As a member of the St. John’s University football team in the early 1990s, Boz Bostrom experienced firsthand the unique coaching style that catapulted John Gagliardi to gridiron greatness at the small Minnesota school. Gagliardi had a simple yet innovative approach to football, including a no-tackling rule at practice that he instated decades before the peak of concussion concern. These coaching methods contributed to Gagliardi’s career record of 489-138-11 – the most wins of any college football coach in history.
Bostrom knew his college coach was special. But it wasn’t until years later, when he returned to his alma mater as an accounting professor, that the former player gained a deeper understanding of the factors that led to Gagliardi’s success – factors that had less to do with X’s and O’s and more to do with his approach to life. Bostrom would regularly run into his former coach between classes on campus, and Gagliardi often pulled Bostrom into his office for lively conversations. Invigorated and inspired by Gagliardi’s stories, Bostrom decided to write a book. “I thought, I have to capture this because there’s so much more to John than what people see on the football field,” Bostrom says.
The first hurdle was getting the humble Gagliardi on board. The 90-year-old coaching legend doubted anyone would want to read about him – but Bostrom persisted. He took a sabbatical in fall 2012 to follow Gagliardi through his last football season and talked with about 200 of his former players. Bostrom also enrolled in Gagliardi’s popular leadership class at Saint John’s, which the former coach has taught in some form since 1955.
The result of this research is seen in “A Legacy Unrivaled: The Story of John Gagliardi,” a book that highlights the philosophies, lessons and experiences that have shaped Gagliardi and also illustrates the far-reaching impact he had on student-athletes over his 60-year head coaching career. The book includes “11 keys to winning” built on Gagliardi teachings. Among them: Be interested, not interesting; focus on the fundamentals; sustain the effort. Bostrom says the lessons are ones anybody can apply to everyday life.
“It’s a book about a football coach,” Bostrom says. “But football is just the tool John used to inspire others to be better people and live better lives.”