'All about attitude'

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

It figures that on Doug Berry's first day as head football coach in this town, the guy's greeted by a harsh taste of Winnipeg winter.

Note to Mr. Berry: you think that was rough -- wait until you experience the chilly reception from this town's long-suffering fans next summer.

A full 15 years without a sip from La Coupe Grey has left Blue Bomber supporters with all the patience of a nicotine addict on withdrawal.

Just ask former coach Jim Daley what it was like on the sidelines last season. Lose your first game and the howls of protest begin.

You know what, though? I think Berry can handle it.

For starters, he not only survived a U.S. Army boot camp, he thrived on it.

It was 1968, and Berry, just a kid from Claremont, N.H., was drafted -- ready, willing and able to head straight to Vietnam.

"After you're there three weeks, you're brainwashed," Berry said, referring to his military training. "They break you down. You have no rights."

Take the day Berry's drill sergeant marched the would-be soldiers through 100-degree heat with 40-pound packs on their backs -- a trek so gruelling, some didn't make it.

"If you were behind the guy dropping out and didn't step on the guy in front of you, you were out and forced to do 40 pushups," Berry recalled.

And we thought working for Montreal Alouettes boss Don Matthews was tough.

"It was kill or be killed," Berry said. "I played their game. And I did very well."

So well that he was assigned to a nice desk job in Germany, instead of to the jungles of Vietnam.

Then there's the way Berry first got into coaching.

After two years in the Army, Berry's plan was to become a park ranger. When that didn't pan out, he found himself selling stereo equipment.

That's when he walked into the office of University of New Hampshire head coach Bill Bowes, and said, "I want to be a football coach."

Calling it his version of getting his masters, Berry volunteered with his alma mater's team for the next two years.

He must've learned awfully fast, because the next thing he knows he's working for legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno and helping the 11-0 Nittany Lions reach the Sugar Bowl.

On a whim, he applied for a job coaching the O-line at Boston College the next season.

"I get it!" Berry said, still shocked, nearly 30 years later. "That's a dream come true. Nobody's got into this profession the way I have."

And here he is, fulfilling yet another dream by becoming a professional head coach, all these years later.

It's obvious Berry has a passion for it. Although he never played football in college, he loves the game.

And this may surprise you: he hasn't carried the military attitude into his football career. In fact, he's rejected it.

Ranting and raving

"I hate raising my voice on game day," he said. "If you've ever seen me with (Montreal quarterback) Anthony Calvillo, that's probably how I'm going to coach. I put an arm around 'em, sit down and talk with 'em."

While he's not the ranting and raving type, you sense a competitive fire in Berry.

"That's right in here," Berry said, putting his hand to his heart. "That's me. I'm a winner. I want to win. I expect to win."

According to Berry, it's all about attitude.

Remember the 2001-02 Bombers, the team nobody, not even Montreal, could run the ball against?

Berry does. And he wants to replicate that mindset, starting in '06.

"I want us to be more physical than anybody else," he said. "We are going to get an attitude."

Sounds good, coach.

Oh, and by the way, there are four teams ahead of you in the CFL West.

Don't worry about stepping on them on your way up.


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