Leah Hafley sat poised on her mother’s lap, with her older sister, Hope, in the seat beside her. The young girl gripped tightly to her newly acquired stuffed eagle as her father, Jeff Hafley, looked on from the podium. Thanking his family for never doubting him, Hafley’s voice broke, and he began to tear up, as his toddler beamed back at him.
“I have a list in my wallet of all the things that doubters have said to me my whole life,” Hafley said, his voice breaking. “To my mom, my brother, and sister, thank you. For your support and your love, and never doubting me.”
As he took a step back from the microphone to collect himself, an audience member’s phone chirped, “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
“I appreciate that,” Hafley quipped. “Because whoever’s phone that is, you’re not getting that again. Thank you, Siri. I needed that right now.”
Regaining his composure, Hafley went on to thank all of the people in his life who helped him get to the point where he is today. Though his path was unconventional, and he faced doubters the whole way—heading first to coach D-3 college football, then to the NFL, and now returning to college ball—first-time athletic director Martin Jarmond decided to take a chance on Hafley as a first-time head coach.
A smile was plastered across Hafley’s face throughout the entirety of Monday’s press conference, which BC held to introduce the new head coach to the community. Hafley said that he owes much of his success to his family, and he made it clear that he plans to commit to his new family at Boston College just as much. In his first meeting with the team this morning, he told the Eagles that love and respect are the most important aspects to creating a turnaround in the program.
“We need to love each other,” Hafley said to the team. “And it’s more than a word. It’s more than a feeling. It’s an action. It’s how we work together, how we play together, how we live together. And that’s going to really carry on who we are.”
He left the team with the charge to compete in everything, not just on the field—though he also promised to bring the team back to top-25 glory through competing with fierce opponents such as Clemson.
To the fans, spectators, alumni, and media, his charge was even more simple: “Get in.”
“I’m here, and I’m in. And I ask the BC community—get in. What I asked this football team—get in. For all you guys, get in,” he said, gesturing to the crowd in the packed Yawkey Center room. “Because it is going to be real. It’s going to be special. And we’re going to do this together.”
He emphasized that though he plans to make changes to the football program, the job is not his alone. It will take everyone getting behind the team, rallying support, coming to games, and generating energy to bring the team to the level he wants to reach.
Jarmond said that Hafley’s youth and enthusiasm alone have already begun generating support from alumni and fans across the country.
“We sent a letter to all of our donors and alumni, we had an appeal for our season ticket holders, and it’s been a great response,” Jarmond said. “A couple hundred season ticket holders already and donations in six figures already. A lot of emails from people saying ‘I’m going to come to a game, and I haven’t been back in four years.’”
Jarmond said that this influx of support is due in no small part to Hafley’s energy and the fans’ excitement about him. In hiring Hafley, BC found not just a great coach and a man of integrity, but a spark to relight the flame under BC football, Jarmond said.
“To have a guy like Jeff re-energize our fan base and really get our students on campus to get in, you know, that’s really important,” he said.
Throughout the conference, Hafley looked comfortable behind the podium. Hafley answered all of the press’s questions with the utmost professionalism, pausing crack a joke every once in a while. Every time his young daughters started talking or wandering around, he smiled and laughed along with the crowd. “If she starts babbling, just tell her to leave,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.
Hafley said he’s committed to restoring the glorious games that BC fans have seen in the past.
“I want there to be magical moments and magical seasons like you guys have seen with Doug [Flutie] and Matt [Hasselbeck]. We need to bring back those magical moments to the Heights. That’s why I’m here, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Featured Image by Josh Reynolds / AP Photo