By Steve Ruman
A football coaching career forged in the Mahoning Valley has taken Shawn Terlecky to the National Football League.
A Niles native and 1993 Warren John F. Kennedy graduate, Terlecky was recently hired by the Indianapolis Colts as an assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano.
Terlecky and Pagano previously worked together at North Carolina, where Pagano was the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator (2007) and Terlecky served as a graduate assistant.
“To be associated with the National Football League is a great honor and an incredible opportunity,” Terlecky said. “In this profession, it doesn’t get any higher than the NFL.”
Terlecky describes his role with the Colts as “a right hand man to coach Pagano,” noting he will work “on the administrative end of the business,” while also being able to put his extensive football coaching background to use.
“As an assistant to the head coach, you’re asked to do a little bit of everything,” Terlecky said. “In the NFL, coaching is pretty much 24/7/365. The head guy never has enough time to do everything that’s on his plate, and that’s where I come in.”
Terlecky was on the 1991 JFK team which won a DIV state title. He played defensive back at Mercyhurst, where he graduated with honors with a degree in sports organizational management in 1997. Following graduation, he worked for the Trumbull County Family Court. At the time, his father, Bob — a longtime area coach — was an assistant coach at JFK.
“I had free time in the afternoons, so I volunteered on the Kennedy staff,” Terlecky said. “That’s where I got the bug. I loved being around the players, I loved the camaraderie with the coaches. I knew I wanted to stay involved in the game.”
Thanks to a persuasive dad, Terlecky returned to school, earning a Juris Doctor degree from Capital University Law School. The additional education provided endless opportunities, yet “the bug” was still there.
In 2004, Mercyhurst was looking for an assistant coach, and Terlecky was debating on a career path. He found himself back in Erie, coaching the outside linebackers at his alma mater.
“I was 29, and I gave myself a window of 11 years to make it to the Division I level,” Terlecky said. “Having the law degree gave me a lot of options, but I wanted to coach. I wanted to stick it out.”
In 2005, Terlecky was hired as a graduate assistant at North Carolina, working under John Bunting and then Butch Davis. He returned to Mercyhurst in 2008, coaching cornerbacks and serving as the program’s recruiting coordinator. In 2010, he was hired as a defensive quality control coach at Louisiana State Univeristy. He spent the past three years at LSU, including the 2012 season which saw the Tigers reach the BCS title game.
“It’s difficult to describe life in the SEC,” Terleckly said. “The expectations are as high as they get, and the talent level all throughout the conference is simply the best in the country. It’s football at its finest.
“I’ve been very fortunate in that I was at two Division I schools where they do things right. Both North Carolina and LSU are class programs. They are different in many ways, but they were similar in the way they run things. It was all first-class.”
While Terlecky has spent the past decade surrounded by some of the nation’s top names in coaching, he insists that none have influenced or helped him more than those hack home.
“I hope people don’t take for granted the great high school coaches we have in the Mahoning Valley,” Terlecky said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it weren’t for guys like my dad, Tony Napolet, Dick Angle, Jeff Bayuk.
“There’s a long list of area guys who are incredibly gifted coaches, and who are incredibly great people. They are the guys who made me what I am today.”