"Big Four" Highlights


‘Faith, Family and Football’

Catholic NFL coach seeks to excel in all areas

By Trent Beattie

New Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor knows that balancing personal and professional demands is not easy. He also knows that it is only possible with the help of God. Relying on prayer and a life rooted in the Catholic Church, Lazor looks to raise his children with the right values, and to help turn around a team that won only four games last season.

Lazor, who turned 41 on June 14, relies on the help of his wife Nicole, who keeps the household running while he’s at work. On the field, he relies on the experience gained from previous stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, and Seattle Seahawks. Correspondent Trent Beattie interviewed him for Fathers for Good.

FFG: Did you come from a devout family?

Bill Lazor balances home life and work life as new quarterbacks coach for Philadelphia Eagles.

Bill Lazor balances home life and work life as new quarterbacks coach for Philadelphia Eagles.

Lazor: Yes, I’m the oldest of five children from a Catholic family in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Growing up in that area, the Catholic faith was always a part of our lives. Scranton is a blue-collar town with many people dedicated to faith, family, and football. I think we were so involved in those things that much of the time we took them for granted.

FFG: Is that something your own children experience now?

Lazor: Yes, our oldest, Nolan, is 8, and we enjoy throwing the football around. He’s been playing flag football for a couple of years and wants to play in pads. He just informed me that his new school has a team for boys his age, so we’ll be looking into that for the fall.

As for the faith aspect, it has become increasingly important to me over the years, so I’m more aware of how I should be passing it along. It’s not something that can be put off until the kids are teenagers; it has to be shared and lived with them now. Nolan just received his first Holy Communion with extended family in attendance, so that’s one important way this is happening. We have a daughter, Marin, who is 3, and another child on the way. It’s not too early to teach Marin about Jesus, and it’s not even too early to pray for our child in utero.

FFG: Do you find it difficult to be both a good father and a good coach?

Lazor: It is a challenge, that’s for sure, and I don’t consider myself someone to be looked up to as far as having it down. On the one hand, you want to be the best father you can be, and on the other hand, you want to be the best coach you can be. Sometimes these two goals coincide, but other times they don’t.

During the season it’s especially tough, because you’re putting in so many hours with the team. The time spent at work can be so lopsided compared to the time you spend at home. Then you wonder if it’s possible to be a great father and a great coach. Interestingly enough, I did get an answer to that question from someone who would know. I was at the birthday party of a coach who had been at the very top of his profession, winning the Super Bowl more than once. His children were speaking about how great a father he was. Afterward, when I was alone with the coach, I asked if his children meant what they said, and if it was possible to be a great coach and a great father. He assured me that yes, his children did mean what they said, and that it is possible to be great in both spheres of life.

It comes down to praying consistently for the grace to maintain the right priorities and then make the right decisions. Faith comes first, then family, and then football.

FFG: Is it difficult to coach professional athletes when they know a lot about their positions already and may not want any help?

Lazor: The media like to report on difficult athletes, but I’ve found that the vast majority of them are not difficult to work with. If you can show them you want to help them play better, they will listen to you. They’re very much into performance, so if you have ideas and concepts that will aid that, they’re very easy to work with.

In my own capacity as quarterbacks coach, I think there are two main things for me to do: Be a great teacher and be demanding. You’ve got to study your position enough to know it inside and out. Then you have something to offer the players you work with. Once that transmission of knowledge is in place, you need to set high expectations and draw out what you’ve taught them. You want to see it go from head knowledge to performance on the field.

FFG: How did you meet Ray McKenna, the founder of Catholic Athletes for Christ?

Lazor: We met on a plane coming back from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis one year. He was already seated and I noticed he was reading the popular Magnificat prayer guide, which I read as well. I introduced myself, and we’ve been in touch ever since.

FFG: What do you appreciate most about the Catholic Church?

Lazor: I don’t know if there’s just one thing, but I really appreciate the all-encompassing nature of it. The Catholic faith is not meant to be compartmentalized, but implemented in everything we do. That’s how I grew up: the faith was always there, always touching every aspect of our lives, even if only indirectly.

The Church has some of the best teachers ever, so I appreciate what they have to offer as far as helping me to be a better father and coach. The Confessions of St. Augustine is just one example of how well a Catholic leader has presented his insights. I value that book tremendously and have vivid memories of reading it while traveling in Italy with my wife.St. Augustine had some major problems early in life, but once he got his priorities straight, he was able to do great things. The same is true with us: once the main things are in their rightful place, we can get some impressive goals accomplished.