Scott Zolak  | Episode 4 Transcript:

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Intro (00:07):

Welcome to Strength in Numbers, the podcast where we show you that together we can overcome any obstacle. Join us as we bring on world renowned experts in the field of grit, determination and perseverance. Lean on us for a prosperous future together. Here's your host, Colonel Tim Nye and Neal Keohane.

Tim Nye (00:31):

All right, so welcome up to Strength in Numbers. My name is Colonel Tim Nye, retired Colonel Tim Nye, and I'm joined by my good friend and co-host Neal Keohane. Today we have a special guest with us and that's Mr. Scott Zolak, former NFL quarterback and a very popular sports talk show host in the Boston New England market. Co-host of Zo and Beetle on 985, The Sports Hub and they cover all the Boston sports.

Neal Keohane (00:59):

And he also does the voice of the Patriots, Colonel. So, he crushes it here.

Tim Nye (01:04):

Voice of the Patriots. All right. [Crosstalk 00:01:04]

Scott Zolak (01:04):

Colonel, who are you a fan of? Just all of them?

Tim Nye (01:09):

Well, I'll tell you what, I'll jump into that real quick. I grew up a Boston fan. I grew up early life in Maine, in both Bangor and then way up top in Caribou. I've got family in the Boston area. So, I'm about 10 years older than you. I grew up, I remember being in fifth grade and then wheeling in the AV cart for us to watch the '67 World Series with Yastrzempski and Lonborg and Conigliaro and all of those guys. I was already 10 years old. So anyway, now having said that, I was a Packer fan, New England, wasn't... They were right, just kind of starting up back then. So I'd grown up a Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox fan, and a Packer fan. [crosstalk 00:01:57]

Scott Zolak (01:56):

So you're in good company with all those.

Tim Nye (01:58):

I just want that out of the way. All right. Before we get too much further, I just want to say, make sure you guys are subscribing, hit the subscription button down below. We do this to try to generate some interest and quite frankly, revenue for military-themed charities. So we want to talk to people who have experience in grit, determination, perseverance backgrounds, exceptional people who can kind of give us some tips on how they've come through all of these different things, life lessons. And then anyway, if you like us, stick with us and hit the button.

Neal Keohane (02:35):

Thanks, Colonel. Okay. So, Zo why don't you, and now that you've people outside of Boston and New England, but this might get to California, Texas, who don't know you, but why don't you tell us a little bit about some of your background? I mean, I can tell you, you were the man on campus at Maryland, and then you made the jump into the NFL to the Patriots. Was that a big transition for you? Was that a shocker or was it all smooth and...

Scott Zolak (03:03):

[inaudible 00:03:03] I think anything you choose to do in life, all jobs that you take on any changes are big transitions. I grew up in western Pennsylvania. Small town called Monongahela South of Pittsburgh. Both of my grandfathers were in the steel mill. I remember standing in line with them to get the government cheese and bread every Friday. And you never thought that you couldn't support a family. I mean, we ate with Grandma every week. We went to church every day. I was an altar boy. We had cookouts at our house after it. My dad was my old coach and we only had a town of 30,000 people, yet Stan Musial is from my hometown. Joe Montana, my dad coached in 1974. I was seven at the time. I used to run on the field to get the kicking tee with Joe. I still have his old high school chinstrap downstairs, and a lot of good Montana memorabilia.

Scott Zolak (03:48):

But just to think about... Ken Griffey from my hometown, Senior. My dad played high school ball with him. The amount of guys that came out of that area. Coming out of that steel town, blue collar area I think, roughens up your edges a little bit. Gets you ready for the real world and you wanted an out. And I think playing sports and being part of a team, regardless of what sport was in play, but the big one for us back there in western Pennsylvania was football. Football is everything. Football is life, the Steelers are huge back there. And eventually went to Maryland, got recruited by everywhere. My dad wanted me to go to Louisville because Howard Schnellenberger went there after Miami.

Scott Zolak (04:27):

My mom wanted me to go to Duke. I got accepted to Duke, had a full ride sitting there. They were one in ten. I said, "Mom, number one kid coming out of state of Pennsylvania, can't go to a one to 10 school in Duke." So what did I do? I chose Maryland. It's somewhere halfway in between. But I just fell in love with campus when I got down there.

Scott Zolak (04:44):

It's funny, being recruited, you see a lot of basketball games and I got to see Lenny Bias up close and personal and that's... Celtics drafted number one. And that awful 1986 draft when Lenny passed away from cocaine overdose. And what could have been, should have been, would have been, but I was at Maryland for five years, five summers, enjoyed every bit of it. Fortunate to get drafted by the Patriots up there, 84th pick back in the 1991 draft and Dick MacPherson, the first coach that I had here. I think a lot of my lessons, obviously the Colonel, being a head of a group of men when you're led by a great leader, it tends to instill a lot of things within you, character, toughness.

Scott Zolak (05:29):

So eventually coach got fired. We got Bill Parcels for five years and you talk about walking on eggshells. The ability to create an intense environment. So you're able to crush your opponent, your enemy, whenever called upon and not to compare it to war. It's not war. We play sports. Those guys that are real heroes, but there are a lot of similarities as far discipline, schedule, attention to detail, having a guy's back next to you. And then I had Pete Carroll after Bill left. Bill went to the Jets after our Super Bowl in '96, '97. Had Pete Carroll for three or four years, and then Belichick took over. But my last year in Miami, I had Jimmy Johnson as my head coach. So I was fortunate enough to play with a bunch of guys that had Super Bowl experience. You know, the four of my head coaches were phenomenal people that molded us and different life lessons from all of them, but played nine years in the league and being around a league gets you some opportunities to do some things in the media.

Scott Zolak (06:24):

I did small time radio down in Providence, back in 2007, 2008 and then 98.5 Sports Hub formed and then boom. We exploded. We're the number one sports station in the country, with the number one midday show, 10:00 to 2:00. We're simulcast on national TV each and every day and you learn to adapt to changes and problems. I think that's the biggest thing here. I'm doing my shows from home now. You can see this is my bedroom, but we sort of did a makeshift studio so I'm trying to get all the sporting elements in. We adapt, we adapt in society regardless of what's thrown at us.

Scott Zolak (06:55):

And I think the people that survive are the ones able to do that and having families, when you're trying to have babies and you're trying to play the game and you're all constantly traveling, working out, there's a lot of similarities to some of those families out there where these soldiers go and fight for us overseas. And sometimes, they knew we were coming home. You don't know if they're coming home and I think that's the biggest difference, man.

Scott Zolak (07:19):

And anytime we get a chance to do anything through Wounded Warrior Special Ops, my uncle was in at West Point, now works for Lockheed Martin. Three of my cousins went to West Point, went through air force. So the academies hold a very dear place in my heart and anything we can do to help those families and create awareness out there because we do it on the radio. Memorial Day pops up, it's coming up at the end of the month and you get to sit back and go through some of the memories. Both my grandfathers fought in the war. My father-in-law was in the Vietnam War. And you take that time to recognize them. Then you don't do anything until 4th of July. And the patriotism of that holiday brings it up again. And then we forget about everybody the rest of the year. But I think it's great when you guys do the awareness and as you sit here and just bring that attention to some of these families that are struggling and need help.

Neal Keohane (08:08):

Thank you. Thank you so much, Zo. That's awesome, man. Colonel, why don't you ask him a couple of, I have a million things to ask them, but why don't you get into it?

Tim Nye (08:18):

It's funny because as you were talking, I thought, damn, this guy's a professional and I'll tell you why. I had a list of questions written down here. One was, I was going to ask you about your background growing up in western Pennsylvania. Check. I was going to ask you to compare and contrast your three coaches, Parcells, Carroll and Johnson. Kind of check. Although we could get [crosstalk 00:08:39].

Scott Zolak (08:38):

Bill was a little, Bill was more of the tyrant. I still have nightmares about [inaudible 00:08:41].

Tim Nye (08:41):

Yeah, but I mean, as far as traits that they have, all three of them are exceptional coaches. I mean, winning coaches, certainly Parcell, Hall of Fame, whatever. Johnson just got in, right? Parcells [crosstalk 00:08:55] I assume.

Scott Zolak (08:55):

Yep, just got in. Bill's in.

Tim Nye (08:58):

And Pete Carroll will be. I would think.

Scott Zolak (09:00):

He's the second longest-tenured coach behind Belichick. It's Belichick, Pete Carroll and believe it or not, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh's right in there too.

Neal Keohane (09:10):

Wow. [crosstalk 00:09:11]

Tim Nye (09:13):

You talked about how they get people motivated and get them ready and prepared, but kind of what are the traits you saw from them maybe that separate them from the pack essentially?

Scott Zolak (09:24):

Sure. I mean, I think you prepare for every single situation. What you want to do is you don't want to overload men with information, right? Because then all of a sudden you're out there and you're thinking. You want them to react. But I think the best thing that they did and especially what Belichick has learned from Parcells now is, I cover the team up here in New England, he tries to create stressful situations in practice, situational coaching. Okay. Here's our third and 10 package. What if we get backed up inside the five? What if it's raining out? He's got the water bucket out there and he's pouring it on the football. So he's trying to show you situations in practice so that when it comes up in a game, you're not thinking about it. You're reacting to it.

Scott Zolak (10:03):

It's the attention to detail. It's okay, if we have a 9:00 AM meeting and I've had some coaches where some guys would stroll in 10 minutes late, there'd be no penalty. Nothing. Parcells always told us, "If I have a 9:00 AM meeting, there might be a day where shit," excuse me, I swore there, "I might want to show up at 8:53. So you better be in that seat 10 minutes before." The whole room's packed, 10 minutes prior, you hear a pin drop when he walks in. Certain men have the ability to walk in a room and command that type of attention. I played for other coaches that don't.

Scott Zolak (10:33):

You've got to be able to hold a room. And if you can't have everybody zeroed in, I think the coolest thing about football is there's 53. Everybody says, "Oh, well baseball is the best." No. Baseball is one on one. It's a pitcher and a hitter. Basketball is five on five. 53 different men from 53 backgrounds or walks of life and the great head coaches, and to answer your question, I think what separates them is they know how to push each individual's guy's buttons. Some guys can take a razing. Oh, go back to Full Metal Jacket. You watch Pyle. He snaps, right? You got Joker could take everything and that's one of [crosstalk 00:11:07]. It's the only reason I bring it up. You've got to be able to know who could crack, who can't and how far you can push somebody. Because I think if you could push somebody, you like to see them get pushed to their limits. And I think that's why, you've been around some of the great men that have trained and fought countless battles out there for us.

Tim Nye (11:24):

Well, it's funny you'd say that. Quick story, back in '03, northern Iraq. I was a major at the time and the special forces colonel, we were in a meeting and he asked me something and I answered it. And then he just went off. I mean, he just went off on some fricking tirade, some rant, and I'm sitting there the whole time thinking, "Do you have me confused with somebody? Or what exactly are you mad at me about?" And then we all got up to leave after the meeting and kind of said, "Hey, Nye, come over here." He said, "Hey, I just want to thank you." He goes, "I know that you knew that I wasn't really yelling at you. I had to use you because I knew you could take it. I'm talking to everybody, but I needed to focus on somebody I knew wouldn't break down in front of me." I was like, "Holy shit. How about telling me ahead of time?"

Scott Zolak (12:12):

Parcells used to do that, too. He'd do that with us. He'd play those games. It would be like, "Hey, you know Zolak's looking thick today. I got him about 250. We got his weight down to 240. He didn't weigh in. He looks like a stuffed kumquat." I'll come back at him through the media. Like, "Yeah, it means a lot coming from a coach who does Dunkin Donuts commercials up there." [crosstalk 00:12:28] his office, he goes, "What the hell is this Dunkin Donuts stuff about?" I go, "Well, you were giving it to me. I gave it back to you." He goes, "That's good. I like that." [crosstalk 00:12:37] It's a test for all these guys. Leaders of men, they test you. And if you respond, they know who you could trust. I think it weeds out the garbage.

Neal Keohane (12:46):

Yeah. So speaking of that, going through these uncharted times with, this is a crisis, no matter how you slice it. You have a lot of people who... I think every successful person in life had a mentor or maybe lucky to have two or three. I had three in my life and I wouldn't have got to where I got without those mentors in my life. And one of them was my high school power lifting coach who went on to coach world champions, national champions, state champions, and regional champions out of a coed high school with 200 boys and 200 girls.

Neal Keohane (13:23):

Now, you can't tell me that that was all in the blood or the DNA. That was coaching. He got the most out of people and I'll say this. Power lifting is an individual sport, but you're also on a team to win the team championship. And he taught us one thing, only the strong survive. But if you can't do it as a team, you're not part of his team and I've taken that lesson my whole life. And I just think, maybe if you can have an opinion or a thought on people who haven't had a mentor or are working from home right now, without that leadership in the office, going 9:00 to 5:00, do you have any recommendations for those type of people that are looking to dig deep and do better?

Scott Zolak (14:05):

That's a great question. And you mentioned talking about heroes. I've always looked up to all my coaches, but I only had one hero in my life, was my dad. He passed away a month ago and you talk about tough times when you got to fly him up from, he wanted to be buried in Pittsburgh. My mom and dad live in Florida. My sister's in Chicago. I'm here and the logistics just to get him back there. You've got face masks on and my dad knew everybody. He was the head athletic director of all western Pennsylvania and we only had 10 people at his funeral. It's a tough time, but you get through tough times like that. But my dad always taught me, everything's about structure. You got to have a purpose. Every day has got to have a purpose when you got to wake up.

Scott Zolak (14:44):

And I remember being a kid and he would always tape note cards to my room and behind my door. So I'd open my door in the morning and he goes, "I want it right at your eye level." There's three. One, two, three on there. Short term goals. He goes, "I don't want long term goals. I don't want to know if you want to get a B in math this year, or be starting quarterback or whatever that. I want to know what do you want to do to win the day today?" And I think today in COVID and how we deal with this, it is day to day. It changes every freaking hour. We don't know anything and the thing that I think structure teaches you is discipline and not to fear things, because if you control what you do every day, that's going to help control your group or my partner on my radio show, which is in turn, going to help the station.

Scott Zolak (15:28):

If we get up and I do a good show every day, and he does a good show, the station comes together, we all do a good show. It was kind of like that with football. But the biggest thing through all this is what I fear. Don't listen to everything that you hear. Read as much as you can on this. Trust the people that know what they're doing, not [inaudible 00:15:46] people because all the news stations... It's getting to the point where everything's going to be politically swayed like it is with anything we do in our lives. And just try to make your best decisions. Don't be fearful. I mean, our body fights immune systems. I mean, we have our own immune system. At some point, we're going to get through this and we're going to learn how to fight it. We can't live in glass bubbles.

Scott Zolak (16:05):

We can't just sit home and do nothing. There's more to do. We got to open this country. We got to get back to helping out small business. I can't tell you how many small business owners I know that own small restaurants and bars have said, "I got one week left." I know in Massachusetts up here, Colonel, we're one week away from hopefully having a soft opening. And I still don't believe we're going to do that. Rhode Island is where, the border is 20, 25 yards from my house. I live right on the edge [crosstalk 00:16:32].

Tim Nye (16:32):

And I'm sure people are leaking over there.

Scott Zolak (16:35):

We go over there to eat. That's right. So we, it's funny. You go to some places and... Buried my dad in Pittsburgh. There aren't a lot of cases there. So you see less people out with the masks and people are probably looking at you a little differently. When you're around here, because everybody seems like, we live in such a world of fear now that we just can't live in our houses. We've got to get out there on the front lines and just hopefully do things the right way. I think we've learned to live differently. Right? Maybe we won't shake hands the way we used to, go fist pump, don't embrace, but sports brings people together. And as does go to work. And I think we've got to get back to doing that.

Tim Nye (17:14):

I saw a meme just yesterday and I looked, it was, "I'm a warrior, not a worrier."

Scott Zolak (17:22):

I like it.

Tim Nye (17:23):

You know, it's kind of like that, but you're right. You got to, it's funny because I go out and I go to the store and I've got my mask on and now I'm looking at people who don't have the mask on, but I'm wondering, but I have no idea if this is, if I'm really helping or not. I don't-

Scott Zolak (17:37):

I was saying today, what the news came out yesterday. Now you can get it through your eyes. Now they said maybe if you could have a full face covering, like, we're going to be walking around like Star Wars at some point.

Neal Keohane (17:45):

Yeah, bubble boy, right?

Scott Zolak (17:47):

Yeah, it's terrible.

Tim Nye (17:49):

There's far too many unknowns. You've got to stick to routine and kind of what you know, and yeah.

Neal Keohane (17:58):

Yeah. So, Zo, this is really coming from me. I'm just a local guy, but you legitimately could walk around New England, Boston, like you own the place and you don't.

Scott Zolak (18:10):

I try to.

Neal Keohane (18:14):

Well, I don't think you do, man. From what I hear, you're a solid, down to earth guy and from your humble beginnings in Pennsylvania to really making it and you're at the top right now, with what you do. Everyone in New England knows you're a blue collar guy by heart. So it's just, it's awesome that you're doing this with us. And what I'd like to do is because we were doing this for nonprofits and it's just gotten bigger, but why don't you tell us how you give back? I know you work with the diabetes foundation or associa-... Why don't you tell us about that?

Scott Zolak (18:45):

Okay. My middle daughter, my 15 year old, I lose track of how old my kids are now. She got diagnosed 11 years ago with type one diabetes and for not having it in her family and learning about how some of these illnesses and diseases pop up with just watching, pretty much floors you at that point, but she's learned to live with it and deal with it. But we do a lot of things. A lot of walks downtown in Boston, through JDRF.

Neal Keohane (19:10):

JDRF, okay.

Scott Zolak (19:13):

I'll go out and I'll give speeches or talk to some groups. There's a great group of moms that she's gotten in with that do fundraisers. And we'll give away tickets, jerseys, we'll do live concerts and stuff. Just a little things within communities where people come together and we just want to find a cure.

Scott Zolak (19:33):

But to see how it's evolved over 11 years. We used to do seven shots a day for her, with a pen. And now she's on a continuous pump. And just to see how technology has changed and hopefully, the awareness that you create. And I do a lot of things with the Patriots, with the children, with the volunteerism that they have going on there, they just put together two million meals for people with retired veterans. It's Food for the Troops. There's a lot of teams and people just standing around waiting for somebody else to help them. And I think that's the best thing that you can do is to get out there and help them. I'm a people person. I like, see this thing is keeping me down, this COVID. Because I like to go in a room and I like to embrace people and I think you have to talk to everybody.

Scott Zolak (20:13):

You got to talk to kids. You got to talk to adults, old people, you're walking around, man, open the door for an old person, or here's what I... Another thing my parents taught me, too. If you go to a Subway or a Wendy's and somebody comes in in fatigues, buy their meal for them and it just makes their day. And I did that once last year and I got the nicest letter back from them. They went out of their way, had no clue who I was, but someone told them who I was. Wrote the letter to the city.

Tim Nye (20:38):

[inaudible 00:20:39].

Scott Zolak (20:38):

Thank you. And then it was little things like that. I think if you help other people, things in turn, come back to you and help you.

Neal Keohane (20:46):

It's amazing.

Scott Zolak (20:46):

Just makes you feel better. Try and go out and just do one good deed a day. No, I don't to do that much more. But other than that, my time is, you're on the radio. It's kind of funky now with us not having sports because I got to talk four hours a day about sports.

Neal Keohane (21:00):

Yeah. With not a lot of resources to pull from.

Scott Zolak (21:05):

We've always been a good show where we'll talk hot topic stuff, like we did an hour and a half on what's the best mayonnaise last week. It was like two hours of our best radio we've done in two years.

Tim Nye (21:15):

I would say no mayonnaise would be the answer, but anyway.

Scott Zolak (21:16):

I go with Cains. I was a Hellman's guy. Now I'm a Cains. Growing up in Pittsburgh, you eat a ton of coleslaw and potato salad and macaroni because it's cheap. And that's a word we grew up on and it was, you're a big Hellman's guy. Up here?

Neal Keohane (21:28):

Let me throw you a curve ball. So I guess Miracle Whip wouldn't even be in the conversation then. Right?

Scott Zolak (21:32):

Miracle Whip goes on my salads. I love Miracle Whip on a pasta salad, cut up cucumber, tomato, pasta salad. It's unbelievable.

Neal Keohane (21:40):

There you go. There you go. Well, listen, we're kind of running out of time here. So again, I'm thanking you for doing this. There was just two people behind the scenes who got you on here, but I owe you one and that comes from my heart. So whatever I can do for you, if I can help JDRF or your daughter, I'm in completely.

Scott Zolak (22:00):

I appreciate that.

Neal Keohane (22:00):

You got it, man. And Colonel Nye, it's always great to see you. Do you have any final words or...

Tim Nye (22:07):

No, I'm just curious. You still got Montana's football?

Scott Zolak (22:10):

I do, downstairs. The one, he signed it, "Hey Scott. See you in the NFL one day." This was when I was in college.

Tim Nye (22:16):

When you were just a kid or...

Scott Zolak (22:17):

Pardon me? [crosstalk 00:22:19] I read that 16 times before my first start and we ended up winning that game. I got AFC Offensive Player of the Week that week. Yeah. So it's crazy some of the stuff I have. Yeah. I got some old Stan Musial stuff.

Tim Nye (22:29):

Well, could you, and I know I'm running out of... Could you, well, you were just a kid. Were you able to tell that he was going to be as good as he was or [crosstalk 00:22:40]

Scott Zolak (22:39):

He's actually a better basketball player. He could have went to NC state on a basketball scholarship. He went to Notre Dame. He was the thirteenth quarterback on the depth chart. Another guy overcoming adversity. He actually roomed with Ruettiger. [crosstalk 00:00:22:53].

Tim Nye (22:53):

No, I've heard that, but that always fascinates me. I hear a lot of sportscasters always say, "Well that guy's a great athlete."

Scott Zolak (23:01):

You know what?

Tim Nye (23:02):

And I'm always, I mean just athletes in general. [crosstalk 00:23:05].

Scott Zolak (23:06):

You go back, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, like you knew those guys are going to leave high school and go right to the pros. It's hard to do that with football. It is. You know a guy's fast, can he catch, but then you start playing at a higher level, higher level and everything kind of weeds all the crap out.

Neal Keohane (23:21):

[crosstalk 00:23:21] Yeah. Yeah, totally. I mean, in saying that I know we do got to wrap it up, but you look at a guy like Hogan or a guy like Edelman, who, they have to be unbelievable athletes to do what they did at this level. And that blows my mind, too.

Scott Zolak (23:33):

Little short white guy receivers, maybe not as fast, you think you're at the combine. Well, this guy doesn't run a four three. This guy's got this so it's kind of hard. Who's your best troops? The guys that got heart, right? Guys that will put me out there, put me on that front line. I just want to tell people out there, just remember, you wake up safe every day to live in this country and to be free, the amount of men and women who sacrificed their lives, and how tough it is on their families. Even currently as they are survivors and are out there living or living with their families, but more importantly the ones that have passed. And it's easy to say it right away, "Hey, feel so bad for your loss." But those people have to live with that each and every day from that point on. Let's not forget about that. Let's do what we can to help those families out there because those are the true heroes.

Scott Zolak (24:15):

I play in a fictitious sports world here where yeah, we watch sports. Sports is real, but it's kind of funny when you sit here and you elevate, put guys on a pedestal that, those aren't the real heroes. Go watch the Chris Kyle story. It's unbelievable.

Tim Nye (24:30):

It's very kind of you.

Scott Zolak (24:31):

All right, guys.

Neal Keohane (24:32):

Well, thanks, Zo. And just to wrap things up, Zo, thanks again. And we also want to mention that two companies that help nonprofit specifically, and that would be Inbloom consulting and FMP Productions out of Boston. So you probably heard of them FNP Productions. They do a lot with the Boston police, Boston fire, Bruins, you name it, they do it. So they're helping us in the background big time. So again, thank you, gentlemen and have a great upcoming week.

Scott Zolak (25:00):

It's been a pleasure. Thanks a lot.

Tim Nye (25:00):

Great talking to you. [crosstalk 00:25:05].

Neal Keohane (25:00):

Thanks, Zo. Take care.

Outro (25:07):

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