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How John Carroll University became Northeast Ohio's NFL coaching factory

Two former Blue Streaks snagged high-profile NFL jobs earlier this month, adding to JCU's already impressive list of professional coaches and general managers.

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — Here in suburban Cleveland, you'll find one of the top-ranked regional universities in the Midwest.

Doctors, politicians and CEOs have strolled the sidewalks of John Carroll University. 

But one of the school's greatest exports comes from a different type of field.

The National Football League is littered with coaches and front office executives who played or coached for JCU. This month alone, ex-John Carroll quarterback Nick Caserio became the new general manager of the Houston Texans, while the Los Angeles Chargers hired former JCU defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their next head coach.

Akron head coach Tom Arth was Staley's boss in University Heights just five years ago.

"When we were coaching together at John Carroll, we always felt like we were coaching in the NFL," Arth said. "Everything we did in our program was just like it would be at that level."

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco-- who hired Staley-- also have John Carroll roots. And so does did the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.

So how does a Division III school without athletic scholarships consistently feed talent to the NFL? According to the Blue Streaks' current coach, Rick Finotti, the passion and work ethic of former players who have made that jump is what sets them apart.

"It really comes down to, they love football," Finotti said. "They love the grind. They love the competition. They love practice. They play the game like coaches."

That mentality of playing like a coach continues at Don Shula Stadium today. And it was the selling point for John Carroll defensive back Nate Leopold when he made his college choice.

"(Sportscaster) Peter Schrager went on NFL Network and he said, 'If you want to be a linebacker, you go to Alabama. If you want to be a coach or G.M. in the NFL, you go to John Carroll,'" Leopold recalled. 

"I believe that I'm good enough, I can go chase that dream. And this was the place to go chase that dream."

Here in suburban Cleveland, that dream runs through the John Carroll football team.

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