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A Different Kind Of Student Assistant Coach

March 22, 2017

UConn Athletic Communications

March 22, 2017

Pro Day Photo Gallery

It's safe to assume that there aren't many Division I head football coaches labeling one of their student assistant coaches as "the face of the program." In fact, until we hear different, assume that number is one.

Unless, of course, some other program besides UConn has a student assistant coach who has 12 years of NFL experience and owns just about every passing record in the program's history.

Welcome home, Dan Orlovsky.

The most prolific quarterback in UConn history is back on campus in Storrs and he is clearly a sight for more eyes --- more than those of his once coach and current boss, more than those of the media who crowd around him, even more than those of the players on the field, some of whom grew up idolizing him. The in-state kid who lifted the UConn program to the next level is not, to many, just a former UConn player, but the former UConn player.

Wednesday, Orlovsky was at the Shenkman Training Center, watching as about a dozen UConn players tried their best to impress numerous pro scouts on hand for Pro Scouting Day.  



"That's the face of the UConn program --- it's not me or anything else, it's Dan," UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. "He's the guy who did it. He's the guy who stood up and said, `Hey, I'm going to be different. I'm not going to go to Purdue or I'm not going to go Michigan State. I'm going to come to UConn and make it special. And he did.'

"To be able to have him back on campus really says a lot about him as a person. Any time I can have guys like that come back, and make them feel wanted and welcome, the better we're going to be."

Edsall, who recruited Orlovsky out of Shelton (Conn.) High School and then helped him rewrite the UConn record book from 2001-2004, said he has been after Orlovsky for some 12 years to return to UConn to earn his degree. But an NFL career path that has traveled through Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, and back to Detroit, plus a wife and four children, including a set of triplets, made that a bit difficult. Now, at 33, with the family settled in Philadelphia, and as a free agent who must decide whether to pursue NFL offers or end his career - not to mention the return of his former coach to UConn - Orlovsky felt the time was right to come back to Storrs. He is taking three classes and is on track to get his degree in May and, as such, he is able to be a student-coach for the Huskies.

"I was sitting in meetings today and you try to give guys tidbits rather than overload them with information," Orlovsky said. "I try to tell them, that hope and slogans and cliches mean nothing if you're not willing to put in the work. The guys who were here who turned this program into something pretty special were willing to work and work and work and we trusted our coaches. We didn't care what had happened before, we were going to carve our own path. And that's my advice to these guys - what has happened the past couple of years doesn't have to be the story. You can write it yourself."

There is little doubt that Orlovsky can help on the field, not only the quarterbacks, but many positions. His overall football talent and experience will be of immeasurable value to the program. But just his presence, as well as that of former players like Yawin Smallwood, Geremy Davis, and Andrew Adams, who were also on hand Wednesday, may have just as big a positive impact.

"This place is like Coach Edsall's child," Orlovsky said. "He put his mark on it and the more you can have people around who view it the same way, it's only going to help. This place is important to me. It's important to guys like Donald Brown and Alfred Fincher and Sean Mulcahy and, the list goes on and on of guys who built this program from the ground up. These kids get to practice inside - I remember shoveling fields before we had to practice. I think it's important for these guys to see people of the past who were successful here. People who did it the right way. It's important to keep that bloodline going."

That bloodline was evident as UConn's NFL players watched the latest edition of UConn alumni perform drills for the scouts --- players like Obi Melifonwu, Bobby Puyol, Matt Walsh, Mikal Myers, and Jhavon Williams, who hope to someday join them at the highest level.

And while student assistant coaches are not usually in the habit of handing out advice, there is one at UConn sending a clear message: Don't ever forget where you came from.