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Bicknell follows in dad's footsteps

Buffalo Bills tight ends coach Bob Bicknell never had much doubt that he wanted to follow his father into the coaching profession.

"When I was a kid I dreamed about being a coach more than I dreamed about being a player," Bicknell said. "To be honest, I thought about it when I was about 8 years old. I think it looked like something I wanted to do. If I did a book report as a kid, it was about coaches. I read books that most people probably didn't read when they were young. I read about Bear Bryant, Bo Schembechler."

Given the fact Bicknell's father, Jack, led Boston College during its glory days of the Doug Flutie era, it's easy to understand why coaching looked so good. Jack Bicknell helped bring the Boston College program to national prominence during the 1980s. He then won more games than any other coach during a 17-year run in the NFL Europe.

Bob Bicknell, 40, brings 17 years of experience to his new position with the Bills. He came to Buffalo after spending the past three years as an assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs. He's proud to be carrying on his father's tradition in the game.

"Because of him, I was more into the leadership aspect of it, even as a kid," Bob Bicknell said. "As I got older, the whole idea of helping people, helping kids and being able to develop them was what I was thinking."

Bob Bicknell's older brother, Jack Bicknell Jr., also is a coach in the NFL. He's the assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants.

"We have a lot of games to go to this fall," said Jack Bicknell Sr., from his home in New Hampshire. "I also have a grandson playing for the University of Rhode Island. They're playing at Buffalo in the first game this year."

Both Bicknell boys played for their father at Boston College. Jack Jr. was a starting center, and his last season was 1985. Bob played tight end from '88 to '91.

The elder Bicknell long suspected Bob was destined to coach.

"Bob was the kind of kid that every time I'd be on the phone with a recruit or another coach or anything to do with football, he was behind me, listening," Jack said. "He was into it right from the beginning. He was on the sidelines for all the games, holding my wires. He just kept his mouth shut. But he kept his ears open."

Bob was not on the sidelines for Boston College's legendary win over the University of Miami in 1984, when Flutie connected with Gerard Phelan on a Hail Mary pass on the final play to win it. Bob had to stay home to play a high school game that weekend.

"I stayed home and was in my living room watching on TV with two of my friends," Bob said. "Being around Flutie and watching so many of the crazy things he did, it was unbelievable."

Boston College had not been to a bowl game in 42 years before Bicknell's tenure. He took them to four bowl games in his first six years and five overall in 10 seasons.

"The year of 'the Miracle in Miami,' he was offered the University of Miami job, the one Jimmy Johnson took," Bob said. "He was offered North Carolina. He was offered Arizona. He interviewed at Ohio State and didn't get it when John Cooper got the job there. Ultimately he turned down every job that was offered to him for three, four, five times the money. He believed in being loyal, having a plan for what he was trying to do, and he just never ran from anything. I look at his accomplishment at Boston College, and I don't know that anybody has ever done as good a job than what he did at BC at the time. Now they've become bigger. They went to the Big East and now the ACC. But he'd open up against USC, Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State."

Bob Bicknell began his coaching career with a five-year stint at Boston University. Then he joined his father in NFL Europe, although they never coached on the same team. Bob Bicknell coached eight years in Europe. His teams won three World Bowl titles, two of them over Jack Bicknell's teams.

"It was a great league to be in," Bob Bicknell said. "We had Jake Delhomme at one time as our quarterback. Brian Waters played offensive line for me. It was rewarding to watch those guys develop. I think eventually they'll have something like that back. I don't think it'll be in Europe, but they need a developmental league. It was built basically for quarterbacks and offensive linemen."

Bob Bicknell had interviewed with the Jets in 2005, prior to Herman Edwards' last season as New York's head coach. Edwards brought Bicknell to Kansas City in 2007.

"He's paid the price," Jack Bicknell said. "He didn't come up the easy way. He had to strive for everything."

Bob Bicknell coached with Chan Gailey in Kansas City in 2007 and '08. When Gailey was hired in Buffalo this year, Bicknell was eager to join him.

"He's a lot like my dad," Bicknell said of Gailey. "He's very honest. You know exactly what he expects from you. Very honest, very tough, very consistent. You can trust him."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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