View Full Version : Tomlin and Farrior share unique history

01-22-2009, 10:28 PM
Tomlin and Farrior share unique history
January 22, 2009 12:44 PM

PITTSBURGH -- The first time Steelers coach Mike Tomlin met his defensive captain, James Farrior, the two were trying to pound each other into submission.

The pair, who are just two years apart in age, were on opposing sidelines on Oct. 1, 1994, when Farrior was a stud linebacker and future first-round pick from the University of Virginia. Tomlin was a small-school receiver for an undermanned William & Mary team traveling to Charlottesville for Virginia's homecoming.

"They were always our warm-up game, a smiling Farrior said of his coach's former team. "So we really didn't need to spend too much time game planning for them, because it was always a blowout.

"That would be fair, Tomlin shot back. "But tell him to check the highlights, though. I did OK.

Indeed Tomlin, who set a school record with 20 touchdown catches as a three-year starter, did well against elite competition. He had four receptions for 58 yards, but Virginia took an easy 37-3 victory.

Yet, despite the loss, what sticks out most for Tomlin that day was putting a good shot on his future linebacker.

"I do remember a play where [Farrior] picked a ball off that was intended for me about 18 yards down the middle of the field, Tomlin said with pride. "He went back the other way and I jumped in the side of his helmet and got a tackle on him.

Box Score: Farrior vs. Tomlin
On Oct. 1, 1994, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin played against linebacker James Farrior in college. Here is how each player fared:
Player Pos. Team Stats Outcome
Mike Tomlin WR William & Mary 4 catches, 58 yards L, 3-37
James Farrior LB Virginia 2 tackles, INT, pass def. W, 37-3
Source: William & Mary Athletic Department

Farrior finished that game with two tackles, an interception and, most important, a victory. At the time, the two former combatants had no idea they would be integral cogs in leading the Steelers to their second Super Bowl appearance in four seasons. Pittsburgh will play the Arizona Cardinals Feb. 1 at Raymond James Stadium.

Tomlin, 36, has been stellar in two years as Pittsburgh's coach. So far, Tomlin has a better career winning percentage (.688) than his two legendary predecessors, Bill Cowher (.623) and Chuck Noll (.566). Tomlin also is 2-1 in the postseason.

Farrior, 34, is the leading tackler on the Steelers' top-rated defense with 133 and is like a coach on the field for Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

In retrospect, Farrior wishes he would've thumped his future boss when he had the opportunity.

"Oh, I would have crushed him, Farrior said. "I would have tried to take his head off if I would have known this back in the day.

This is part of the good-natured ribbing that goes on between Farrior and Tomlin. The coach and his defensive captain share a unique history not often seen in the NFL, as they occasionally reflect on their playing days together.

Farrior arrived in Pittsburgh in 2002 under Cowher and didn't know much about the team's new coach when Tomlin was hired two years ago, other than their one encounter in college. Farrior also can't recall being coached by someone so close to him in age.

"I thought it was going to be kind of weird when he first got here, Farrior said. "I knew the age difference. So I thought it was kind of funny to just think of my head coach being a year or two older. But once he got here and I saw what type of guy he was, I knew he was the boss. It was pretty easy.

Tomlin's presence commanded respect in the locker room right away. He made it a point to do things his way and quickly won over a team that had been led by Cowher for the past 15 years.

Farrior said his rapport with Tomlin is great. He signed a five-year, $18.25 million extension in August to stay in Pittsburgh, in part because he wanted to remain under Tomlin.

"Him being a head coach here made it that much easier for me to decide, Farrior said.

Close Calls
Here is a look at Pittsburgh's players around the same age as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin (36).
Player Age Pos.
Casey Hampton 31 DT
Fernando Bryant 31 CB
Hines Ward 32 WR
Aaron Smith 32 DE
Chris Hoke 32 DT
Deshea Townsend 33 CB
James Farrior 34 LB
Charlie Batch 34 QB
Travis Kirschke 34 DE
Tyrone Carter 32 S
Mitch Berger 36 P
Orpheus Roye 36 DE

A dozen players, including Farrior, on Pittsburgh's roster are within five years of Tomlin. Some notables include leading receiver Hines Ward (32), veteran cornerback Deshea Townsend (33) and defensive linemen Aaron Smith (32) and Casey Hampton (31). Two players -- punter Mitch Berger (36) and defensive end Orpheus Roye (36) -- are the same age as Tomlin.

"It's nothing new for me. It really isn't, Tomlin said. "When I first got into coaching, I coached at [Virginia Military Institute] and coached three seniors who were my age. When I got my first Division I job, I was 24 or 25 and I had a 23-year-old. I got in the NFL and coached defensive backs, and John Lynch is older than me. It is what it is.

Longtime William & Mary football coach Jimmye Layprofanityfilterprofanityfilterprofanityfilterpr ofanityfilter is proud of his former pupil's transition from small-school receiver to coaching in the Super Bowl. He said Tomlin was always a fiery player who was able to get his teammates ready for practice and games, and that has translated well in preparing the Steelers.

Layprofanityfilterprofanityfilterprofanityfilterpr ofanityfilter keeps in frequent contact with Tomlin and isn't surprised by his success on football's biggest stage.

"When he became a coordinator in the National Football League, I told people it's just a matter of time now before he becomes a head coach, Layprofanityfilterprofanityfilterprofanityfilterpr ofanityfilter said. "His presence, his personality, his intelligence and the way he gets along with people are terrific. And with his leadership, he has a great way of being confident but without being profanityfilterprofanityfilterprofanityfilterprofa nityfiltery in the way he does things.

Pittsburgh Steelers, James Farrior, Mike Tomlin, Super Bowl XLIII

01-23-2009, 06:17 AM
Now that is a cool read on the past with Farrior and Tomlin. Thanks for posting it Mesa. It's funny with Tomlin letting Farrior know about his tackle after James picked off the interception.