Swampscott High School is 1,004 miles from Chicago, 737 miles from Detroit, and 474 miles from Buffalo. But all three cities have one thing in common: They host NFL teams coached by Dick Jauron, , one of the greatest athletes in the history of the North Shore town.
Jauron, 55, a star in football, basketball, and baseball at Swampscott in the 1960s, was named one of the top 10 Massachusetts high school football players of the 20th century by the Globe in 1999. He played football and baseball at Yale. In 1973, he was drafted by both the Detroit Lions of the NFL and the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball. Jauron chose football and had a solid playing career.
Now he will open his first training camp as head coach of the Buffalo Bills on Friday at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y. Jauron replaced Mike Mularkey, who resigned from the Bills post in January after a 5-11 season.
``We feel like we had a terrific off-season, as most teams do," said Jauron, who was named the Bills' 14th head coach on Jan. 23. ``We attacked free agency and got the guys we wanted, and we feel good about our draft, in that we strengthened our depth. Our off-season [conditioning] program was well-attended, and we got a lot done. I don't know how any of that translates into wins and losses, but now we'll get to see when we start the real thing."
If Jauron can guide the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 2000, it will be another accomplishment in a long line of feats dating back to his three-sport days in Swampscott.
Jauron began learning the ins and outs of the job as a child, watching his father, Bob, run the football program at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind.
The Jauron family arrived on the North Shore just prior to Dick's beginning high school, living in Lynn briefly before settling in Swampscott. Jauron's excellent adventure began there, as a ninth grader at Swampscott High in 1965.
``I have thousands of memories of growing up there," he said of his high school years. ``A lot revolve around sports -- baseball practices, football practices, and so on. It was great to be playing in a place like that, able to hear the ocean in the distance and feel the breeze coming in from the water during practice. I had some great teammates and knew some wonderful people. It's a vital place that was terrific, not just on the playing fields, but in drama and history and math. It was well-balanced and full of dedicated people."
One of his teammates in football and basketball at Swampscott was Alexander Tennant, who was a year behind him. Not only did the two form a friendship while playing for coaches Stan Bondelevitch and Frank DeFelice, but their families remain close some 40 years later.
``Dick is a special human being and comes from one of the most honest, decent families I've ever known," said Tennant, the founder, managing partner and chief executive officer of TCI Global Investments, New England Strategic Development Corp., and Nefilim Associates LLC. ``I'm in touch with him, his sister [Susan], and his parents, who still live in Swampscott.
``We didn't lose a game in the three years I played with him and were ranked third in the country in football in my junior year," Tennant said. ``He's a legend around here, but he'll never promote himself, just others."
At Yale, Jauron became the leading rusher in school history and holds several school records, including consecutive 100-yard rushing games with 16.
After graduating with a degree in history, he played six seasons with the Lions, starting at free safety as a rookie and making the Pro Bowl in 1974, after leading the National Football Conference in punt returns (16.8 yards per return).
Following his time with Detroit, Jauron finished up his playing career in Cincinnati, playing three years with the Bengals before retiring after the 1980 season with 26 career interceptions and two touchdowns.
Jauron's coaching career began in 1985 in Buffalo, where he spent a year as a defensive assistant with the Bills. From there, he went on to spend nine years coaching the defensive secondary in Green Bay, becoming part of Mike Holmgren's Packers coaching tree that launched the NFL head coaching careers of Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, and Steve Mariucci.
Jauron got his first shot as a defensive coordinator in 1995 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, orchestrating a defense that reached the playoffs three times, including an AFC Championship game appearance in 1996.
In 1999, he got his first head coaching job in Chicago and won NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2001 after guiding the Bears to a 13-3 record.
Following the 2003 season, Jauron joined old friend Mariucci back in Detroit, where he was the defensive coordinator, before being named interim head coach for the final five games of last season after Marriuci got the gate.
The roads of the NFL now have led him back to Buffalo, where he will work under the watchful eye of Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, now the Bills' general manager.
Levy, who led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early '90s, said Jauron is absolutely the right man for the job.
``We got the fellow we wanted," Levy said. ``I've always known quite a bit about Dick and have had great regard for him. I know his reputation, and I even tried to hire him as our defensive coordinator in the early '90s. I admire his intelligence and work ethic. And his previous experience as a head coach was a big selling point.
``So far I'm happy with what he's conveyed," Levy said. ``He keeps it simple and imparts assignments that are easy for the players to grasp."
Jauron, who was back in his old Swampscott haunts over Mother's Day weekend but said he doesn't get back as much as he would like, acknowledged that his new team is probably an underdog in an AFC East division that also has the perennial powerhouse Patriots, the improving Dolphins, and the scrappy Jets.
``I like our team," said Jauron. ``I like the attitude and the confidence we have. I feel very optimistic that we'll develop properly and come together as a team. I feel very fortunate to be in this situation. I'm a very lucky person."
Dick Jauron's win-loss record as an NFL head coach:
'99 Chicago 6-10
'00 Chicago 5-11
'01 Chicago 13-3
'02 Chicago 4-12
'03 Chicago 7-9
'05 Detroit 1-4