A new, old Blue Devil: Longtime assistant Al Marceau takes over as Drury football coach

NORTH ADAMS — For the second time in the last three years the Drury football team will have a new head coach, as longtime assistant Al Marceau is taking over for Seth Shepard as the leader of the Blue Devils.

Marceau's been a member of the Drury football staff for nearly two decades, in addition to spending 10 years as the head baseball coach. He's served under five different head football coaches, from the late coaching legend Fran Millard and current McCann Tech coach Bob LeClair, to the more recent Bill Bryce and Shepard.

Marceau, a former football player at Drury and Ithaca College, is looking to bring an old-school toughness to his football team.

However, on a rainy, gloomy, Thursday morning during the first day of practice, Marceau is taking a calm, laid-back approach as he leads his team through basic fundamental drills. Marceau's not a stranger to rallying the team and lighting a fire under them, but for now, the fiery, motivational side is giving way to that of a stoic teacher.

"The big thing is the kids have changed," he said. "They face a lot of stuff outside of football in this town. ... They don't need to be yelled at and screamed at. There's a time for that, that will happen. But as long as they work hard, I told them — they work hard and I'll treat them fairly. We'll have quick, efficient practices, get the work in and get outta here.

"It's about building. It's not about tearing down."

Marceau is tasked with keeping the positive momentum generated by Shepard moving in the right direction. The team made gradual improvement under their former head man, going from two wins in his first year to three wins last season.

The graduation of several key seniors such as Hayden Bird, Alex Griffis and Thaylen Harrison leaves the team a lot younger. They also lost four former St. Joe football players to Pittsfield and Taconic. The number of players on Day 1 wasn't enormous, but Marceau's hoping to start the season with a roster in the mid-to-high 30's.

One advantage they do have over other team's in the county is a returning quarterback. Junior Obilio Rodriguez is back calling the signals for the Blue Devils. He took some lumps as a first-year starter, but he developed strong chemistry with Bird as the season progressed. As a returning starter, the normally soft-spoken player is taking on more of a leadership role.

"I've always expected [taking on a leadership role], I've had a lot of other leaders take me under their wing and show me the role to become a better player," he said. "I have to show everybody else and lead the team."

Rodriguez credits the seniors he played with last year for setting a positive example.

"They've always pushed themselves to make them and the team better," he said. "They always put the team before them. ... I expect myself to do the same and sacrifice anything to make the team better."

As the Blue Devils prepare for the season, Marceau said he wants to keep a lot of the principles and schemes that Shepard installed, while adding in things he's learned under former coaches. He added that he wants to teach the players to be quality young men, in addition to being solid football players.

"They don't lack the toughness, just nobody asked them to bring it out," he said. "Nobody asks them to step up and be responsible, and go above and beyond in their everyday life. ... For us, we're just trying to give them the tools to bring out the best in them.

"It's not just about football. ... I've had former players stop by my house and visit, and they're all doing well. It's not just about the wins and losses."

Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.


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