Its a deep-rooted connection that began with an innovative degree-completion program for players and has led to numerous links between the National Football Conference champion New York Giants and Fairleigh Dickinson University. More than 250 players, spouses and team employees have enrolled in courses; players and University representatives have participated in outreach programs with neighboring school districts; and the Giants summer camp was based for eight years on the Florham-Madison Campus. In short, Big Blue and FDU have enjoyed an unbeatable partnership. On the following pages, FDU Magazine profiles three students with different ties to the team who build on this tradition.
The foundation for this relationship began in 1985, when Fairleigh Dickinson established a degree-completion program for the Giants that has become a model for the National Football League (NFL). Established and directed by Kenneth Vehrkens, dean of New College of General and Continuing Studies, the program serves players who need credits to finish their degrees as well as those who have degrees but want to continue their education. I read that more than 80 percent of NFL players did not finish their undergraduate degrees, says Vehrkens, so I called George Young [then general manager of the Giants], and he was very interested.
Led by All-Pros George Martin, BA87 (R), and Harry Carson, the Giants hit the books; and since then, an average of 16 players each year have studied at the University, including Perry Williams, Carl Banks, Leonard Marshall, Howard Cross, Kerry Collins and Brad Daluiso.
Putting His Best Foot Forward
The Giants placekicker since 1993, Brad Daluiso has enjoyed a highlight-filled career in the NFL, but hes also earning high marks off the field.
A sociology major at UCLA, Daluiso was one year short of his degree in 1991 when the NFL came calling. This wasnt the type of opportunity I could put on hold, he recalls. So education goals were temporarily shelved in favor of field goals; but Daluiso is not the type of person to abandon something he starts.
When he learned about the degree-completion program at Fairleigh Dickinson, he seized the opportunity. He has already taken courses in criminology and American literature, and is now just five classes short of his baccalaureate. Daluiso, who resides in California with his wife and three children, takes courses during the season. Like the rest of the players enrolled, he usually studies on Tuesday, the one off-day during the season. The classes have been great, the professors have been accommodating to our schedules, and Ken Vehrkens really deserves a lot of credit.
Daluiso doesnt plan on letting up. This is something I need to finish. When you get that opportunity to complete a degree you have to do it. Whenever football is over, this will help.
Daluiso actually thought his football days would be over by now. I didnt think my NFL career would have lasted more than a year or two. The average career is only about three years. Ive been very fortunate. But football is more about performance than good fortune; time and time again Daluiso has delivered in the clutch.
After spending one year in Buffalo and another in Denver, in 1993 Daluiso joined the New York Giants. He impressed fans with his ability to repeatedly send kickoffs spiraling through the end zone and by nailing long-range field goals, most notably a 54-yard kick to beat the Cardinals with 32 seconds left. By the next season, he had become the teams full-time placekicker, a spot he held through the 2000 season, which climaxed in a Super Bowl appearance.
Along the way, he set the teams record for converting field goals in a season, tied an NFL postseason record with five field goals in one game and made 39 consecutive field goals from within 40 yards. With many games hanging on his powerful right leg, Daluiso is familiar with tension. The pressure is something I can handle. You cant be afraid to fail.
In 1999, Daluiso tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was put on injured reserve. The injury continued to cause him discomfort throughout the 2000 season, but that pain was more than overcome by the teams Cinderella-like journey through the NFL playoffs and to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Ravens were the ones celebrating that day; but, for Daluiso, that final loss doesnt overshadow a terrific season. When I look back, I just see the bright spots. To make it to that game was huge. Obviously we would have loved to win, but as Coach [Jim] Fassel said, 29 other teams wish they had the chance to play in that game.
Daluiso says he cant wait for the 2001 season. Im looking forward to coming back and being strong again. Last year was tough because I spent much of the season still doing rehab.
He also is looking forward to continuing his course work and earning his diploma. Only those players who need more than 32 credits actually receive an FDU degree, others like Daluiso will receive degrees from the institutions at which they earned most of their credits. Still, Daluiso has developed a strong affection for Fairleigh Dickinson and even has spoken at a meeting of the FDU Club. I think its great that FDU has opened its arms to the guys on the team and helped us out. We really appreciate it.
Running with Her Opportunities
Fairleigh Dickinson senior Jana Fassel talks about her high school years with a definite NFL twist. Freshman and sophomore year with the Broncos, junior year with the Raiders and my senior year with the Cardinals. That translates to two years in Denver, Colo.; one in Los Angeles, Calif.; and a year in Phoenix, Ariz.; the cities where her dad, Jim, was working as an assistant coach in the NFL.
Fassel and her family followed her father as he worked his way through the college and pro ranks on the way to the head coaching position at the New York Giants. We just got used to moving every year or two, Fassel smiles. I think I spent time in six or seven schools. Coaches get jobs in December after the football season is over so my dad would move first, and then my mom, three brothers and I would follow after we finished the school year.
When her father landed the head coaching job with the Giants in 1997, Fassel was going to break the trend and not follow him to New Jersey. She chose to stay in Arizona, finish high school and start her college career. I was recruited to play basketball at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, she says. My brother, Brian, was a sophomore there, and it felt like the right thing to do, so I stayed.
Fassel, however, missed her family more than she had imagined. When her brother transferred to Seton Hall University a year later, Fassel wasnt far behind. I just didnt like the pressure of Division I athletics, she says. I had played basketball, soccer and volleyball growing up, but in a Division I program you concentrate on your sport exclusively.
She first took a semester off to think about her future. I knew I wanted to complete my education, Fassel says, and also stay active in athletics, but where was the big question.
The Fassels had lived in Morristown, N.J., in the early 1990s, when her dad was an assistant coach with the Giants. Although Fassel had visited FDUs Florham-Madison Campus, where the team had trained, she had not initially thought about attending Fairleigh Dickinson. But just before the start of the 1999 academic year, my dad took me to visit FDU. I liked what I saw and enrolled just days later.
Fassel is aiming toward a bachelors degree in marketing. She recently interned at SFX, a sports marketing firm in Rutherford, N.J., and hopes to pursue a career in sports marketing. She also is considering graduate studies in business.
In addition, Fassel plays both volleyball and basketball for the Division III Devils and has two years of athletic eligibility left. A forward on the basketball team, Fassel averaged nearly six points and six rebounds per game this season for the Devils. The team finished 15-11 and advanced to the second round of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament before losing to Rutgers-Camden.
Fassel says she is enjoying her FDU experience. She especially relishes the small college campus, family atmosphere, her ability to play both volleyball and basketball and being close to home. At her request, the University did not publicize her attendance, which gave her nearly a year before people started to equate Jana Fassel with the Fassel who roams the sidelines at Giants Stadium Sunday afternoons.
And Jana Fassel is there every Giants home contest, cheering on her dads team. She also was determined to be in Tampa, Fla., for this years Super Bowl, but not without first competing in her own big game against Middle Atlantic Conference rival Kings College. Originally scheduled to take a flight with the rest of the Giants family, she decided to catch a later commercial flight the evening before the Super Bowl. The Giants sent a car to FDU to pick her up after her game and take her to the airport. I hoped our game wouldnt go to overtime, Fassel says, and fortunately it didnt.
Unfortunately, both the Devils and the Giants fell short that weekend. But like her dad, Jana Fassel is determined to build on the past and make the 200102 academic and athletic seasons even more memorable.
Protecting the Blind Side
As Super Bowl Sunday approached last January, Florham-Park police officer Mike Murphy, BA99 (F-M), MAS01 (F-M), was preparing nearly as intensely as the players. Murphy met with NFL officials, talked to Tampa, Fla., stadium security and read profiles and potential scenarios from league security to help prepare for possible incidents. His employer: the New York Giants; his role: to serve as a mini-security force for the Giants head coach and his family.
The 43-year-old Murphy was no rookie, however. He had been through the drill once before, in Tampa in 1991 with then-head coach Bill Parcells. He was prepared and, just as he had done for the last 10 years, he made sure the coach could do his job without distractions.
Murphy has relished this unsung role and part-time position, serving as the personal security officer for the Giants head coach and his family at league functions, regular-season and playoff games and of course during two Super Bowl appearances.
His road to the Giants and to Fairleigh Dickinson was not a straight one. A Florham-Park native and hall-of-fame athlete at Hanover High School, Murphy started his college career at Iona College in 1977. After two years, he moved to Tempe, Ariz., but he says, I never lost site of the fact that I wanted to complete my education, and I took courses in criminal justice at Mesa Community College. When a position opened up at the Florham-Park Police Department in 1983, Murphy jumped at the opportunity to move back to his hometown.
A chance encounter at the Jersey shore led to Murphys tenure with the Giants. I was on the Sea Girt (N.J.) boardwalk in 1991, says Murphy, when I met and struck up a conversation with Bill Parcells, who was the Giants head coach at the time. He asked me if I had played football and inquired about what I was doing. It was just a friendly conversation.
As the conversation ended, Murphy recalls, Parcells asked for my telephone number and said he might have some part-time work for me in the future. Five months later, Murphy accompanied the team to San Francisco for the conference championship game with the 49ers. His assignment: watch over Parcells and, as Murphy describes, keep the distractions down so the coach can concentrate on the game, anticipate the coachs needs, and always keep an eye out for individuals who might cause a problem.
After Parcells left the Giants, Murphy provided the same security services for his successors: Ray Handley, then Dan Reeves and now Jim Fassel. Its all done on my time, Murphy says. I use all my vacation and free time to work the Giants summer camp, home and away games, and hopefully playoff games and the Super Bowl.
Working with the Giants led to Murphy enrolling at FDU. When the Giants held their summer camp at the Florham-Madison Campus in the early 1990s, Murphy met Kenneth Vehrkens, the dean of New College of General and Continuing Studies. I had heard, through the FDU football coaching staff, Murphy says, how Ken had helped some Giants complete their undergraduate studies. I asked for help, and he just made it happen.
Under Vehrkens guidance, Murphy obtained his undergraduate degree in 1999 through New Colleges bachelor of arts in general studies program. He went on to earn a master of administrative science in May. Without Ken, Id still be thinking about it rather than getting it done.
An 18-year veteran of the Florham-Park police force, Murphy is based in a department that has jurisdiction over much of his alma maters Florham-Madison Campus. The FDU graduate also recently married. But even with his primary career and family life, he has no plans to leave the sidelines. It is intense, he says, and you really become part of the Giants family because you are so intimately involved in the day-to-day activities making sure that everything goes smoothly.
You have to remain calm and focused and not let any distractions take your mind away from your responsibility on game day: the safety of the coach and his family. I dont want to stand out in a crowd, he concludes. I want to stay close and be sure that the only thing Coach Fassel has to worry about is New York Giants business.