By Daniel Levy
Facebook: Coach Dan Levy
I cannot say enough about the players who traveled to Rio for the AFWB and brought such excitement to the American football community in Brazil. But if I had to single out one individual, that person would be Alex Mack, the Pro Bowl Center for the Cleveland Browns.
Following our initial orientation meeting at the hotel, most of the players opted to return to their rooms and sleep off the jetlag. Alex and I, however, decided to head to the hotel bar for a few drinks. For whatever reason, Alex and I “clicked” on a personal level. We spent a lot of our off time in Rio hanging out together, drinking beer, eating churrasco, talking about traveling, books, Brazilian girls— really just about anything but football.
After the AFWB ended, Alex decided to extend his stay in Brazil, so I naturally invited him up to Vila Velha. For five days Alex crashed in my spare bedroom and had a taste of “gringo life” in Brazil. The Tritões embraced him as family and in turn were given an opportunity that no other team in Brazil has ever had or may have: to learn from an NFL Pro Bowler, one who is largely considered the best player in the league at his respective position. Between our time spent lounging on the beach and exploring the Vila Velha nightlife, Alex was gracious enough to help out at practices and share his knowledge and talent with a very wide-eyed group of offensive linemen.
Following our time in Vila Velha, Alex and I hopped a plane to Salvador for Carnival. Our experience there was as one would expect of two Americans rampaging around at Brazilian Carnival. I will spare the details and just say we had an excellent time. We have since remained in touch, and I have a good feeling that Vila Velha and the rest of Brazil has not seen the last of Alex Mack.
So what about my team? What do I have to say about the organization that brought me thousands of miles to lead them to a championship?
I spent my first weekend with the Tritões as I spend my first days with any new team—observing. I arrive at practice. I speak very little. I run the drills. And I observe.
What I saw in those initial practices was very discouraging—overwhelming even. Players walking onto the field, late, with smiles on their faces and not a care in the world. Guys talking and joking at every possible interlude; sitting in the bleachers and relaxing during water breaks; helmets strewn all over the place. A complete lack of focus and sense of urgency as players strolled around between drills, their minds and mouths on everything except what was happening on the field.
Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? After all, I am just one coach. And not even that good of one. And I am certainly not a magician.
So I really only had two choices. Tell the Tritões “thanks but no thanks” and get on the next plane back to America. Or to give everything I had of myself—mind, body, and spirit—and begin the process of turning this shit around.