Dan Dorazio has kept his sights on Jesus throughout 40-year football coaching career
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Dan Dorazio (centre) poses for a photo with his offensive line players Ben Archibald (left), Dean Valli, Angus Reid, Jovan Olafioye, Patrick Kabongo, and Jesse Newman after a practice at B.C. Place Stadium. Reid said a player couldn't ask any more from a coach than what Dorazio brings. Photo by Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic.
Dan Dorazio truly loves his faith, his family, and his football. The B.C. Lions offensive line coach has coached for 40 years in college and pro ranks, 10 of those years in B.C. Along the way he has seen the highs and lows of the football business but has never lost sight of what matters.
"We live in a competitive environment, and the difference between success and failure is slim," Dorazio told The B.C. Catholic Nov. 2, one day before the Lions defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 17-6 in their final regular season game.
"It's a dog-eat-dog world we live in, but there is peace knowing that Jesus never moves and He is always there next to me."
Dorazio employs the motto of St. Ignatius of Loyola: "Pray as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on you."
The veteran coach works a rigorous schedule during the season. He wakes up at 1:30 a.m. so he can prepare for the team's practice at 9 a.m. Afterwards he meets with the other coaches and reviews film for several hours. Dorazio usually works an 18-hour day.
He also finds time to attend Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church near the Lions practice facility in Surrey; where he is the lector on Mondays and Tuesdays. If the team is practising at B.C. Place he attends Holy Rosary Cathedral.
"I thirst for Mass," he said. "What a peace that comes over you amidst all the pressures of the day and life and to know that He's there listening."
Dorazio said his "thirst" to attend daily Mass came after he went to an Ash Wednesday service in 2003. He said the priest challenged parishioners to do something different for Lent during his homily.
"What I had never done before was try to go to Mass every day of my life," Dorazio said. He believes the message was from the Holy Spirit. "Since then my attitude is 'I'm not missing Mass. I'm going to be there if I can do it.'"
The next year he felt a similar call and vowed to pray the rosary every day.
Caption: B.C. Lions offensive line coach Dan Dorazio (left) talks strategy with running backs coach Kelly Bates and special teams coordinator Chuck McMann (right) before the team practises Nov. 2. Dorazio often puts in 18-hour work days. Photo by Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic.
When he's not preparing the Lions for game day, Dorazio spends time with his wife Lisa. The couple attends St. Ann's Church in Abbotsford, where Dorazio is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
Dorazio said his wife is his best friend and is very supportive. "I tell my players when they miss a block, I miss a block, and she misses a block," he said. "I am blessed to have a bride that is so supportive and behind me."
Lisa shares her husband's love for football and will tape football games from college and the NFL so her husband can study them during the off season. She also cuts out positive press clippings about Lions players and places them in envelopes, which Dorazio hands to his players at practice.
"I do what I can," she said, adding she is happy to help her husband in any way. "We see how passionate he is."
Lisa said her husband is also a committed family man who doesn't complain about hardships. "Dan will do anything to support his family. I believe Dan thinks he is a vehicle for God and I think his players see that."
Dorazio said faith has always been a part of his life. His parents raised him Catholic in Wilkinsburg, Pa., where he attended Catholic school.
He went to college at Kent State University as a football player but soon felt the inspiration to coach. He credits the school's head coach, Don James, and offensive line coach Dick Scensniak for his success.
After graduation Dorazio spent the next 25 years coaching at colleges around the U.S. He came to the CFL in 1998 and worked for the Calgary Stampeders under head coach Wally Buono. Dorazio then joined Buono in B.C. in 2003.
Dorazio said he coaches his offensive line players with communication, appreciation, recognition, and encouragement (CARE). "That's all anybody wants in a relationship. Every chance I get I try to recognize my guys," he said. "The offensive line has to be productive, because if they don't block, or protect, the rest of the team suffers."
Angus Reid, the Lion's centre, said he wouldn't have played as long as he has if it wasn't for Dorazio. "He's a tireless worker and dedicates his life to the players. A player couldn't ask for more from a coach than he gives already."
Reid added that Dorazio's influence goes beyond football. "He teaches you the value of hard work and all the time-tested values that in today's world get lost on people. He doesn't just teach, he lives by example."
Lion's head coach, Mike Benevides, also admires Dorazio for his faith and football prowess. "Here's a man that has been in the game for a long time and is still at work at 2 a.m., while making time to go to Mass every single day."
Benevides, a parishioner at Good Shepherd Church, added Dorazio is more than a coach; he's a friend with personal integrity. "It's a privilege to have him on my staff."