Bucs coach Morris mourns death of former Hofstra coach Gardi
Bucs coach Raheem Morris went to work with a heavy heart after learning of the death Wednesday of former Hofstra football coach Joe Gardi.
Morris played defensive back for Gardi at Hofstra from 1994-97 and credits him as a mentor in football and life. Gardi, 71, died Wednesday following a stroke he suffered last week.
"My entire family -- my whole football family, I should say -- is deeply saddened today by the loss of our beloved coach Gardi,'' Morris said Thursday. "He was a father figure for me, a passionate guy, one of the better teachers and one of the most influential person in my life. I just wanted to start out by saying that and I wish him and his family the best, as heartfelt as I can in this setting.
Gardi compiled a 119-62-2 record in 16 seasons at Hofstra from 1990-2005. Many of his players went onto play or coach professionally, including former Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet and Saints receiver Marques Colston. Morris began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Gardi.
Gardi is survived by his wife, Audrey; two grown children, Joanne and David; daughter-in-law Michele; and four grandchildren.
"You're talking about a man who came to northern New Jersey - Irvington, N.J. -- and recruited us, sat in my house and talked to my parents,'' Morris said. "He had the ability to come there when nobody else really cared or thought anything of it. He gave me a scholarship, brought me to Hofstra and taught me what it was like to be a man, raised me as far as dealing with all different types of ethnic groups and dealing with different types of people and how to behave in certain settings and certain atmospheres. It's just everything when you talk about being a man and growing up and forming your character, what you're going to be when you become that guy.
"He talked about the love of football and his ability to teach us and teach everybody around him, his coaching staff and his players. It didn't stop after I was done playing. He's one of the guys who encouraged me to go into coaching, he's one of the guys who encrouraged me to be the best teacher I can be in this profession, how to treat it, how to study other people. He's just one of those guys who will always be part of my life and part of my family's life.''