The first quarterback Shane Waldron mentored wasn’t an ideal pupil. Chris Coady can admit that now, a decade after his high-school senior season at Buckingham Browne & Nichols outside Boston.
“Oh, I was probably a huge pain in his ass,” Coady says.
Coady laughed at the memory, and in a recent 20-minute phone call from a U.S. military base in Kuwait — three days after he left Afghanistan during the evacuation out of the Kabul airport (more on that in a moment) — he goes on to describe his reluctant position switch to QB in Waldron’s offense in 2011.
At the time, Waldron was in his early 30s, and he’d already spent five years on staff with the New England Patriots, rising from an operations intern to full-time offensive assistant coach at age 30.
Out of a job in 2011, Waldron agreed to join an old college buddy, Mike Willey, on the high-school coaching staff at BB&N.
For the team’s first summer workout, Waldron showed up wearing Patriots attire. That definitely caught the attention of the high-school kids.
“Who the hell is this guy?” Nick DiChiara, a BB&N team captain, remembered thinking.
“And then he started changing up the whole offense,” Coady added, “and we were like, ‘Dude, what the (expletive)? Why am I playing QB? I hate QB!’ We were super pissed.”
That 2011 season at BB&N was Waldron’s first as an offensive coordinator at any level. And until this year, his only season as an OC at any level.
It’s fair to say that Waldron, in his first season in charge of the Seattle Seahawks’ offense, now has one of the game’s best and most enthusiastic quarterbacks to coach. Waldron might even go so far as to describe Russell Wilson as the ideal QB to mentor.
It’s also not a stretch to say Waldron now has one of the more curious coaching jobs in the NFL, a job everyone will be watching with an astronomer’s eye.
Can Waldron make it all work here? Can he be the man in the middle to pull Wilson and Pete Carroll back together … and blend their seemingly conflicting philosophies … and utilize all the Seahawks’ offensive talent … and finally get this team over the proverbial hump in the playoffs?
Just wait, his BB&N players say. Waldron has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The name of the play call: Gun ace right 18 option pass right.
The title of the resulting YouTube video: Amazing Football Catch.
Here’s how it unfolded: Coady took the shotgun snap, ran a couple steps to his right and pitched the ball to his running back, DiChiara, who then fired a pass 35 yards toward the end zone. Waiting near the goal line was their BB&N teammate, Chad Kohler, who made a circus catch as he was falling backward — after it was tipped by a defender, then deflected off Kohler’s shoulder, then his forearm, then into his left hand just before it hit the ground.
The late touchdown gave BB&N a thrilling 31-28 victory, and the play still lives on YouTube, with more than 56,000 views a decade later.
The play was Waldron’s design. And while no one could have scripted the amazing catch, it did highlight Waldron’s creativity.
“We weren’t the fastest team, but we did have a lot of size back then,” Coady recalled. “He wanted to find a way to maximize our strengths.”
That was the impetus for moving Coady from running back to quarterback, a year after he’d rushed for more than 2,000 yards in an offense built around a traditional power-run game.
Despite his early skepticism, Coady became a competent option QB, thanks in large part, he said, to his new OC. Waldron kept it simple for him: “If you see green, just go (run).”
Coady and DiChiara remember Waldron as a strong communicator who tried to develop a personal connection with them, even knowing he would only be around for a few months during their final high-school season. They also recall Waldron joining them in the team weight room from time to time — a coach not afraid to show off to the overconfident seniors. (“He could still throw ’em around pretty good,” DiChiara said.)
BB&N would finish with a 5-3 record that season — “Man, you’re opening some old wounds with that one,” Coady said — which included two heartbreaking losses. Still, they could sense they were getting a taste of NFL-style offensive football that season.
“Not to slight all the other Massachusetts high-school football coaches, but this was a different caliber of X’s and O’s. Shane was just on a different level,” DiChiara said.
Waldron, of course, didn’t remain in high-school ball for long. After the 2011 season, he was hired as the tight ends coach at UMass, and stayed on staff there for five seasons — until he returned to the NFL in Washington D.C. in 2016 and joined forces with another young offensive coach, Sean McVay. Waldron then followed McVay to Los Angeles a year later when McVay became the Rams’ coach.
DiChiara went on to play linebacker and long snapper at Colgate University, and he now works in commercial real estate in Washington, D.C.
Coady went to Duke University and played linebacker for the football team and was a defenseman for the lacrosse team. He was part of Duke’s lacrosse national-championship teams in 2013 and ’14.
In 2018, Coady joined the Marines. Now a first lieutenant, he has been deployed in the Middle East since February, and he was on the ground at the Kabul airport for more than two weeks last month assisting with the evacuation of U.S. forces of Afghanistan. He said he’s hopeful of a return home later this month.
DiChiara and Coady have remained close friends, and it was DiChiara who placed a call to Kuwait last week and connected Coady on a three-way conference call with a reporter from Seattle. They seemed eager to reminisce, and happy to talk about their experiences with Waldron.
Anything else about Waldron as a coach or a person that stood out back then? they were asked.
“Just an awesome guy,” Coady said.
“I do remember,” DiChiara added, “at our team awards ceremony Shane pulled me aside and we had a nice heart-to-heart. He said he was really proud of me. … We were just a pit stop on his very successful coaching career, but it definitely felt like he genuinely cared about us.”