The Ukiah Daily Journal

Nick in Charge? Sirianni’s path to Super Bowl included stint as a babysitter.

- By Matt Breen

Paul Tortorella wanted to take his wife to dinner after a week of football practice at Indiana University of Pennsylvan­ia, but he needed someone to watch his four children.

So who better to babysit than the entrylevel assistant who coached the wide receivers? Tortorella, then the defensive coordinato­r, said the assistant was lucky if he was making $10,000 at the Division II school in western Pennsylvan­ia.

And that’s how Tortorella’s four children came to know Nick Sirianni as “Uncle Nick.”

Nearly 20 years before Sirianni was preparing the Eagles for Sunday’s Super Bowl, he was a 24-year-old eager to climb the coaching ladder. His job at IUP was his first full-time position after spending two years as a graduate assistant at Mount Union, the Division III school in Ohio where he had been a receiver.

Sirianni’s opportunit­y at IUP was much greater than the salary, so the future Eagles head coach spent a couple of hours every Thursday night in Tortorella’s backyard and left with some cash in his pocket.

“I have four kids, so it was like a romper room out there,” said Tortorella, who is now IUP’S head coach. “They’d have balls flying everywhere. The whole deal. He did a good job.

“I’d give him a $20 bill. I’d rather give it to him than a regular babysitter, plus he probably did a better job because he kept them active instead of sitting in the house.”

Sirianni spent three years at IUP after being recommende­d for the job by the team’s secondary coach, D.K. Mcdonald, whom he met while they were counselors at a youth football camp in Erie, Pa.

THEN-IUP head coach Lou Tepper had an opening, so Mcdonald told him about the guy coaching at Mount Union who loved football and was filled with passion. Sirianni interviewe­d with the entire coaching staff — “He wore the one suit he owned,” said Jim Smith, then the Crimson Hawks’ passing game coordinato­r — and won the job by stressing how important it would be that his receivers blocked on running plays. He was their kind of guy.

“Everyone kind of wants to get to Z in the alphabet without doing A, B, and C,” Tortorella said. “The thing that was great is that sometimes young guys come in and they think they have all the answers. He knew that he didn’t know. He came in and learned.”

Mcdonald got Sirianni the job and then landed him a room in the house he rented near campus on Fourth Street. Mcdonald signed the lease and covered the utility bills while charging the other assistants $200 a month.

Sirianni was a messy roommate, but at least he paid his rent — sometimes.

“He owes me a lot of money,” said Mcdonald, now the Eagles’ assistant defensive backs coach. “A lot of IOUS from him . ... He makes enough now that he should be able to pay me back.”

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