As a kid, his father was the head trainer for the University of Miami football team so you could often find Chad O'Shea playing catch in the Orange Bowl parking lot. Nothing real organized. Just some quick patterns and a few deep spirals before the real action took place inside the stadium.
Who knew years later that same kid would grow up to be offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins? No more grassy parking lots for Chad O'Shea. He's in the big time now. Calling plays. Making instant decisions. Having so much to do with the direction of this offense.
This is a feel good story any way you look at it. After working his way up the ranks, at one point working for free with the Kansas City Chiefs, and after spending the last 10 seasons coaching receivers for the New England Patriots, O'Shea was one of the first hires by new Head Coach Brian Flores. At 46 years old, the former quarterback at the University of Houston is a first-time offensive coordinator and you get the feeling by talking to him that he has never been more ready for this opportunity.
On Thursday afternoon inside the practice bubble at the Dolphins training facility, O'Shea spoke about his journey, about the experience he gained with the Patriots and about the challenges of installing a new offense with a new quarterback and so many players he is only now getting to know.
Needless to say, he doesn't have much free time these days. But this is where O'Shea wants to be and what he wants he do. He has waited an entire coaching career for this, having been entrusted with an enormous responsibility and no doubt embracing the confidence that has been shown in him by Flores.
I asked him about the kid in the Orange Bowl parking lot. "Never missed a UM home game from 1979 through 1984," he said. "It was so much fun. All the kids of the coaches would get together and play football. Some great memories."
And now he returns to South Florida, coming full circle from those Orange Bowl days, and admits, "I'm a very fortunate person."
You need to know that O'Shea is his own man and will install his own offense. But much of it will be predicated on the things he learned with the Patriots. That means multiple looks. That means a variety of schemes. That means a group of interchangeable parts designed to keep a defense off balance. You'll see a power formation with a fullback. You'll see two and three tight ends on one play and maybe a four receiver set on the next.
"We absolutely want to have a core set of things that we do well," O'Shea said. "But we're also going to have the ability to adjust on a weekly basis. I think it's important for the coaching staff to have that mindset and our players also need to adjust."
That will come later. For now, during these offseason practices, it's about installing the offense and finding out the strengths and weaknesses of each player. This week is about the rookies. Next week OTAs continue and will culminate with a three-day minicamp in early June.
O'Shea emphasized during his 15 minutes with the media on Thursday that this is a time to gather facts, not to make decisions. He understandably was asked often about his quarterbacks, how he plans on working in Josh Rosen, where does a veteran like Ryan Fitzpatrick fit into the picture and what factors will help him determine who is in the starting lineup in the season opener in September.
To each question, he responded in a similar fashion. "Someone's got to earn it," he said. "We're fortunate to have some very good options."
When you talk to his former players, when you delve into his coaching style, there is a common thread in everything you hear. Chad O'Shea is smart. He is caring. He is innovative. He is a tireless worker. Did I say how much he cares?
Patriots' wide receiver Julian Edelmen spent 10 seasons playing for O'Shea. "He knows how to deal with people in a real way," he said of his former coach.
It is impossible to predict how this chapter of his coaching career will unfold just as it is to know what personality he will develop as a play caller. But what we do know at this precise moment is that Chad O'Shea had done everything right up until now and that he richly deserves this chance.
The kid playing catch in the Orange Bowl parking lot has indeed come a long way. Now we'll get to find out how much further he can go.