Who is John Gagliardi?

Odds are his name is new to you. It was new to me until just a few months ago. If I had heard of such a man at some point in my life, his name had not stuck the same way names like JD Rockefeller, Queen Elizabeth, Henry Ford, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Joe Montana, Justin Timberlake, etc, etc, had. If I could have met Mr. John when I was a younger man my life would have likely taken a difference course. I likely would not have ruined a few relationships along the way, and I know for a fact that I would have been a better person.

You see, John passed away at the age of 91. He lived a full life. He is known as the winningest college football coach of all time, and he did not coach at a big name school like Alabama, USC, Michigan or any of the powerhouses that we tend to hear about.

Those that knew him, from his family and friends, to his colleagues and opposing coaches, saw him as a winner in so many ways, but mostly in his ability to connect with others.

He started coaching in 1949 and he ended up spending 6 decades at one school, a small Division III university in Minnesota known as St. John’s.


When he retired his record stood at 489-138-11 with 4 National Titles, and no athletic scholarships.

His appreciation for others ran so deep that it was the core of who John was. He was an educator of young men and a builder of character. He inspired deep and enduring loyalty.

He had an unconventional coaching style:

  1. No tackling in practice
  2. No lengthy calisthenics
  3. No whistles or wind sprints
  4. No individual team captains (all of the seniors on the team were captains)

He cared about his players being:

  1. Hard working
  2. Successful
  3. Good men

At his memorial, his daughter closed the ceremony with some final words that she had learned from her father:

  1. Compliment your spouse (or significant other) many many times each day
  2. Listen intently to others
  3. Be interested, not interesting
  4. See the best in others

Quite a man, and quite a story.

So I ask you, how do you hope to be remembered by those that you call your family and friends, your colleagues, and anyone that you cross paths with? It’s your decision to make. And you can start building that legacy right now.



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