By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — When the Las Vegas Raiders announced their new head coach and general manager Jan. 28, it was not just sports news but news for Catholic higher education.
The duo — Josh McDaniels and David Ziegler — are the only current NFL head coach-general manager combination who were teammates in college and graduates of the same school — John Carroll University near Cleveland. The former teammates, who grew up in Ohio, also were college roommates.
McDaniels, who graduated in 1999, was quarterback and wide receiver for the university’s Blue Streaks, while Ziegler, who graduated in 2000, was a wide receiver and punt and kick returner on the university’s team.
Most recently, the two were working with the New England Patriots. McDaniels, now head coach for the Raiders, was the assistant coach for the Patriots. Ziegler, now the Raiders’ general manager, was director of the Patriots’ player personnel. The two John Carroll alums also worked with the Denver Broncos.
“I couldn’t be happier for Josh and Dave,” said Rick Finotti, head football coach for Jesuit-run John Carroll University. “John Carroll football teammates form a lifelong brotherhood on and off the field: Josh and Dave are evidence of that,” he said on the school’s website.
“They are true men of Carroll who are great examples for our student-athletes at JCU. We’ll be rooting for them in Vegas,” he added.
During a Jan. 31 news conference at the Raiders’ headquarters, Ziegler gave a shoutout to his college experience saying: “The high standards and the commitment to serving others is something that I learned there and is something that I take with me every day when I come into work.”
Dave Vitatoe, the university’s assistant vice president of alumni relations, who also played on the university’s football team with McDaniels and Ziegler, said they worked tirelessly to get to where they are today and are the epitome of the school’s strong work ethic.
“The alumni community celebrates the continued success of our Blue Streaks making an impact at the highest levels of the National Football League,” Vitatoe said. “With regard to Dave and Josh, I could not be happier for the two of them. They were two of my favorite teammates at Carroll and have continued that level of teamwork with one another in their careers.”
Vitatoe also said their work together “speaks to the special bonds that can form at a place like John Carroll, the leadership skills that develop through the experience on our campus, and the loyalty and respect our alumni have for one another.”
“In many ways, their story is the John Carroll story, and we look forward to what this next chapter has in store for them, their families and the Las Vegas Raiders,” he said on the school’s website.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the two former players spoke about how they work together and aren’t afraid to disagree.
“I think the unique thing about our relationship is that we’ve had those situations come up already in our careers where we haven’t always been on the same page or seeing everything the same way, but we’ve always figured out a way to find common ground,” Ziegler said.
“We’re just two hardworking guys from northeast Ohio that are really low ego and really just about winning,” he added.