ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -Rod Marinelli waited for three decades to be a head coach.
When he finally got his chance last year in Detroit, things didn't go nearly as he would have hoped.
The Lions started 0-5 and then lost seven in a row late in the season during a woeful 3-13 campaign that was better than only Oakland.
Despite the poor results, Marinelli's message and methods were unwavering.
The Vietnam veteran insisted on his players pushing themselves on every snap and relentlessly pushed them physically and mentally from the practice field to the meeting room.
Now that the second year of Marinelli's regime has arrived, the coach's devotees expect his hard-nosed, steadfast approach to pay dividends on the scoreboard as it did in the season-opening win against the Raiders.
Defensive end Dewayne White, who played for Marinelli in Tampa Bay, said the victory only makes Marinelli easier to follow.
``When people say stuff, you want to believe them,'' White said Wednesday. ``If you don't see results, people lose hope and start doubting. But everything he has said has come true, so there's no reason to doubt.''
Marinelli's boss, son-in-law and several players were asked what they liked best about him.
``He doesn't change,'' they said as if reading from a script.
Marinelli - who called himself ``Mr. Repetitive,'' this week - beamed with pride before the season started when the answers were relayed.
``That's everything because people look for consistency in leadership,'' he said in an interview with The Associated Press. ``You don't look for wishy-washy people, who give in when the press thinks you should do this or somebody is complaining about practicing in pads.
``I have a belief. I state it very clearly. And, I live it.''
Marinelli may not wow fans watching one of his news conferences, but his unbridled passion and high-energy persona have drawn rave reviews from those who spend time with him.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was ready to strap on a helmet after talking to Marinelli for 15 minutes in mid-August.
``By the time we got done, I was ready to go play myself,'' Goodell said. ``He's really got a tremendous attitude, a positive attitude and an expectation of winning. I think you can sense the difference in this franchise and in this building of their expectations to win.''
Everyone from team vice chairman Bill Ford to defensive tackle Cory Redding exudes excitement the moment they're asked about him.
``I love his spirit,'' said Ford, whose father owns the team.
Redding said he changed the Lions' culture.
``He doesn't let guys take a day off because he doesn't take a day, or a second, off,'' Redding said.
Marinelli's relentless ways helped him make a deliberate rise through the coaching ranks.
His career started in 1973 as an assistant coach at Rosemead High School, his alma mater in suburban Los Angeles, where the football field was named after him in June.
Marinelli went on to work on the staffs at Utah State, California, Arizona State and Southern California before Tony Dungy gave him a shot in 1996 to work in the NFL as defensive line coach in Tampa Bay.
A decade later, Detroit was desperately looking for a coach to turn around the laughingstock of the league. Team president Matt Millen hired Marinelli after an extensive search.
Millen needed only a split second to ponder what has been his favorite qualities in Marinelli as a coach and a man.
``It's the same thing,'' Millen said. ``He's persistent. He doesn't change.''
Marinelli, a very private man, provided some peeks into his personal life during his second training camp.
The 58-year-old man of Italian decent grew up in Rosemead, Calif., a working-class town about 10 miles east of Los Angeles.
He has fond childhood memories of hitchhiking to witness Sandy Koufax pitch during his incredible run for the Dodgers and to watch the NFL's best in the Pro Bowl at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Marinelli's college career - starting at Utah in 1968 and ending at California Lutheran in 1972 - was interrupted by a one-year tour in Vietnam. He knows some may be interested to hear his perspective of how serving in the war shaped his life and career, but he politely declines.
``Whatever I say could be pulled one way or the other, so I don't say anything,'' he said softly. ``I leave it alone because it's personal.''
Marinelli is an avid reader, whose favorite books from this past offseason were about Abraham Lincoln and Dungy.
``I like reading about people,'' said Marinelli, who minored in history in college. ``I try to see the value of leadership or football.''
Detroit defensive coordinator Joe Barry wouldn't have been surprised that his father-in-law steered a conversation about himself back to football. Barry knows a side of Marinelli that he only sees because he married one of the head coach's daughters.
``He is an ironclad-fisted man, but he has a soft spot for his two daughters and four grandkids,'' Barry said - after prefacing his remarks that Marinelli wouldn't be happy with him for sharing his behind-the-scenes perspective. ``But he doesn't let that show because he's a tough sucker.''
Marinelli also is a master motivator, who shows players video clips from the Animal Planet cable channel and ESPN ``Bear'' Bryant film ``The Junction Boys'' and draws stick figures on scouting reports.
``He'll show two bears fighting and he'll say they're Shaun Rogers and Damien Woody,'' receiver Roy Williams said. ``He'll say, 'Good hands Shaun! Way to battle back Woody!' Guys get a laugh out of it at meetings, but they also get the lesson.''
In an era when off-the-field conduct in the NFL is drawing more scrutiny, Marinelli starts each morning meeting with a do-right list.
If a player is late for a meeting or is overweight or misses curfew, for example, his name is on the do-right list that is projected onto a big screen at the team meeting the next day.
The Lions had a lot of players on the do-right list last year. But after some roster changes weeded out players who didn't buy into Marinelli's program, not one player was on it during training camp.
``It's a major flip from a year ago, believe me,'' Marinelli said.

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