Occupation: Head coach of the Maryville College Fighting Scots
Married to Carol. Family includes son, A.J., 27, and his wife Tracey; daughter Katie, 24, and her husband Joe Dowis; and daughter Kelli, 20, and her fiancé, Nathan Nehf.
When Tony Ierulli is coaching his Maryville College Fighting Scots football team, he and his assistants are doing more than just explaining Xs and Os.
One life lesson they try to teach is that there are no shortcuts in life. “If you want to be successful, there’s only one way to achieve success, and that’s through hard work,” he said. “I’m a believer that here at Maryville College, for us to be successful, we’ve got to work hard, communicate and be totally focused. That is the same thing in life. Millionaires don’t just happen. They’re dedicated, focused and don’t let outside influences distract them. They’re accountable and don’t make excuses. That’s what we’re trying to teach. That’s why we push the guys hard. The guys who come here and make it through are going to be extremely successful when they graduate.”
Here is Tony Ierulli:
What was your first paying job?
“I was a stock boy at a 7-11 store on Longboat Key, Fla. We lived there in 1964 and there were 500 people there. It was a great place to grow up.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, unrestricted by cost, what would it be?
“Buy a large sailboat and sail the Caribbean. That my all time dream: Win the lottery, get a boat and sail.”
What’s your favorite television or movie quote?
“ ‘On my signal - unleash hell.’ - Maximus from ‘Gladiator.’ ”
What are you guilty of?
“Watching too many replays of football classic games on TV. My wife answered this one.”
What is one thing you have always wanted to do but haven’t?
“Take Carol on a vacation to Hawaii. I’ve always wanted to go out there. Every time we tried to do it, something came up.”
Do you think there is life on other planets?
“Yes, and I hope they are playing football.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My baseball card collection from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.”
What are you reading currently?
“Maryville College Football Defensive Playbook.”
Who has been the most influential person in the 20th century?
“Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King. Some people agreed with Reagan, and some did not, but when he became president, it was a time when our country was in shambles. We came off Watergate, long lines for fuel, the hostage crisis in Iran. It was a bleak, bleak period. When Reagan came in, the attitude and can-do spirit of America came back. I think he turned the country around, and the country became more prosperous and people felt good about being an American.
In terms of changing society and changing how people view other human beings, Martin Luther King, Jr., stands on top. It’s hard to believe 30 or 40 years ago a black man couldn’t drink out of the same water fountain or use the same restroom. Now kids can’t fathom that and he did it in a non-violent way.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“Having Kelli's soccer coach from her 8-10 year old team take Kelli to Carol's school during an open house because I forgot to pick Kelli up from soccer practice. Carol didn't talk to me for two days. It was during football season. I just have a one-track mind and have a tendency to forget to do a lot of things that don’t pertain to football.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
What is your passion?
“Football. I grew up originally wanting to become a baseball player. I was probably a better baseball player than football player. I got my shoulder injured in junior college. Being a football coach was something I always wanted to do.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Vince Lombardi and Jackie Robinson. I grew up with the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi was one of most famous coaches and some of the things he did as coach we do at Maryville College. He was not a fancy coach. He was successful by keeping things simple and being focused.
“Jackie Robinson was like Martin Luther King. That guy broke the color barrier in baseball, and he kind of carried the entire race on his shoulders. If he wasn’t that good of a ball player, that could have set breaking the color barrier back many years. But he was successful, and he changed baseball. What I admire the most is the courage he possessed. He did it with class and dignity and opened the door for hundreds of thousands of people.”
What do you hate?
“People who make excuses for not getting the job done.”
What is your all-time favorite movie?
“All the Rocky movies. Rocky Balboa was really good.”
What was your first car?
“A white 1971 Ford Maverick.”
Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
“Always half-full and rising.”
What is the best book you've ever read?
“ ‘Instant Replay,’ by Jerry Kramer. He was right guard for the Green Bay Packers. I read it once every two years. It opened up professional football to me. It gave me great insight.”
Would you travel in space?
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I would love to go back to February of 1980 during the week when the U.S. Hockey team defeated Russia during the Olympics. I remember sitting in my dorm room at Maryville filled with students watching the game on my black and white TV set. No one ever thought that a hockey team would bring our country back together and make us proud to be Americans.”
What character in a book or movie would you most like to be?
“William Wallace from ‘Braveheart,’ the original Fighting Scot.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“My wife wrapped up a pair of baby booties for me to open. It was her way of telling me she was pregnant with our first child.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Always keep God first in my life.”
Did you ever get paddled in school and if so, why?
“I went to a Catholic school. Of course I did. One time it was for shooting rocks at the public school kids with my slingshot at the bus stop. They were sharing the same bus stop with kids from our school and were bullying them for several weeks. I organized the kids on the bus to fire away at the bullies when we stopped to pick up the kids from our school. I got in a lot of trouble when we arrived at school, but our kids never got bullied again.”
Who is your hero?
“I loved my grandfather dearly, but I would say it would be my mother. She basically raised four sons and one daughter by herself. We all have done well in life due to the fact mom taught us strong values, knowing the difference between right and wrong, and a belief that success comes only through hard work.”