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Vic Fangio, Broncos coach, is “man of few words, except when you get him mad”

Even before this week, a little piece of Vic Fangio’s heart had been wedged into the Rampart Range for decades. Tony Fangio, the older brother of the Broncos’ new coach by five years and the second-oldest of the four sons of Victor and Alice Fangio, moved here in 1978.

“I know what it was like when John Elway retired,” Tony, 65, told The Post from his home in Colorado Springs. “And I know what it was like when Peyton Manning retired.”

Groovy. But does Vic know?

A pause.

“I think he knows more about this town,” big brother replied, “than people give him credit for.”

Say what you will — and you will — about Vic Fangio, the man does his homework. And the more you do the same on the cat to whom Elway just tossed the keys, the more it becomes clear why Broncos fell hard for the 60-year-old NFL lifer who had never been a head coach until last week.

“I’ve never seen a harder-working man than him,” Tony said of his little brother. “Back when he was with the Saints, back in the ‘80s, he brought me out to a game with my parents. They won the game — if I remember right, it was a shutout.

“After the game, we went out to eat and when we got to his place, he started this chart and started sketching plays and X’s and O’s (for the next opponent). I said: ‘You just won the game. Don’t you take a break?’ He said, ‘That game is gone. We’ve got a new game coming up.’ That’s how dedicated he is.”

He’s the proud son of a tailor, a prouder son of Dunmore, Pa., a burg of 14,000 and change tucked next to Scranton along the northeast corner of the Rust Belt. He’s the father of two, a golf nut with a 9 handicap. He digs talking about the Sixers, the Phillies, Harold Melvin, and Earth, Wind & Fire, and hates talking about himself. So we asked a handful of friends and loved ones to take a crack at the honors.


Victor John Fangio was born in Dunmore on Aug. 22, 1958, graduating in 1976 from Dunmore High School, where he had played safety and wide receiver for legendary coach Jack Henzes, who has the second-most wins (435) of any prep coach in Pennsylvania history. Much of Vic’s immediate family, including mother Alice, now 92, still reside in or around Dunmore.

Alice Fangio: I think (he wanted to coach) when he came out of the womb. His father was really interested in sports, so Victor followed that. And that was his whole life: Sports. Not piano lessons.

Tony Fangio: Two kids across the street from us were the same age. One was my age, one was his age. And we’d go over to the Dunmore Little League (field), which was right across the street, and practically every night we’d play football there against the two neighbor kids. It was Pat and Mike — they lived across the street from us. In our house, we had two adjoining rooms where one room met another room and there was a big opening. I don’t know if you remember the little pixie football, the little rubber footballs. We would play tackle football. I would throw it to him, he would run at me and I would tackle him. And he’d throw it at me and I’d run at him and he would tackle me. That was a lot of fun, too. No (furniture damage), we kind of pushed everything aside. A lot of rug burns, though.

Cory Fangio, Vic’s nephew: If we played a board game, we’d kid about Victor — he’d always find a way to cheat to win if he was losing. He hates to lose. Hates to lose. My grandmother still kids him about this, tells the story that after any Little League game or midget football game, she said, “If Victor lost, he came home crying.” She tells that story all the time. She always talks about “Victor, how he hates to lose. If he ever lost, he’d cry, he’d take it personally.”

Tony Fangio: (Vic is) probably more like my father. If I had to pick one, I’d say my father, maybe (because he’s) strong-willed.


Fangio never played college football, falling victim to the coaching bug while attending Division II East Stroudsburg University, where he was studying to be a high school P.E. teacher, hoping to follow in Henzes’ footsteps. As an undergrad, he commuted 45 minutes each way back to his alma mater, where he worked under Henzes as linebackers coach and, later, defensive coordinator.

Dennis Douds, former East Stroudsburg football coach: He never played for us. I taught Football 1, Football 2, Football 3. When he was in (college), he coached at Dunmore High School and he would come in my office, he would ask questions. He’d be in there at 8:30 a.m. and he’d be there at 9:30 at night. Was he dedicated? Yes. Did he have a passion for the game? Yes, at that age, to be able to say that’s what he wanted to do, that’s my walk in life.

Henzes: He was our free safety for three years. He was a coach on the field. I knew that he had the makings to be a good football coach. I told him three things: No. 1, be a good listener. No. 2, be the last guy leaving the office. No. 3, don’t talk about the guy next to you, because you never know when he could become a head coach.

Douds had another Dunmore native poking around his office at that time, a wunderkind named Joe Marciano, a pal of Vic’s who would eventually join the staffs at Villanova (1980), Penn State (1981) and Temple (1982). Marciano nailed a low-level gig breaking down film for the nascent Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in 1983. When the Stars’ special-teams coach left the next year, Marciano pitched coach Jim Mora on a promotion, setting the wheels in motion for an old friend to join the party.

Douds: To make a long story short, Jim Mora talked to Joe and said, “Do you know anybody who can take your job?” And he said, “There’s a guy back in East Stroudsburg named Vic Fangio.” And Mora called and got a hold of Vic, and Vic was on his way to break down film and sleep in the cafeteria. So don’t tell me there’s a silver spoon around here.

Cory Fangio: (Visiting Vic), we would watch the Phillies games from behind home plate (at Veterans Stadium), like in the groundskeeping area, me and my grandfather. To be able to watch the games, stuff like that, as a kid, was just unbelievable. So we could go down for the weekend, we’d catch a Phillies game and then the Stars game. It was like, “I got to do this because of Uncle Vic.”


The rest is NFL defensive history: Mora took Fangio and Marciano with him to New Orleans, where the pair coached the Saints’ linebackers and special teams, respectively, from 1986-94. The Big Easy revival hit its apex in 1992, when Fangio’s four starting linebackers — Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson on the inside, Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson on the outside — were all selected on the first ballot to the Pro Bowl, becoming the first unit of four linebackers from one squad to do so.

Swilling: About my third year or fourth year, we had a blowup on the sidelines. I was going off on him, and he was going off on me and I jumped up in his face and he jumped up in my face. But the point is, when it was over, it was back to just Vic and Pat, just coach and player. He may get in your face. He may get on your (expletive). At the end of the day, it goes back to just coach and player. He never was vindictive. He never held any of that against me.

Jackson: He taught me to make sure that I followed the ball. What I was doing was, I was beating up on guys and they didn’t have the ball. You see what (Bears linebacker) Khalil Mack was doing, getting at that football and making plays. He was more about getting the turnover and making plays. He taught me to get the ball; get the ball back to the offense and you’ll win more games. He was one of those coaches where he would have a look at film and he would have you see a play coming before it comes.

Swilling: I opened up a business down in New Orleans. I had some people who opened up a nightclub and they used my name. I asked him to come. He could come a couple of times and show support. No question, (Vic) cared more about me off the field than he did on the field. I’ve been in the real estate business for 30 years. I build buildings for myself and build condos and things. It’s kind of funny, a couple years ago, I saw Vic at a game and he said, “I’m in real estate, too.” I asked him, “When do you have time for real estate?” And he kind of laughed. Vic is one of those guys off the field that the guys will be able to relate to. He’s not just a football coach; he’s a smart guy.

Mora and Fangio reunited with Indianapolis in 1999, with the former famously losing his job because he refused to fire the latter at the request of then-Colts GM Bill Polian. Fangio became the defensive coordinator of the Texans in 2002, then joined the Ravens as a special assistant to coach Brian Billick in 2006.

Billick: He was great. And I was calling plays at the time in Baltimore and he was that extra set of eyes to challenge me. And he says, “Here’s what I think the defense is going to do to you,” and when you’re a play-caller and a head coach, you need someone to keep you on track in terms of that head coaching side. Of course, as a head coach, you’re on the phone with everybody (during a game). The (staff) would joke about it, that when Vic is on the phone, everybody shuts up. In clear and no uncertain terms, that he was the guy I wanted to hear from in those certain situations, just because of the confidence that you know he had.

Swilling: Those (Broncos) guys, if you’re not passionate about playing, you’re going to have a hard time with Vic. He’s a disciplined coach. He’ll let you have fun. He’ll let you be yourself. You’re going to be in the meeting rooms on time. You’re not going to be late for practice. All those things. I’ve heard that (the Broncos are young) … He knows how to deal with millennials. He knows how to deal with older guys. Vic can find what buttons to push.


Coordinating a top-10 scoring defense (17.4 points allowed per game) for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford in 2010 begat four seasons of top-10 scoring defenses with Harbaugh in San Francisco (2011-14), where the Niners reached a Super Bowl and two NFC title games. Orchestrating two more top-10 scoring defenses Chicago (2017 and 2018) helped open the door to the opportunity of a lifetime.

Cory Fangio: He loves coaching. That’s who he is, what makes him tick. My son was able to finish his (prep) career under Coach Henzes, and Vic would always text my son after every game and they’d talk back and forth. He still always checks up on his hometown and still texts me every Friday: “Did the Bucks win?” Every football Friday I get a text from him: “What was the score?” He still cares about what’s going on.

Jackson: I sent him two text messages telling him how happy I was. It almost made me cry. That’s something I’ve never done before. I’ll tell you what: I was so excited for him, it almost brought tears in my eyes.

Cory Fangio: (On Thursday), one of the things when I was watching that news conference, I thought, “My grandfather is looking down and just beaming that his son is a head coach of an NFL team.”

Tony Fangio: I told him I waited 25 years for this, and it finally happened. I have to wrap my head around it: He’s not getting on a plane and leaving. He’s staying here.

Alice Fangio: He was very short (Wednesday). He said, “I got the job in Colorado, and I’ll be going out there to talk to them.” And then he said, “I’ve got to go now.” He’s a man of few words. Except when you get him mad.

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