Fal­cons’ new co-or­di­na­tor says al­co­holism a daily bat­tle

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

Since an em­bar­rass­ing down­fall at South­ern Cal, Steve Sark­isian has cer­tainly caught plenty of breaks in his pro­fes­sional life.

He called plays for Nick Sa­ban and the Alabama Crim­son Tide in the na­tional cham­pi­onship game.

Now, he’s got an op­por­tu­nity to run the At­lanta Fal­cons’ of­fence, in­her­it­ing a high-scor­ing team that just made it to the Su­per Bowl be­hind MVP quar­ter­back Matt Ryan.

But Sark­isian’s per­sonal demons are some­thing he must keep a han­dle on ev­ery day.

Dur­ing a con­fer­ence call Thurs­day in­tro­duc­ing the Fal­cons’ new of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor, he talked openly about the bat­tle with al­co­holism that cost him his last head coach­ing job in 2015.

“Ev­ery­body has is­sues they to deal with, some phys­i­cal, some men­tal, what­ever it may be,” Sark­isian said. “This hap­pens to be an is­sue of mine that I work on daily. It’s im­por­tant to me so I can be the best per­son, the best fa­ther, the best coach I can be. I’m dili­gent about that.”

Sark­isian was fired by the Tro­jans af­ter ath­letic di­rec­tor Pat Haden said the coach showed up for prac­tice in no shape to work, on the heels of a bizarre dis­play in which he ap­peared to be in­tox­i­cated dur­ing a rally with USC boost­ers.

The 42-year-old sought treat­ment for al­co­holism and con­tin­ues to be in­volved in that pro­gram.

“It’s not some­thing that is nec­es­sar­ily in the past,” Sark­isian said. “It’s some­thing I have to work on ev­ery sin­gle day, and I do work on it ev­ery sin­gle day. It’s im­por­tant to me, and it’s im­por­tant to who I am as a per­son. It’s a piece of me, this dis­ease of al­co­holism. It’s a piece of me, but it doesn’t de­fine me. I have a lot more to of­fer than that.”

Sa­ban gave Sark­isian a chance to get back into coach­ing, hir­ing him as an of­fen­sive an­a­lyst this past sea­son. When of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Lane Kif­fin took the head coach­ing job at Florida At­lantic, Sark­isian was picked as his suc­ces­sor — and wound up get­ting a head-start on the job when Alabama parted with Kif­fin a week be­fore the na­tional cham­pi­onship game against Clem­son.

The Tide lost 34-31 on a touch­down pass with one sec­ond re­main­ing.

Sark­isian said he was look­ing for­ward to his first full sea­son as the Tide’s co-or­di­na­tor, but his out­look changed when Dan Quinn called the day af­ter At­lanta’s Su­per Bowl loss to New Eng­land.

With Kyle Shana­han mov­ing on to be­come San Fran­cisco’s head coach, Sark­isian got an of­fer to work with Ryan, All Pro re­ceiver Julio Jones, 1,000-yard rusher Devonta Free­man and an of­fence that av­er­aged nearly 34 points a game.

“I couldn’t be more grate­ful to Coach Sa­ban and every­one at the Univer­sity of Alabama,” Sark­isian said. “That’s a heck of a foot­ball team with some re­ally tal­ented play­ers. But when you get this type of op­por­tu­nity — to come to a team that just com­peted in the Su­per Bowl, with all the tal­ent they have of­fen­sively, to work with Dan — that was some­thing I couldn’t pass up.”

AP PHOTO

In this Jan. 9 file photo, Alabama of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Steve Sark­isian stands on the side­lines dur­ing the sec­ond half of the NCAA col­lege foot­ball play­off cham­pi­onship game against Clem­son in Tampa, Fla.

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