CANTON, Ohio – Warren Sapp’s introduction to Rod Marinelli was rough, but as Sapp enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he’s not so sure he would be here if not for the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line coach.
From 1996-03, Marinelli was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive line coach and Sapp was at the top of his game. Or so he thought.
“He made me dream beyond anything I could see for myself because he spent more hours there,” Sapp said. “I realize that now. I get Defensive Player of the Year in 1999, 12.5 sacks, and we lose in the championship game, 11-6. I get back the next day and I walk into the meeting room with my chest out, ‘What you got for me now?’ He said, ‘Let’s see if your play can catch up with your athletic ability.’ What does that mean? He says, ‘What can you do athletically?’ I said, ‘Almost anything,’ and he said, ‘There you go.’ I come back with 16.5 sacks. He always had the next challenge for me. He would never let me rest.”
It was a tough love, too.
“If he wanted to talk to the group, he would yell and curse at me,” Sapp said. “When he first started doing it, I waited in the meeting room and said, ‘Me and you got to talk.’ He said, ‘I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the unit. But if I talk to you like that they’ll allow me to talk that way.’ I couldn’t fathom it, ‘Coach, I’m giving you everything I’ve got. Look at the tape.’ He says, ‘I know, but I want to get that from the rest and if I talk to you, they’ll follow.”