By Rich Garven TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
How does one get from Worcester to Green Bay to Dallas? Try determination, talent, good friends and good fortune, because it's a long and winding road.
Paul Philbin grew up near Grafton Hill in Worcester and graduated from Commerce High in 1940 before serving in the military and working in the city.
His wife, the former Mary Burke, was raised in Clinton and earned a degree in education from Worcester State in 1951.
The couple moved to Western Massachusetts in the early '60s, where they still reside. Paul, 89, and Mary, 81, are healthy and happy, the heads of a large, large family.
But when Joe, the fourth of their six children, graduated from high school in 1979 with grades that could use some boosting, they looked to the east and suggested a postgrad year at Worcester Academy might be a wise move.
"I didn't have any other options, so I figured, 'Why not?' " Joe Philbin recalled Saturday.
Philbin played football and baseball at Worcester Academy ("Poorly, but I played.") and got his transcript in order so much that he went on to earn a degree in sociology at Washington & Jefferson in Pennsylvania and a master's in education at Tulane.
And, more central to the story, Philbin ended up being the right person in the right place at the right time. The people he met and connections he made at Worcester Academy would ultimately lead to his current occupation, that being offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers.
"My dad always said it was the best money he ever spent," said Philbin, who was scheduled to depart today with the rest of the Packers for Dallas, where they'll meet the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday in Super Bowl XLV.
Philbin's football and baseball coach at Worcester Academy was Ken O'Keefe, now the offensive coordinator at the University of Iowa. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa's coach, was one of his dorm supervisors, and Mike Sherman, Texas A&M's coach, was his English teacher.
"It was an unbelievable year," the down-to-earth Philbin said. "What a great faculty and staff there was at the Academy. And it goes without saying those guys all went on to do tremendous things."
Philbin is modest when it comes to his athletic prowess as a Hilltopper, but he obviously made a strong impression on the staff. He has since gone on to work with O'Keefe, Ferentz and Sherman.
Philbin got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Tulane in 1984 thanks to Sherman, an Algonquin Regional alum who was an assistant at the New Orleans school at the time. After two years at Tulane, Philbin headed back to Worcester to become offensive line coach at WPI.
Although it was his first paid job in football, he was just beginning to pay his dues.
"It wasn't the money that brought me to Worcester, that's for sure," chuckled Philbin at the memory of pulling down $10,000 while sharing an old, renovated apartment on Pleasant Street with a couple of guys.
"But I figured I'd get some more hands-on experience. Your first job in coaching is probably always the toughest to get."
The Engineers went 5-3 in '86 and 2-6 the following season, leading to the departure of coach Bob Weiss. Rumor has it the players went to the administration to campaign on Philbin's behalf for the vacancy, but his lack of experience was a sticking point.
Philbin then hit the road, making stops at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Allegany College in Pennsylvania — where he won the NCAA Division 3 championship in 1990 as an assistant on O'Keefe's staff — Ohio, Northeastern and Harvard.
Full Article - http://telegram.com/article/20110131/NEWS/101310376/1009
- appeared in Worcester Telegram and Gazette - Monday, January 31st