2-19-02, 5:15 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals filled out their staff Tuesday when they hired a man with coaching lines that cross with Forrest Gregg, their first Super Bowl coach.
The club named Bob Surace an assistant to offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Surace, who compiled an 18-3 record during the past two seasons as head coach at Division III Western Connecticut State, replaces John Garrett as the club's offensive assistant coach. Garrett became tight ends coach last week when Frank Verducci went to the Cowboys.
Surace, 33, a Millville, N.J., product, played at Princeton with Garrett before beginning his coaching career with stints at Springfield College and Maine Maritime Academy. He went on to the Canadian Football League's Shreveport Pirates, where he became the assistant to Gregg, the club's head coach and general manager.
"Believe me, I was a 24-year-old kid and an offensive lineman who grew up loving the NFL and I was almost intimidated being in the same room with him," Surace said. "I tried to be like a sponge and take in whatever Forrest said and I learned a lot about how he handled players because we were in a tough situation. Here was one of the greatest players who ever lived and he treated everybody the same."
Since Surace's arrival at Western Connecticut in 1996 as the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator, the Colonials' offense has set several school records, including points per game with 43.9 last year.
As the head coach last season, Surace led the Colonials to their second Freedom Football Conference title in three years and ranked 25th in the American Football Coaches Association Poll. In his rookie year, the Colonials went 10-1 and won the 2000 Eastern College Athletic Conference Northeast Championship.
"He was a sophomore when I was a senior and I was just impressed with his poise in making all the calls and getting us in the right protections and the way a young guy handled all that," Garrett said of their Princeton days. "We got a real
quality guy for the position. We got a football coach, not just a computer guy who can do the computer stuff. He 's a head coach, he's coached the offensive line at three colleges, and he's a natural football coach."
In Cincinnati, Surace will be doing much of the jobs he did back with Gregg nearly 10 years ago. He'll be breaking down and analyzing film of the Bengals and their foes as well as assisting Bratkowksi and Alexander in game planning and practice sessions. He'll also be on the road as a scout.
"If you're a competitor, you want to coach with the best and coach against the best," Surace said. "I've always wanted to coach in the NFL and this is a tremendous opportunity."
Surace grew up in a coaching family and has started one of his own. Father Tony was his head coach for his high school football and baseball teams in Millville, and brother Brian is the offensive coordinator at RPI. Surace's wife, Lisa, is the head coach of the girls varsity soccer team at
Staples High School in Westport, Conn.
Western Connecticut has some coaching heritage. Paul Pasqualoni went 34-17 as the head coach in the early 1980s before becoming the head coach at Syracuse in 1990 and leading the Orangemen to a 6-2 record in bowl games.