Although he was 700 miles away at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., Jay Civetti didn't hesitate when he received an urgent call Sunday from N.C. State football operations director Kit Hughes.
N.C. State offensive coordinator Dana Bible, one of Civetti's mentors, had been diagnosed with leukemia and hospitalized immediately for treatment. The short-handed N.C. State staff needed emergency help to prepare for Saturday's regular-season finale against North Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Civetti, 30, had served as a graduate assistant under Bible and head coach Tom O'Brien for two years at Boston College and one year at N.C. State. Civetti is the offensive coordinator for Tufts, a Division III school whose season already was completed.
Tufts head coach Bill Samko and athletic director Bill Gehling gave Civetti their blessing. Civetti explained to his wife of six months, Kate, that he would be gone for Thanksgiving if he accepted the assignment. She told him to get on the plane and go.
He dug out some of his old N.C. State gear and arrived at the Murphy Center football office complex by 9 a.m. Monday.
"This is all about Coach Bible and N.C. State," Civetti said. "These guys have given me a lot."
At Tufts, Civetti coaches athletes who play purely for the love of the game in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. They are paying their own way to school, many times studying to be engineers, doctors and lawyers.
Despite the differences in the level of play, Civetti regularly asks himself at Tufts what Bible would do in a given situation and often has called Bible for advice. Civetti most admires the way Bible teaches players and makes them feel like they're part of his family.
"He's just a special person in every way," Civetti said. "He does amazing things with the kids and obviously has an amazing football mind."
Civetti doesn't presume to come close to being able to fill Bible's shoes, and N.C. State will use the same gameday plan as last week, with running backs coach Jason Swepson calling plays and O'Brien relaying them to the players. Civetti is helping coach the quarterbacks and wide receivers and doing anything else O'Brien asks him to do.
Remembering the concepts and structure of Bible's offense has been easy for Civetti. He said Bible's highly organized system has made it easy to jump right in and contribute as he did in the past.
"He's a good football coach," O'Brien said of Civetti. "It's fortunate for us that his season was over, and because of the camps he's worked and everything, he understands all the drills and knows what we do on the practice field. So there's not as much disruption as there could be with Dana not being here."
O'Brien said he wasn't even aware that NCAA rules allowed him to temporarily add a coach until N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler mentioned that the Wolfpack women's basketball team did it when Kay Yow was ill. O'Brien said once his staff explained to the NCAA that Bible wouldn't be able to work this week, Civetti was able to start working immediately.
Civetti figures it was the least he could do for Bible, who got him started in coaching.
"I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for him," Civetti said. "I didn't think twice about it. He's a pretty remarkable person. If anybody can beat this, it's him. And if I can in any way make it easier for him, that's why I'm here."