When he accepted the job as Fairfield Ludlowe head football coach in April, Vince Camera didn't promise the Falcons would immediately join Staples, Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien on their perches as the top teams in the FCIAC.
He'd like Fairfield Ludlowe to get there one day, for sure. But as the two-a-day workouts of August give way to September, Camera's focus in not on a timetable, but on the process needed to transform a team that traditionally has been near the middle of the pack into a top-tier program.
The Falcons finished 5-5 last year under Matt McCloskey, who resigned at the end of the season. But Camera -- the head coach at Platt Tech in Milford the past six years -- is taking over a Ludlowe program that has gone 18-53 over the previous seven seasons, a .253 winning percentage.
The key to transforming the program, Camera said, goes beyond getting players to block and tackle well.
"Priority No. 1 is to teach them more than football, and that's responsibility, maturity and accountability" the 34-year-old coach said. "I want them to come together as a team, to believe in themselves. I want to teach them to get the most out of it (football-playing experience). I want to teach them not to settle."
"My second priority is for them to earn the respect of the league and be contenders. That means we're no longer looked at as an easy win, that teams have to be prepared to play us."
As that process evolves, Camera said, the results should show up on the scoreboard. In the meantime, there's a lot of teaching and a lot of confidence-building to be done.
What kind of football can Falcons fans expect to see?
Camera will serve as his own offensive coordinator. He said he likes balance between passing and rushing the ball, acknowledging that an effective running attack sets up the passing game.
On the other side of the ball, Camera prefers an alignment with three down linemen and four linebackers. But he is steadfast about flexibility in his defensive scheme.
"If the other team has (multiple) fronts on offense, we're going to be a multi-front defense," he said.
An East Haven native, Camera lives in Milford with his wife, Danielle, and their infant son, A.J., but he is no stranger to Fairfield. He played linebacker at Fairfield University, graduating in 2001, and was an assistant coach at Fairfield Prep before going to Platt Tech to start the football program from scratch. He also has a brother who lives in Fairfield.
And he has become immersed in Fairfield Ludlowe High School. In addition to being the football coach, Camera has been hired as a math teacher at the school. He had the same dual role at Platt Tech, where he compiled a 24-37-1 record in six seasons, including a 6-4 mark last year.
After considering various candidates, Falcons' athletic director Dave Schulz recommended Camera be hired. What impressed Schulz the most, he said, was how Camera handled a mock practice conducted at another school, with players brought in to be "coached" by Camera.
"It's been very positive," Schulz said of the first week of practice under Camera. "In watching (the coaching staff), they're doing a lot of coaching, they're doing a lot of teaching. That's what it's all about."
The coaching staff includes 15 assistants -- some paid, others volunteers.
"He's a fantastic football coach who is a teacher of football," said the Falcons' new defensive coordinator, John Prenderville, who had the same post last year with Camera at Platt Tech. "He teaches the players how to be thinking football players. It's a thinking man's game -- not just big, ugly guys trying to beat up on each other."
Prenderville said Camera is quick to gain the respect of players.
"He brings an enthusiasm when he teaches that commands respect," Prenderville said. "It doesn't take too long for the kids to realize that he knows what he's talking about. He loves the kids that he's coaching. They see his patience and understanding and the giving of his time. They see his dedication."
Camera said he was happy at Platt Tech and would have been satisfied to stay there, but the Ludlowe job offered more tools for success.
"It's a privilege to have the opportunity to work in a great community with a lot of resources -- financial, parental, administrative," he said. "It's the full package of resources, and that's what made the job enticing.
Camera said it's his responsibility to help get his players into college and to help prepare those interested in playing at the next level.