Tom O’Melia, Class of 2001, talks about returning home, describes the view of Westwood from the opposing sidelines, gives thanks to Vito Campanile for the role he’s played in his life, provides perspective on the Class of 2015, and speaks with enthusiasm and pride about impending fatherhood.
Q: How does it feel to be home?
A: It feels great to be home. This entire community has played such a major role in the successes I've had in my life. Now that I'm married and going to be a father any day, I can't wait to take on this new role while entrenched in a place I hold so dearly.
Q: You played and coached here for seven seasons -- with State Sectional Championships in ‘00 and ’04 -- what was it like coaching against your alma mater?
A: Coaching against Westwood (the first year especially) while in Englewood was nothing short of odd. I had known and coached so many of the kids and had so many strong bonds with the staff that it was uncomfortable at first. But once the game starts, it's just like any other game -- knowing a few of Coach Vito’s audibles didn't hurt that first year either.
Q: Speaking of Coach Vito, how did he shape your coaching style and career?
A: I learned so much from Vito in the 3 years I spent with him. From on the field X's and O's to breaking down film and scouting. His passion made me a better coach everyday by just being around him. He exemplifies all the necessary principles of coaching high school football and I've modeled my coaching style after his. All that being said, as many great things that I took from Vito on the field, I learned just as many on being a great husband and father from his daily examples. I'm proud to call him a friend.
Q: What do you take from being at Dwight Morrow that you can apply as a member of Coach Hard's staff?
A: As a coach you should always be learning from those around you. I learned a lot from some great coaches at Dwight Morrow (Englewood) under head coach Barry Harris. Doing so allowed me to enhance my ability to coach multiple positions on both sides of the ball. Both our offensive play books are very conceptually similar and our defenses were quite similar for my first 2 years in Englewood. Knowing all that and Coach Hard (and his staff) as well as I do, I know that the transition will be smooth.
Q: For those players and parents who don't know you, how would you describe yourself?
A: I believe that we are coaching these kids through life as well as the game. Work, school, family, etc. -- these are all things that we are in a position to help them build healthy habits towards. The examples we as coaches and teachers put out are part of how these young men learn to be adults. When it's time to be on the field I'm a hard nosed, high intensity, and accountability oriented coach. I expect my guys to follow suit. I believe mistakes are part of the game and learning from them is an even bigger part. Dwelling on them helps no one, but ignoring them is a recipe for disaster.
Q: What will your role be on Coach Hard's staff?
A: I've found in high school football you really have to coach every spot on the field in some way, shape or form. Whether it's meshing RB's and O-Line on pass pro or the entire defense on a blitz package. But to answer more specifically, I'll primarily be with the offensive and defensive lines. Coach Hard has a great staff and I'm so honored he asked me back. Westwood is my home town and I'm very happy to be back coaching and teaching here.
Q: The Class of 2015 graduates Westwood next week with back 2 back championships -- with you being around the program basically your entire life, where do they rank with other Cardinals’ teams?
A: From the second we saw this departing group of kids enter as freshmen, the whole staff knew they were special. The talent is something that lots of classes have had in many places, but the selfless commitment that these guys have had to each other and the program puts them up there with the best groups I've ever seen. Winning is merely a formality sometimes when you see as talented and good a group of kids like the class of 2015. I'd put them in the top two Westwood teams of all time for sure. That 2000 team was pretty amazing.....I'll just leave it at that.
Q: You are expecting your first child, what has it been like for you and your wife, Janine?
A: You hear all these things about what going through your first pregnancy is going to be like for you and her. Cravings, emotions, etc.. But I guess it's different for everybody. We've been lucky enough to have no set backs or anything really out of the norm during the pregnancy. My wife has been an absolute rock star in every aspect along the way. I'm very proud of her and I can't wait to meet our new little Cardinal...may not be so little!!!
Great to have you back where you belong, Coach – welcome home!