COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. - Former players of John Gagliardi are offering praise for the retiring coach at St. John's University.
Gagliardi -- with more wins than any coach in college football history -- announced Monday he is calling it quits at the age of 86, after 60 seasons on the St. John's sideline.
"I hope I have a tenth of what he had," said Eden Prairie High School football coach Mike Grant, who played for Gagliardi in the 1970s and later served as one of his assistant coaches. "What people don't know about John is John's a brilliant person. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met in my life."
Grant called Gagliardi a great motivator and psychologist who cared for his players as people, not just athletes.
"He was happy, the most happy, when former players would come back and see him and he could sit and talk and tell stories," said Grant.
Blake Elliott, a standout wide receiver on one of Gagliardi's four national championship teams, says those meeting in Gagliardi's office usually opened with five or ten minutes of discussion about football.
"The next half hour is going to have to deal with girls and the next half hour is going to deal with academics, or your career for your family, or your ethnicity," he said.
Beau LaBore, head football coach at Stillwater High School, is another of Gagliardi's former players.
"He's a guy that understands people and how to relate to people," said LaBore. "He's had an impact on who I am as a person."
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)