s the selling I always tried to do, and it is a big part of it. You’re not just teaching.”
April’s message must have worked. During his 26 years as an NFL assistant, he twice was named Special Teams Coach of the Year and twice coached special teams for two Super Bowl ballclubs. Moreover, he’s one of only two coaches (Brad Seely is the other) to have his special teams finish first three times in Rick Gosselin’s annual special-teams rankings.