By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Having spent the first 40 years of his life in the northeast corner of the country -- and specifically Boston, Philadelphia and New York City -- the move to Waco, Texas, could have been a huge culture and temperature shock for Baylor linebackers coach Mike Siravo.
But, there was not even a second of hesitation.
"This is Texas," he said. "I've watched Baylor the last decade and just been in awe of what they've done. It's a Christian school, great alumni, great facilities. So, there was no hesitation at all. I mean, do I miss the pizza in Connecticut? Yeah, maybe I do."
A native of Pawtucket, R.I., home of the Triple-A PawSox, Siravo grew up and remains a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. But, his passion has always been football.
He walked on at Boston College as a linebacker and possible long snapper "to be a part of a big-time program that plays on Saturdays."
"I probably could have played Division II ball," he said. "But with a goal of maybe to coach or be in administration someday, I wanted to be a part in some capacity of a Division I athletics program."
With an eye on long-snapping, the BC coaches stuck the 6-foot, 230-pound Siravo with the offensive linemen at the start, "and we had some pros that would beat the dog out of me," he said.
"Then, I was like, `Hey, can I play scout team linebacker?''' said Siravo, who earned his bachelor's degree in history from Boston College in 1998 and then his master's in administrative studies of business two years later. "We had an awesome long snapper, another guy from Rhode Island, actually a buddy of mine. So, I played scout linebacker, and then I got lucky and got in some games."
Siravo's original career path was to teach, but during his playing days he realized that coaching is actually teaching. "I didn't play very much, but I liked to study a lot, and I liked to help new guys or guys that were struggling just study the scheme. And that's coaching."
After three years as a GA at Boston College, Siravo got his first full-time job as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Columbia University. He then spent one season at Temple under head coach Al Golden, working on the same stuff with current Baylor head coach Matt Rhule and assistant coaches George DeLeone, Jeff Nixon and Bob Bicknell.
"He's better than even what you see out here," Siravo said of Rhule, who was the head coach at Temple the last four years, with Siravo as his linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator. "He can be tough when we need it, he's demanding and holds us accountable. But, I don't want to work for anyone else. We can all be in the middle of a knockdown, drag-out about something, and the kids come running in, and it's family. That's what I love."
While this is his ninth season coaching the position he played in college, Siravo also got the chance to return to his alma mater and coach the defensive backs for six years. His secondary unit helped BC rank first in the country in rushing defense, eighth in interceptions (20) and 13th in total defense in 2010.
"It taught me a lot about the coverage aspect and the run fits," he said, "and now I could see it from two perspectives. Coaching different kids -- different positions are different -- it was a good experience."
At Baylor, his only linebacker with any extensive playing time is fifth-year senior Taylor Young, a former Freshman All-American who set a Cactus Bowl record last year with 17 tackles in the Bears' win over Boise State.
"When I go ballistic, or Coach (Phil) Snow does or Francis (Brown) or Coach Rhule, about a small detail, he understands why we're crazy about it," Siravo said of Young, "because it will get you beat. He's been in the game, he's seen those things come to life. So, he can kind of tell the young guys, `Hey, they're crazy for a reason' about the details."
Sophomores Clay Johnston and Eric Ogor have been the other linebackers in the starting defense, but Siravo also likes what he sees from freshmen Jalen Pitre, Terral Bernard, Ashton Logan and Bryson Jackson.
"We've got a good group," Siravo said. "Make no mistake about it, we need to be more physical and we need to make plays, but they're coming along."
Young said Siravo is "one of the coolest coaches ever."
"At the same time, he gets his work done. He can flip on you real quick, so you've always got to be on your P's and Q's. You've got to always know what you're doing. He's a great coach and a great teacher."
The Bears will wrap up their third week of fall camp with a workout Saturday morning at McLane Stadium. Practices are closed to the public.
For football season or single-game ticket information, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000 or go online at www.baylorbears.com/footballtickets.