Coach Dan Curran dives in at Merrimack
NORTH ANDOVER — At 11:15 Thursday morning, Dan Curran (inset) was finishing a workout in the Volpe Athletic Center. At a passing glance, he could have been mistaken for a Merrimack College linebacker, or fullback, completing a preseason workout.
But after a 10-year professional career in the NFL and the Arena Football League — retiring from the Seattle Seahawks because of a neck injury in 2009 — his body is not quite as limber as it used to be.
Still at 36, the 6-foot, 226-pound Chelmsford native has an obligation to prove to his student-athletes that he is willing to make the same commitment they are.
His players on the Merrimack team are scheduled to report for preseason camp on Thursday, and when they arrive, their first-year head coach will greet all with a ferocious intensity, eager to motivate and drive the Warriors to success in the Northeast-10 Conference.
“I’m not one of those head coaches that’s just a delegator,” said Curran, sitting behind a desk in his office. “You’re going to see me get my hands dirty. I’m not one of those coaches who are going to sit on the sidelines with my hands crossed, blowing the whistle.
“I jump in with them, I try and push them to the point, where we joke that I’m trying to outlift those guys.”
Curran, the Warriors’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons under John Perry , was promoted to head coach in February after Perry became an assistant at Division 1 Delaware.
Under the tutelage of Perry and Curran, the Warriors racked up a Division 2-high 399.2 passing yards per game in their 6-4 campaign last fall. Merrimack was also second in total yards (525.8 per game).
Although Curran has an assistant in quarterbacks coach Andrew Dresner , he will be calling the offensive plays on his own. “John was the head coach and could veto anything he wanted to,” said Curran, a star tailback at Chelmsford High, and University of New Hampshire, where he played for head coach Sean McDonnell and coordinator Chip Kelly , in his first season as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“But at the end of the day, he had an offensive background, and him and I were on the same page so much. It was almost like two minds and one goal. That give and take helps, it’s good to have people to sound off and bounce ideas off.”
This season, the Warriors have a few holes to fill, starting with All-American receiver Isaiah Voegeli (108 catches, 1,500 yards, 14 touchdowns), now in camp with Kelly’s Eagles.
Calling Voegeli a “once in a lifetime talent,” Curran said a collection of receivers will be asked to share the workload.
There is no such void behind center with the return of Newburyport’s Joe Clancy, a fifth-year senior who led the nation in passing yards (399.4 yards per game), setting single-season school records with 3,945 yards and 31 TD passes.
“We have plenty of targets we’re more than happy to spread the offense around,” said the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Clancy, noting the presence of senior Shane Ferguson (20 catches last season).
“He’ll be leading our receiving corps. He’s a veteran, and knows the guys look to him for direction. There’s a lot of pressure on me to facilitate the offense, but I’m ready for it.”
Clancy is excited for camp and working with a new group of receivers. But he is also looking forward to playing for Curran, as a head coach.
“Coach Curran knows the way we’ve done things in the past, but he is putting his own spin on things and helping us in new areas,” Clancy said. “It seems like it’s all coming together. He’s putting a lot into it.
“Everything he does with his life, he puts in 100 percent. He won’t leave the opportunity for regret and will make us the best team possible. At the end of the year, we’ll know we’ll have achieved what we should.”
Playing through pain
Despite a stinging pain in his throwing arm, Jonathan DiBiaso managed to set the single-season state record for touchdowns with 44 as a senior art Everett High in 2011.
He finished his heralded career for the Crimson Tide with a state-record 103 career touchdown passes, winning titles in Division 1 and 1A before moving on to play a prep season at Phillips Exeter last fall.
His collegiate career at Dartmouth will have to wait.
That pain was the result of a displaced nerve in his left elbow. On Aug. 2, he underwent surgery (ulnar nerve transposition) to move the nerve into the proper place and attach it to the bone. It was the second time he had a procedure done on the elbow since November.
“This time, I’m a lot more confident,” DiBiaso said. “Things went really well. [The doctor’s] pretty confident that I’ll be able to heal completely.”
DiBiaso faces a 10- to 12-week recovery and will receive a medical redshirt to protect his four years of eligibility.
Reading’s Emily Johnson, a rising senior diver at Trinity College who broke her own school record and set a new pool record in the 3-meter dive with a score of 319.19 this past season, was named to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American Honorable Mention. The distinction recognizes students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.5 or higher for the semester or cumulative average. . . .
Kelly Janos , formerly at American University, has been hired as new associate director for athletics and recreation at Salem State University. She will supervise the newly constructed Gassett Fitness Center in the O’Keefe Sports Complex.