Tomlin's ties to Cinci
Yesterday, The Cincinnati Enquirer had Ben's picture on the front of the sports section.......and no.......for once it wasn't a picture of him getting sacked by a Bungle. (that's what they usually print). It was all about his maturity and control and had all his awesome stats. (not a thing about their elite qb, though) There's all kind of great stories (even on the radio) about the Steelers and now this one about Tomlin. Not many Bungles jerseys in sight yesterday and the fans just seem resigned to another losing season. There's no fight in them at all. I can tell it's really getting to the Bungle fans..........I have tickets to the game and boy it's not going to be pretty! I can't wait.
Just do me proud, boys!!!! Prove that Denver was a fluke! (or I can't go to work on Monday and I really need my job) :tt02:
It's long, but like most stories about Tomlin, worth the read.
Ties that bind
Steelers coach Tomlin beloved by former UC players
BY JOHN ERARDI | JERARDI@ENQUIRER.COM
When Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin leads his team onto the field at Paul Brown Stadium for the 1 p.m. game at Paul Brown Stadium, razz the heck out of him.
When he throws his hankie to challenge a play on the field, jump up and wave your hands at him derisively, and then boo some more.
And when he decides to go for it on 4th-and-1 – and you just know the risk-loving Tomlin is going to do that at some point – chant “Tom-lin, Tom-lin, Tom-lin!” so vociferously and so obnoxiously that the Steelers offense can’t hear the signals.
You hate the Steelers.
They’ve got the rings.
Take your frustrations out on Tomlin, the latest incarnation of Steelers’ might, only the third Steelers head coach in the last 40 years. First Chuck Noll in 1969, then Bill Cowher in 1992.
And then know this:
Tomlin is not them. He likes Skyline chili, used to hang out in his buddy’s basement in Deer Park, still follows the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, where he coached for two years.
Tomlin, a noted trash-talker in his playing days, would expect you to boo. But don’t expect him to hate you for it.
He used to be one of you.
Bengals cornerback Blue Adams used to play the same position for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, back when Tomlin was the secondary coach there in 1999-2000.
“He was always barking about something, always getting in your your head, always playing with your mind,” Adams remembers. “He knew what made you tick, and he’d push that button. I was the rebellious type.”
Adams recalls committing some transgression that offended Tomlin enough to call out Adams to attended the next morning’s “Dawn Patrol,” which for most transgressors usually involved some variation of running the steps at Nippert Stadium.
“Well, Mike knew I could run those steps all day and all night and it wouldn’t bother me,” Blue remembers. “So he had a little something special cooked up for me: Barrel rolls.”
Get down on the ground here at this goal line and roll like a barrel down to the other goal line..
And so off Adams went.
He didn’t get very far before he threw up – the first time. And he only got another 10 yards before he threw up again.
“And all the while, Mike’s prodding me with his foot, ‘C’mon, c’mon, roll.’.” Blue recalls.
It got Adams’ attention.
Did he ever again draw “Dawn Patrol” duty?
“Not while Mike was there,” Adams remembers.
And what did Adams think when Tomlin left UC for Tampa Bay in the NFL after two years in Clifton, with Adams still having another college season to play?
“I was mad,” Blue says. “I wanted him to stay.”
And what does Blue think of the 35-year-od Steelers coach now, a mere eight years after feeling Tomlin’s wing tips in his side?
“I think he’s a great coach,” Blue says. “I think he could retire from coaching right now, do nothing but teach clinics, and I think he’d make a great living. He’s awesome.”
It’s the fun side of being a college coach, especially a young one. You get close with the other coaches. You hang together. The bond never weakens.
“You don’t hear of the guys at Merrill Lynch getting together like that, but coaches do,” says former UC linebackers coach Greg Hudson, a Moeller and Notre Dame graduate who coached with Tomlin and fellow first-year coach Keith Willis at UC in 1999-2000.
“The Three Amigos,” defensive coordinator Rick Smith called his three young defensive coaches. Smith knew he had it good.
“(Head coach) Rick Minter let us coach the guys up,” Hudson says.
“All those kids needed was for us to coach ’em up and love ’em up,” remembers Willis. “We loved it.”
Back then at UC, there was no telling whom you might be coached by in your four- or five-year career. UC didn’t pay its assistant coaches enough to get them to stay.
That level of coaching instability can harm the potential for consistency in a program, but without that revolving door, maybe Tomlin never shows up there.
“I’d rather have played for Mike Tomlin for only two years than not at all,” is what Blue Adams says.
However many assistants Minter had in his 10 years at UC – and there were many – he probably interviewed two or three times that. More often than not, he found the right guys.
“I could size ’em up pretty quickly,” Minter recalls. “I could usually tell in the first two minutes if I was gonna hire ’em.”
Tomlin was a former wide receiver at William & Mary, where he broke the school records with 20 touchdowns and 20.2 yards per catch, and had coached at Virginia Military Institute, Tennessee-Martin, University of Memphis and Arkansas State before coming to UC.
Not too long after Minter had hired Tomlin as secondary coach, defensive coordinator Smith said to Minter: “This guy’s not going to be here long.”
Tomlin was destined. And everybody knew it.
“I’m not very good at projecting where people are going to wind up three or five or 10 years from now,” said Keith Willis, the former NFL defensive lineman arrived at UC to coach the defensive line at the same time Tomlin arrived.
“(But) I knew from the first day I met him that Mike was going to be a coordinator and then a head coach,” Willis remembers. “I didn’t know where or when, college or pro. But I knew. Not only did he know the X’s and O’s, he had incredible focus. He knew what he wanted in life.
“I remember him saying more than once, ‘I don’t want to be around people who don’t want me to do well.’ I’m the same way. People like that scare me But Mike was the first one I’d heard articulate it that way. He’s positive, energetic, and he doesn’t want anybody slowing him down.”
Tomlin said he treasured his time in Clifton.
“It was an awesome time to be at UC,” Tomlin recalls. “Just like every step along the way, I learned a lot from the people I worked with. I had a great time there.”
Willis remembers the lunchtime basketball games at UC.
“Let’s go Big Sweat, I’m going to kick your (butt),’.” Tomlin would say to Willis, who had played 12 years at defensive tackle in the NFL, in those 2-on-2 games.
“Don’t even start,” Willis would respond, “Been there, done that.’.”
Linebackers coach Greg Hudson always chose Tomlin as his teammate in those rough games because he knew Tomlin was never intimidated.
He felt the same way with Tomlin on the football sideline.
“There wasn’t anybody in that athletic department who could beat us in basketball,” Hudson says.
Back in those days, Hudson, a high school All-American at Moeller who played his college ball at Notre Dame, had three young children (4, 3 and 1). Tomlin and wife, Kiya, a former gymnast at William & Mary, had just had a baby, their first of three.
Together, Tomlin and Willis and Hudson – “The Three Amigos” – would hang out in Hudson’s basement in Deer Park with their families and play games and laugh it up.
“Before long, the babies would just start flying around,” Hudson recalls.
“I was afraid my wife was going to get pregnant just sitting there,” Willis remembers. “And I didn’t want that. We already had two kids in high school.”
Tomlin’s eyes light up when he hears such reminiscences.
“I enjoyed my time in Cincinnati,” he says. “My wife and I, we loved living in the city. There’s nothing like going to get a five-way at Skyline. We have some great memories and good friends there. It will be good to be back in the city.”
Tomlin is known as “a players’ coach,” but he’s also a coaches’ coach. He stays in touch. If you call somebody who’s coached with Tomlin anywhere along the way, it’s guaranteed they’ve heard from him in the last month.
Re: Tomlin's ties to Cinci
At UC, Tomlin would always joke around with Hudson’s brother in law, Dave, who loved football so much that he would hang out on the sideline making sure Hudson’s telephone cords didn’t get tangled, just to be close to the action.
“There are three things Mike always asks me right off the bat when he calls,” Hudson says. “He asks, ‘How’s your dad, how’s your family and how’s Cord-Guy Dave?’.”
What else does Tomlin say to Willis?
“He says, ‘Big Sweat, let’s go,’.” Willis says.
And how does Willis respond?
“I say, ‘Don’t even start.’.”
“You see that designation in my title, defensive coordinator?” Rick Smith would ask his three young defensive coaches at UC.
“Well, that’s what I do – I coordinate. You guys coach. So go do it.”
Tomlin, Willis and Hudson were young, smart and good.
“I had something special,” recalls Smith, now a defensive coach at East Carolina. “Rick (Minter) let me coordinate, and I let my guys coach.”
In his first year at UC, the pass defense went from 111th in the country in 1998 to 61st in 1999. The Bearcats upset then-No. 9 Wisconsin 17-12 in Cincinnati and gave Ohio State a great run at the Horseshoe in Columbus, leading 17-3 before succumbing 34-20.
The Bearcats then beat archrival Miami 52-42 in Oxford.
Back then, future Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t yet at Miami.
“I kid him about that,” Roethlisberger says. “We have a good time with it.”
He and Tomlin made a personal bet this year on the UC-Miami game. Tomlin won again.
In Tomlin’s second and final year at UC, the Bearcats were fourth in the country in takeaways, shocked Syracuse on a last-second field goal, took Wisconsin to overtime in Madison and again blasted Miami, 45-15, to start a four-game winning streak.
The Bearcats came out of nowhere to win the conference, finished 7-5, and played in the Motor City Bowl.
“Back then, it was one of those places in college football where it was similar to the pro game, in that Conference USA was a bunch of upstart programs,” Tomlin said. “You stepped in stadiums, and anybody was capable of winning. If nothing else, it shaped my mindset in terms of dealing with what [the NFL] was about – the awesome parity.
“There were no heavy favorites in Conference USA. The Louisvilles, the Memphises, the Southern Misses, all of those teams were capable of beating one another, as were we. It made for exciting football and I loved it.”
Tomlin and his two amigos developed a fearsome repuation among UC players.
“Much as I loved our defense,” recalled former quarterback Deontey Kenner, “I remembered thinking, ‘I’m glad I’m not on defense.’ Their coaches worked them to death. On the other hand, I was probably a little envious.”
Adams remembers the dreaded “E.D.D.’s” – Tomlin’s “Every Day Drills,” which required players to repeat over and over the footwork and moves they would need to execute in the game – like they happened yesterday.
“Mike broke out his EDD’s in that first day of practice at UC, and within 15 minutes we were totally drained, no good for the whole rest of practice,” Blue remembers.
“Contagious discipline,” is the original phrase UC defensive back Tinker Keck uses to describe Tomlin.
“You could see that Coach Tomlin had that discipline in his life, and you wanted it,” Keck said. “We loved him.”
When Steelers kicker Jeff Reed hit three field goals against San Francisco in a victory at Heinz Field several weeks ago, Tomlin singled out Reed after the game in a way few NFL coaches would. Tomlin’s praise was deep and personal.
“Some coaches are out to give kickers a hard time,” Reed says. “Mike has gone out of his way to make me feel as much a part of this team as anybody.
“I’m a joking and sarcastic person, and so is he. There’ve been times in practice where he’ll say, ‘Jeff, do you want to kick with the wind today?’ I’ll say, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ and he’ll say, ‘No, no, we’re not gonna do that!’ I’ll go from way up here to way down here. It’s his way of keeping me loose, but it also keeps me involved, on my toes. With him, you gotta be ready for anything.”
Like the time during Tomlin’s now infamous Stalag 17 training camp that had the Steelers players longing for the departed Cowher. During one of those sessions, Tomlin announced to the team that if Reed – who was then new to the team – could kick a 42-yard field goal, practice would end on the spot, 30 minutes early.
“If I missed it, it was gonna be worse than missing one in a game – my teammates would have killed me,” Reed says. “I made it, and everybody loved that. It was his way of getting me oriented to the team more quickly. That’s the way he thinks things through. Everything he does is with a purpose.”
It is remarkable how little Tomlin has changed since his UC days. His Steelers players and coaches say the same thing about him as did their counterparts in Clifton.
“He brings an energy, and he brings it continually all day long,” marvels the Steelers’ Alan Faneca.
Faneca, like Blue Adams eight years ago, had to be won over.
“Mike is always upbeat,” the All-Pro guard says. “It’s one of the best things he does. We love that about him.”
Enquirer staff writer Mark Curnutte contributed to this story.
Re: Tomlin's ties to Cinci
Re: Tomlin's ties to Cinci
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