Back when Doug Marrone was courting Helen Donnelly more than two decades ago, he pulled aside her father to ask for her hand. Helen Donnelly’s dad is known as “Boots,” and he won 140 games over two decades as a Hall of Fame coach at Middle Tennessee State. He answered Marrone like any clear-thinking football coach.
“We spent a lot of money sending Helen to Boston College and then law school,” Boots recalls with a chuckle in his slow-cooked drawl. “There’s no way she was dumb enough she ended up marrying a football coach.
“I said, ‘HELL NO!’”
Nearly 20 years after Doug and Helen married, they have three kids and the hectic coach’s life that goes along with it. Boots, 75, jokes that he still sometimes needs a translator to decipher his son-in-law’s Bronx accent, and notes that Doug has ignored every piece of coaching advice that he has passed on.
These days, Doug Marrone is one win from the Super Bowl as the coach of the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars. He has pogo-sticked around the country – Athens (Georgia) to Syracuse, Knoxville (Tennessee) to New Orleans – building a coaching career and family. And as Boots watches from afar, he admits he initially overreacted.
“It has worked out very well for them,” he says.
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