As a player, Bob Diaco was a big ten powerhouse at Iowa. He showed energy and excitement and played with passion.
That's how he coaches too.
"I'm just a frustrated ex-player," Diaco said in August, 2010 as he entered his first season as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator. "Like Pavlov's dogs. I walk through the gate and I salivate."
"You get habitized from when you are a kid---I can remember my dad when I was 8-years-old, pounding into my head the ideologies of defense," Diaco said. "And making me repeat them to him---on demand."
Well, maybe a defensive mad scientist is the best way to describe Diaco.
"HA-- Coach Diaco is pretty nuts," then sophomore Kapron Lewis-Moore said with a big laugh in 2010. "When you look at him, he doesn't seem like he would be crazy, but he's a crazy guy on the field."
When you watch Diaco coach, he looks like a guy that still wants to play.
"Sometimes I come out and I'm not as geeked up as I would like to be," then Irish linebacker Darius Fleming said. "Just watching him and talking to him definitely gets you pumped up for practice."
Fleming is now in the NFL.
Obviously it works--the players player like their coach coaches.
"Until the objective is finished, there's only one speed and only one level of intensity," Diaco explains of his philosophy.
Of course, the 2010 Diaco had other unusual characteristics. He would show up for training camp in 100 degree temperatures wearing a sweatshirt.
"It's not concise," Diaco explained at the time.
"I don't know what that is all about," Fleming said back in August 2010. "I definitely would not be wearing a sweat shirt. I'm out there in a jersey and pads and I'm dying, i could just imagine how he feels."
"if I felt like I was going to go down out there I'd take it off," Diaco said. "It's not like I'm trying to prove some silly point you know."
I doubt that sweatshirt ever came off. Diaco proved his point every single day. He was the same guy who brought the same energy and delivered the same message--every single day.
Three seasons later, Diaco is the architect behind the nation's #1 ranked defense and #1 ranked team. He is a main reason Notre Dame will play Alabama for a national championship on January 7th.
"Bob I think is the whole package," explains Notre Dame Secondary coach Bobby Elliott.
Elliott coached Diaco when Diaco played at Iowa. Diaco then served under Elliot as a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes. This year, Diaco brought Elliott to Notre Dame to help finish the masterpiece of the Irish defense.
"There are some defensive coordinators that are great with X's and O's, maybe some are great teachers-- Bob is certainly both of those things," Elliott says. "He goes well beyond all of that. He's a great motivator. He does a lot of team building."
"It would be hard pressed for me to imagine there is a better defensive coordinator today than Bob Diaco."
Diaco won the Broyles Award a few weeks back, naming him the best assistant coach in the country. He's been a hot name in head coaching openings this December and many believe will be a great head coach sooner rather than later.
So Diaco is probably not long for Notre Dame, but while he is still here--he knows he has a job to do. He knows he must prepare the Irish for the national championship game. And he's enjoying every second he has doing it.
"I really believe I have the best assistant coaching job in America," Diaco said this week. "I love who I work for and where I work. I don't want to change who I work for or where I work. I love my job."
and those he coaches love him.
"Our defense is strong because of him," says Irish captain and Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o. "He focused on the little things. People tend to focus on X's and O's, schemes. Coach Diaco believes if I can coach my players to be the best players they can be, I can call any play and it doesn't matter what the offense does because he coached us enough that we will dominate no matter what."
And to be dominating the way they are, to have Notre Dame where it is--that's one special feeling for Diaco.
"A school, a university with the magnitude and following that we have with the expectation of national championship and national dominance---to take over the program when Coach Kelly took it over--as quoted many times by people as almost nationally irrelevant-- to turn that back into something that is relevant is a really awesome thing," Diaco says.
And that wouldn't have been possible without Diaco.