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New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin says it was his time at Worcester Academy that led him to a career in coaching

02.23.12 at 1:26 pm ET
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Massachusetts native Joe Philbin was the Packers' offensive coordinator the last three seasons. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — New Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin can trace his football roots back to Massachusetts — he was born in Springfield, went to Worcester Academy and really cut his teeth as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach with Northeastern from 1995-96 and then with Harvard from 1997-98.

But it was his time at Worcester Academy that really laid the groundwork for his life as a coach. Philbin spent one year there as a student and football player, on a team that had then-unknowns Kirk Ferentz, Mike Sherman and Ken O’Keefe on the coaching staff: Ferentz would go on to coach at Iowa and serve as the offensive line coach under Bill Belichick in Cleveland, while Sherman would become head coach at Texas A&M and Green Bay and O’Keefe would become offensive coordinator at Iowa.

Speaking at the annual NFL scouting combine on Thursday, as far as he was concerned, when it came to putting together a coaching staff, he jumped at the chance to add Sherman (another Massachusetts native) as Miami’s offensive coordinator and O’Keefe as wide receivers coach.

“Worcester Academy was a special time,” said Philbin, who spent the previous three seasons as the Packers’ offensive coordinator before being named head coach of the Dolphins last month. “I only spent one year there — Mike Sherman was an assistant coach on staff, Ken O’Keefe my receiver coach was the head coach, Kirk Ferentz, who I talked to Saturday, was an assistant coach on the staff.

“I was very, very lucky,” he added. “My dad always said it was the best money he ever spent. Like I said before, those guys inspired me to get into the coaching profession, I’m really lucky to have two of them on my staff right now.”

Philbin’s parents live in Agawam, but he said that when it comes to his first trip to New England as a head coach this season, it’s going to be all business.

“I’ve got great respect for what they’ve accomplished in New England, there’s no question about that — they’ve done a tremendous job,” Philbin said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “But beyond, that it’s going to be a business trip. We’re going to ask our players to treat it as a business trip, so personal feelings aside, it’s going to have to be the same for me.

“It’s going to be one game out of 16-game schedule that we play in Gillette Stadium, and we’re going to do our best to have our team prepared as best as possible. So it’s not really about me, it’s about the Miami Dolphins.”

It’s been an unbelievable stretch months for Philbin, who endured horrific tragedy in January when his son, 21-year-old Michael Philbin, was found dead in a Wisconsin river. Less than a month later, he was able to realize his professional dream of becoming an NFL head coach. He reflected on the emotional roller coaster Thursday.

“It’s been great seeing some familiar faces here the last couple of hours, but it’s been hard as well,” he said. “It’s been the best of times and worst of times. I feel very fortunate — I have a wonderful family, a lot of tremendous friends I’m fortunate to have, I’m excited about this opportunity that Mr. Ross and Jeff Ireland have provided me, I’m anxious to build a program that our fans, our alumnus can be proud of, and I’m confident we’re going to do that.”

Read More: 2012 combine, Bill Belichick, Joe Philbin, Ken O’Keefe
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