View Full Version : Who's 'that' guy? Pittsburgh's steely, stirring head coach

01-23-2011, 08:35 AM
Who's 'that' guy? Pittsburgh's steely, stirring head coach
Posted to: Sports Tom Robinson

Pittsburgh Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin during his days at the College of William and Mary. (Courtesy The College of William and Mary)

The Virginian-Pilot
January 23, 2011

Back at William and Mary, Mike Tomlin was "that" guy.

That guy at the early morning winter workouts who wouldn't sit down or shut up. That guy who wouldn't let the other football players shirk, shrug or goof off when it came to their sprints and bench presses.

That guy who became the team leader - and as a senior, team captain - not just by designation, but by that default instinct all athletes know and feel.

A college football program needs that guy.

Turns out, pro football organizations need that guy as much and more, considering how much rampant egos and vaults of money infect the workplace.

Tomlin is that guy for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I respected Mike and followed him. I'd have followed him anywhere," Terry Hammons - a former Tribe receiver who succeeded Tomlin as captain in 1994 - said from Allentown, Pa., where he's an executive with Air Products.

"Mike has a charismatic quality to him that just makes people want to listen, pay attention and sit up and hear what he has to say."

Tomlin, 38, in his fourth season as the Steelers head coach, needs to say something especially good tonight: his team plays the New York Jets in Pittsburgh at 6:30 for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

The sixth-seeded Jets won 22-17 at Heinz Field four weeks ago. And while the second-seeded Steelers were lucky to get past turnover-happy Baltimore last week, the Jets are killing it right now.

In two playoff road games, coach Rex Ryan's tough-talking squad dumped Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, and then took the pelts of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, whose 14-2 regular-season record was the NFL's best.

The Steelers may falter on the field, but nobody doubts Tomlin, who attended Denbigh High in Newport News, will meet the pre-game oratorical challenge asked of the best leaders.

Sure, Tomlin has always had that in him. But still, Hammons is quick to admit he still finds it bizarre that his teammate and frat brother - Kappa Alpha Psi - answers to "Super Bowl winning coach."

That Tomlin, who led Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl title two years ago, does it while coaching Hammons' hometown team? Well, throw another log onto Hammons' surreal bonfire.

"I remember when I first went to the Steelers complex about a month after he got the job," Hammons said. "Mike said, 'Terry, two or three times a day I'm at my desk and I say to myself, 'Wow, I'm the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.' "

Hammons laughs at that memory. "I'm getting a little more used to it now," he said. "But at times, yeah, it's weird."

The irony is during college, Hammons had no clue Tomlin wanted to coach - until soon after he graduated and showed up at Hammons apartment with the news he was receivers coach at Virginia Military Institute.

Fast forward six years to 2001 when Tony Dungy, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, pored through a dozen candidates looking for a defensive backs coach. Suddenly, that guy who was the d-backs coach at the University of Cincinnati walked in, sat down and dropped jaws.

It's an old story, Hammons says. "After Mike leaves, everybody in the room is just like, 'That's the guy!'

"Everything you heard about him after that was nothing but positive. So after his first season with Tampa Bay, it really to me was sort of a foregone conclusion that he'd be a head coach."

It's interesting to watch Tomlin the head coach conduct a news conference. As in those 6 a.m. William and Mary workouts, he's no-nonsense and prickly when annoyed; Tomlin barked at an ESPN reporter this week for supposedly tipping inside information from a practice.

Following iron-chinned Bill Cowher, Tomlin has seemed the right guy with the right team from the start. That guy with piercing eyes who knows what to say - Tomlin's players are always his "men" - and when to say it.

Another close William and Mary contemporary, Steve Cole, can tell you about that. Cole, now the school's associate athletic director, was the Tribe's athletic trainer the day Tomlin spied a gymnast, Kiya Winston, across Cole's training room and approached.

"Mike tells the story better than me," Cole said, "but he saw Kiya over there reading the paper. He went over and asked her if he could borrow the sports page."

Three Tomlin-Winston children and a Steelers' Super Bowl trophy later, Hammons - who watched his friend's thrilling journey from Williamsburg to the heights of the NFL - remains impressed.

"I don't know if I could ever have become more of a Pittsburgh Steelers fan," Hammons said, "but since Mike's become head coach, I really think I am."

Tom Robinson, (757) 446-2518, tom.robinson@pilotonline.com

01-23-2011, 08:54 AM
Its an amazing ascension from William & Mary to head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has all the qualities that you would want in a head coach and a man who you want to lead your team out onto the field every Sunday. And those press conferences of his, you better not mess around, he gets right to the point and onto the next question. I hope to watch him on the sidelines for us for many years to come.

01-23-2011, 09:20 AM
Having a great coach is easy to take for granted with the historical success of this team... but I thank God at least a dozen times a season for gracing us with Mike Tomlin. He's more than just a coach because his demeanor and approach can be taken into virtually any venture and help ensure the right focus and success.

01-23-2011, 09:24 AM
Having a great coach is easy to take for granted with the historical success of this team... but I thank God at least a dozen times a season for gracing us with Mike Tomlin. He's more than just a coach because his demeanor and approach can be taken into virtually any venture and help ensure the right focus and success.

Could not agree more, hes one of those people who has a vision in his mind and goes out and actually delivers on it. As you alluded to, he could be successful in any career or venture he went into w/ the focus and demeanor he has.