In December, O'Leary retreated to Eatonton for an unusual extended Christmas vacation.

UCF played an early bowl game, and so for a few weeks after the win, the coach had nothing to do but relax at the lake house. After a couple of days, he was restless.

"Sharon," he recalled telling his wife. "There has to be more to it than this. There has to be more to retirement than walking the dogs twice a day."

The confrontation with life beyond football still lingered five months later as O'Leary reflected on the moment outside of his beach rental in Ponce Inlet. The home is one of the few places O'Leary can escape the pull of the Xs and Os, the draw to work that has consumed him for so long — and still does.

O'Leary squinted toward the ocean. A steady wind whipped across the back porch, the sun burned hot on his knees, a spy novel sat on his lap. The family Labradors' UCF collars jingled a few feet away.

O'Leary tapped his hand.

"There's only one big event after retirement," he said. "And I'm not ready for that."

He paused. The right side of his mouth turned up ever so slightly.

"So, what do you think of the team this fall?"

ptenorio@tribune.com