Coach Al Singleton, Super Bowl Champion
Fairleigh Dickinson University Devils defensive line coach goes long for the benefit of his student athletes. Touchdown!
By Sara Campione
Photographs by Bill Cardoni
Just like in the movies, Al Singleton, now defensive line coach for the Devils football program, waited to hear his name called during the NFL draft in 1997. After receiving the dramatic phone call in the fourth round, Singleton, a Temple University alumnus, went on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as linebacker and on special teams, and was part of the team’s Super Bowl XXXVII win in 2003.
“Leading up to the big game, I received phone calls from former teammates from high school and college. It was, ‘win this for us, do this for us.’ They were rooting for me, ‘win this for us and let me see the ring when you get it.’”
People really cared about him, he realized, so he took that positive energy onto the field. “I tried to take it all in and channel it in the right direction. Just play and don’t be nervous.”
He later played linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.
Singleton turned to coaching after realizing something was missing from his post-pro football life — owning and operating a dry cleaning business. He missed the game. After working with several other schools, Singleton found his home with FDU. “The head coach at TCNJ made a recommendation to Coach [Brian] Surace.” A year ago, “I met with the staff and things just kind of fell into place from there,” says Singleton.
“I enjoy teaching different techniques. Particularly at the DIII level, the young men want to get better.”
Singleton brings his vast knowledge and experience of the game to FDU. He utilizes techniques and tactics he learned along the way in his career — including during a coaching internship with Tampa Bay in 2015. Techniques like “pass rushing to show players where to place their hands. A big part of it is leverage and balance. And that can translate onto the football field. There are a lot of things that I teach that I’ve learned from playing, so I want that to translate.”
He’s found that persistence and dedication yield results, whether on the field or off. “I don’t want players to ever be afraid of hard work,” says Singleton.
In the upcoming 2018 season, he wants to see the defensive line improve and grow. “Take pressure off the linebackers so they can make plays. That will be key. We had a young team [last year], so I hope to help players progress and take a step up. The older players going into their senior year — becoming leaders on the team — that’s the goal. I want the defensive line to be the strength.”
As a Super Bowl champion, husband, father and small business owner, the guidance Singleton provides to players applies beyond the field. “In college, all the players hang out; it truly is a close-knit family.
Everyone is trying to keep their grades up and graduate. At the professional level, players are at different stages in their lives. Rookies find a veteran [player] who is a good fit to help guide them along.”
Singleton wants to use methods he’s learned to assist players in realizing their potential.
“I’m going to do all I can to teach them in the same way that’s taught at the professional level and the Division I level. I’ll do anything I can do to help them out or guide them and put them in the right position to succeed.”