There is a lot of activity to take in when you watch a Patriots training camp practice. The constant drills and instruction taking place all over the fields make it difficult to absorb everything.
But one thing that is impossible to ignore is the offensive line work, and that's because of the person who has been in charge of those particular proceedings for nearly the last four decades.
Dante Scarnecchia is not a physically imposing presence, but his stature tells a much different story. His stern demeanor and military approach has brought countless men – routinely the biggest and toughest men on any football field mind you – to their knees.
Most of his work took place in an area of the fields known affectionately as "Dante's Inferno." That's because at some point during most practices he would routinely explode on some unsuspecting offensive lineman for one mistake or another.
One player once explained how he went into a meeting knowing all of his assignments. The on-field drills left him comfortable with his techniques, and now he was watching film and going over the next day's work. Then Scar began the drilling process, and suddenly that confidence was gone.
"Even when you know the answers he scares the [expletive] out of you," the player said with a laugh.
That anecdote is similar to hundreds of others told by Scarnecchia's offensive linemen over the years. But while the demanding style of coaching led to intimidation at times, it also led to respect. That's why when word spread on Tuesday that Scarnecchia was stepping away from coaching for the second (and presumably final) time, his players both past and present heaped praise upon him.
Damien Woody described him as a Hall of Famer and called it a privilege to play for him. It should be noted that Woody hasn't played for Scar since 2003 when he left New England as a free agent. Rich Ohrnberger, a backup offensive lineman from 2009-11, called him a great motivator. That's the kind of lasting impact Scar had on his players. Virtually all of the current Patriots offered similar tributes over the past day including Tom Brady.
Watching Scar go about his business, it's easy to see why. A lot of people talk about work ethic; Scar lived it. Whether it was running sprints before practice or getting some time in the weight room, Scar's routine rarely changed. He was the most prepared person – both physically and mentally – on the field on a regular basis.
His ability to work and connect with his players was legendary. First-round rookies, veteran Pro Bowlers or undrafted longshots … it didn't matter. They were all treated the same in Scar's world, and that's one reason Patriots offensive lines have succeeded with so many varying parts over the years.
Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending a spectacular 36-year NFL coaching career, in which he spent 34 of those seasons with the Patriots (1982-88, 1991-2013, 2016-19). Scarnecchia, whose entire career spanned five decades (1970-2019), helped lead New England to five Super Bowl championships.
Over his 48 coaching seasons, 34 of which were spent in Foxborough, Scar saw many talented players walk through the door. First-round studs like Bruce Armstrong thrived under his tutelage. So, too, did undrafted former tight ends such as Tom Ashworth.
Scarnecchia's brilliance can perhaps be best summed up, though, by the career of one person – Stephen Neal. The story of the wrestler-turned-football player is not a secret in these parts. Bill Belichick used to joke that Neal didn't even know how to put his pads on for practice when he was just starting out.
After a couple of years of developing with Scar, Neal became a stalwart at right guard and was part of one of the best offensive lines of the Belichick era.
As tremendous as the 71-year-old Scarnecchia has been as a teacher, he'll be remembered more for the person he's been off the field. I haven't had the pleasure of knowing him beyond merely a working relationship, but it's apparent to anyone who's been around him the kind of respect he commands.
Scarnecchia is the most thoughtful, insightful and respectful football coach I've come across in 21 years in Foxborough. It wasn't because he thought playing nice with the media would earn some positive press. To the contrary he never seemed to be all that eager to talk to the media at all.
Scarnecchia did it for the same reason he seemed to do everything – because it was the right thing to do.
Over the last four decades, no one did the right thing more than Scar.