In the short time that Jeff Hafley spent as co-defensive coordinator under Ryan Day at Ohio State, he couldn’t help but notice how much Day beamed about Boston College.
The sentiment finally registered when Hafley arrived in Chestnut Hill on Monday for his formal introduction as BC’s new head coach.
“I know Ryan loves this place,’’ Hafley said. “He talks really highly about it and I get it now. I never thought that I would leave Ryan after one season. Quite honestly, that’s not what I planned on doing, but when this one opened, it felt special and it felt right and that’s why I’m here.’’
The hiring of Hafley was both a splash and a statement for a program looking for an injection of energy after growing stagnant over seven seasons under head coach Steve Addazio.
“I think this was an important hire for our community and I understood the magnitude of this position,’’ said BC athletic director Martin Jarmond, who handled the hiring process on his own, eschewing a search firm. “The head football coach is a significant position of leadership at Boston College and a lot of places across the country. So I understood the magnitude, I took it very seriously, I prepared a lot. When you have a moment like this you have to take advantage of it and get it right.’’
Hafley brings an NFL pedigree as well as bona fides at college football’s top level after turning around Ohio State’s defense this season. He shares Buckeyes ties with Jarmond, who served as the right-hand man to Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith before coming to Boston College in 2017.
“When I had to call him to tell him that one of your guys is on my list, I didn’t know how that was going to be received because I know how valuable he is to what Ryan and Gene at Ohio State are doing,’’ Jarmond said.
Jarmond said when he made the courtesy call to Smith, Smith’s reaction was simply, “Wow. He’s a good one.’’
Hafley, 40, spent seven seasons as an NFL assistant before joining the Buckeyes this season, helping retool a defense that was ranked 72d in the country a year ago into the No. 1 defense this season. His success, he said, was hard-earned and he keeps a list in his wallet of things doubters have said about him all his life.
“I mean just look at me,’’ Hafley said. “I’m not the biggest guy, I don’t look like I played big-time college football and that’s the truth. I’ve had to work really hard. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder. I’ve had to kick down doors. It’s been hard, but it’s been real and it’s been worth it.
Midway through the press conference, Hafley’s voice began to crack as he thanked his family. Then, from an iPhone in the crowd, Siri cut the tension.
“I’m sorry,’’ Siri said, with artificially-intelligent politeness. “I didn’t get that.’’
The laughter reset the room.
“Thank you,’’ Hafley said. “I needed that. That’s a moment right there.’’
As he got familiar with all the new faces at BC, Hafley still had a job at Ohio State waiting for him. But he laid out his vision for the identity of the Eagles program.
“We’re going to be tough,’’ he said. “We’re going to walk tough, we’re going to look tough, we’re going to play tough. That’s who we’re going to be.’’