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Old 07-23-2007, 06:01 PM   #1
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Default As a coach, Tomlin has the gift

I know, I know........another "Tomlin walks on water" article............

With our spirits so high today with Troy's signing and training camp beginning, I just know you'll forgive me.

You have to admit, the guy has a great story.........and you gotta love the college 'do!!

It seems he's told his mom that he'll win the Superbowl........and since he hasn't let her down yet, me thinks we got ourselves a winner!

As a coach, Tomlin is said to have the gift
Always a student of the game, the new Steelers head coach discovered early on that a career in coaching, not law, would be his ticket to success
Monday, July 23, 2007

By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- OK, so 23 miles from home isn't such a great escape.

After stowing recruiting letters from almost every Ivy League school into his autobiographical photo album, after receiving commissions to West Point and Annapolis, Mike Tomlin decided to take up the Division I-AA offer of the football-rich, three-century-old college up Interstate 64 in Williamsburg: The College of William & Mary.

"He didn't have a whole lot of stats" with the mediocre, run-oriented Denbigh High Patriots, recalled recruiter Matt Kelchner, now the coach at Newport News' Christopher Newport University. But Kelchner and William & Mary coaches liked his athletic ability (Tomlin also was a triple jumper), his transcript, his family and the fact that every one in Denbigh's hallways liked Mike. The Georgian-style school, in turn, provided him with the right academic-athletic mix. Between his coiffure and his car, he made a statement.

"That high-top, Gumby fade he had going on," Terry Hammons of Upper St. Clair described, in between laughs, of the "House Party 2" 'do worn by his friend, frat brother and fellow receiver.

Tomlin tooled around in a 1979 Toyota Celica with as much red primer on it as red paint, delivering pizzas for the two local shops that eventually employed every William & Mary football player. He got a job as well at campus hot spot Paul's Deli, where he worked the door checking IDs in exchange for his favorite heated sandwiches of roast beef, turkey and bacon. "And that SOB could eat three of them," fondly remembered owner Peter Tsipas, whose wall of fame currently displays two separate photographs of Tomlin -- as a 1994 senior co-captain and last summer as former Tribe teammate Darren Sharper's boss and Minnesota defensive coordinator.

Back in the day, there also was his affinity for a certain afternoon television soap opera. Hammons said, "He'd get to meetings barely on time, and ultimately resorted to taping 'All My Children.' "

Tomlin, Hammons and Montour's Corey Ludwig closely watched football game tapes, too. They studied depth charts. After playing against a jawing Samford team coached by Terry Bowden, now an ABC commentator, the Tribe receivers picked up a new tactic: They yakked.

They administered constant verbal attacks on a certain young star cornerback, Tomlin calling out the kid in one-on-one drills: "Shah-puhhh, Shah-puhhh, I'm next. Get to the head of the line." Or he and Hammons bemoaned to their contending cornerbacks how they could never find those guys' names on the opponent's depth chart -- a cutting remark that a former Harvard player recently related bothers him still. After his third touchdown reception in a game against Maine, Tomlin asked the secondary, "Don't you guys watch tape? I run this route all the time." Little digs.

"We were goofy," Hammons said. They were football savvy, too.

They often were asked by coach Jimmye Lay**** about what they saw in the defenses, what plays in their pro-style offense might work, and they were often spot on. "They understood the game. Studied the game. Made suggestions," said Zbig Kepa, their receivers coach.

Pro football remained the dream. Tomlin put himself on track. He amassed 101 receptions and 2,046 yards and 20 touchdowns and a school-record career average of 20.2 yards per catch.

"He turned himself into quite the physical specimen there," Hammons said.

He became a 6-2, 205-pound receiver with a 40-inch vertical leap , a 4.4-second-plus time in the 40-yard dash and, eventually, workout interest from Cleveland, San Francisco and teams in the CFL where his birth father once played. Before Tomlin graduated in May 1995, a semester ahead of his mother who in his freshman year started at Christopher Newport part-time, he realized playing in the pros wasn't in his long-term future. William & Mary assistant Dan Quinn, now the New York Jets' defensive line coach, took a job with Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., and recommended that Tomlin follow.

Career Day
Feb. 17, 1995
Dear Coach Stewart,
Through our mutual acquaintance, coach Dan Quinn, I have learned of a possible opening in your staff. ... I am extremely eager to pursue a career in coaching. ... Very truly yours, Michael P. Tomlin.

Bill Stewart, previously an assistant at William & Mary and currently assistant head coach to West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez, was impressed by Tomlin's springtime tryout as a graduate assistant. The profession fit.

"Some guys ask me about coaching, I would say, 'Why? With this degree you'll be making six figures in a few years,' " said Kepa, the William & Mary receivers coach. "I knew it would be the ticket for him. Just how he was as a player. How he was as a person."

His mother almost wanted to punch something, and it wasn't a ticket.

"He told me he wanted to be a coach, and I just went ballistic," Julia Copeland began, raising her voice a dozen years later all over again. " 'We sent you to William & Mary, and you want to coach? What are you talking about?' He said, 'Well, I got a plan. I got to start somewhere, and I'm going to start at VMI.' I was really upset. I didn't want him to coach; I wanted him to go out and get a real job. 'How much does that pay you?' 'Just a stipend.' 'What is a stipend?' "

It's a fancy word for $12,000 -- "I don't think I even paid him that much," joked Stewart -- and too much work. This at a military school with no women students and a single-men's dorm, where he resided.

"He was like a 30-year-old then," Stewart said. "He coached like he played: He coached with a passion. ... He wanted them to be tenacious, physical. The kid was born to coach. Born to teach."

In 1996, shortly after she graduated, William & Mary gymnast Kiya Winston and Mike were married. "How are you going to support a wife on a stipend?" his mother asked. No matter, for VMI was but a stepping-stone.

Tomlin made four football moves in four years.

"Every time he'd go to the coaches' convention," his mother said, "he'd come back with a different job."

From VMI he went to Memphis, directed by Rip Scherer, who coached against him in college at James Madison and who is cousin to Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

"After my first year at Memphis, I ran into him at the coaches convention," Scherer said. "He was going to get out of coaching at that time. He was going to go to law school. I said, 'Mike, if you [stay in coaching], you could be the type of guy who's in the NFL by 30.' And he made it by 29."

From Memphis Tomlin went to Division I-AA Tennessee-Martin for, well, only a few minutes, following ex-Memphis assistant Jim Marshall there. He quickly landed at I-A Arkansas State.

From Arkansas State he went to Cincinnati, where he transformed the previous 111th-ranked pass defense to 61st in 1999, then to fourth in total takeaways in 2000. This was where his mother, after years of freely dispensing advice, finally noticed that "apparently, he might have a clue at what he's doing."

"About Michael's so-called plan for coaching in the NFL," Copeland continued. "When he was at Arkansas State, he told me, 'Mom, I got a plan. By the time I'm 35, I'm going to be an NFL head coach.' ... And I kind of laughed.

"Guess what? He was 34. You know he's going to remind me of that the rest of my life."
"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."

Last edited by stillers4me; 07-23-2007 at 06:57 PM.
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