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Deb
07-22-2007, 11:05 AM
Mike Tomlin: A man of his words
First of two parts
LINK (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07203/803522-66.stm)
Sunday, July 22, 2007
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- This is the book on the new Steelers head coach.

It is an unpretentious, red-covered photo album. He picked the photographs and wrote the red-ink captions, including the description in his second album proclaiming: Greatest Runner on Earth.

"This boy ... he's sick. I'd never even read this book," his amused mother, Julia Copeland, was saying a month ago from her kitchen table.

This is a book about football and how it has molded my character, reads the hand-printed opening page.

Michael Pettaway Tomlin
3-15-72

The albums ended with his playing days, but new chapters in his football career continue to be written. He keeps logs of every coaching practice and game through his collegiate and National Football League sojourn. He's always read, from summer afternoons at the Boys and Girls Club to the National Honor Society in high school to his five years at the College of William and Mary to today.

"He is extremely well read," said Pro Bowl safety and Stanford graduate John Lynch, "and not just about football."

In a realm of sideline screamers and an alphabet consisting mostly of X's and O's, Mike Tomlin is a man of, for and about words.

Speaking them. Reading them. Jotting them down.

Carrying them out.

"He keeps old Franklin planners," explained his big brother, Ed Tomlin. "He's just meticulous like that. Details. He's a very creative guy and writes down everything. Probably has a photographic mind, too."

"Mike, he exhibited an aptitude . . . early on," added close friend and college teammate Terry Hammons, an Upper St. Clair native. But, he added, "he doesn't talk about how intelligent he is."

Talk? For the longest time, he didn't want it whispered, written or otherwise communicated publicly. His mother got one of those "Proud Parent of an Honor Student" bumper stickers from Denbigh High, and he ripped it right off her car.

"He didn't want anybody to know he was smart or making good grades. He wanted to be a Regular Old Joe Football Player like the rest of the kids, so they wouldn't call him a nerd," Mrs. Copeland recalled. "And he kept it well hidden ... until his junior year, he made straight A's, and they put it in the Newport News paper. So he was out of the closet then."

In his junior and senior years at Denbigh High, quietly tucked among the Geography Olympiad, Boys State and the Honor Society, he participated in a scholarly competition called Odyssey of the Mind. He and a half-dozen fellow students finished second in the state championship one year, yet he strived to maintain the strictest privacy about it -- swearing his teacher and partners to secrecy -- which isn't easy in a school of 2,000 or so.

Still, most of his football teammates didn't know. One of his favorite teachers, who taught him technical drawing, had no idea about this Odyssey of the Mind business for more than 17 years. Milton Cary paused last month and admitted, "He kept it a secret from me, too."

Bill Cowher's replacement tomorrow steps into the harsh sunlight of Steelers expectation, his coaching acumen front and center. He is a man taking over a team that won a Super Bowl 17 months earlier. He is a man arising from college-coaching backwaters and just one season as an NFL coordinator to become only the third Steelers head coach in nearly four decades.

He is the man who tomorrow afternoon, on Chuck Noll Field at St. Vincent College, opens his inaugural Steelers training camp and 2007 season with a rigorous conditioning test whose particulars he hoped to keep "something of a surprise."

There are words and images, unspoken and unseen previously around Pittsburgh, that reveal the man and provide a window on his makeup, his character, and his fast track to this high profile job at the age of 34.

Stories about how he came from a single-parent household where they played cards for recreation because they couldn't find the money for much else.

http://www.post-gazette.com/images4/20070722CF_TOMLINmike_230.jpg
Mike Tomlin during his college days at William and Mary in Virginia. He was co-captain of the team.
Click photo for larger image.


About the birth father he never knew and the stepfather, Leslie Copeland, whose coaching and nurturing developed into his stepson's involvement in All-Pro Dads.

About the growth in every direction from a 5-foot-3, 109-pound wisp of a high-school freshman.

About the trash-talking, passionate, intuitive receiver upon whom his college coaches relied.

About the keen football mind nudged into coaching against the wishes of his skeptical mother -- by her recounting, "I just went ballistic."

About his second thoughts, after his first college-coaching season, that maybe he should forget football and go to law school.

About the energetic young assistant welcomed into the successful NFL family of mentors and head coaches -- Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards.

These tales of Mike Tomlin all reach the same sort of ending: He's a man of his word.

"He already told me he was winning the Super Bowl," said Mrs. Copeland, and what son would fib to his mother? " 'I will be hoisting that trophy, and I won't be patient about doing it, either.'

"Those were his words."

After years of small doubts, she has learned to believe.

"Because everything you've said so far," she told him after he was hired as the Steelers coach in January, "you've done it."

DIESELMAN
07-22-2007, 12:19 PM
Nice read Deb :bigthumb: Like a lot of people have already said...The more I read about Tomlin, the more I like him.


These tales of Mike Tomlin all reach the same sort of ending: He's a man of his word.

"He already told me he was winning the Super Bowl," said Mrs. Copeland, and what son would fib to his mother? " 'I will be hoisting that trophy, and I won't be patient about doing it, either.'

"Those were his words."


I especially like that. :bigthumb:

Ambridge
07-23-2007, 10:10 AM
I kind of find it amusing that Mike Tomlin and Mike "Scum" Vick are both from Newport News, Virginia.
Talk about a huge contrast in comparisons!!

floodcitygirl
07-23-2007, 10:31 AM
Looking forward to him proving himself right! Good article. :bigthumb:

AZ_Steeler
07-23-2007, 12:45 PM
Wow!!! I had no idea he was a smart guy :dunno: Makes me like him even more :bigthumb:

BlitzburghNation
07-23-2007, 12:57 PM
good read deb~~~:bigthumb:

I am so :ktrain: for season to start,so we can :greenkick: the rest of the league's ~~~~~ :moon:

Captcoolhand
07-23-2007, 01:07 PM
Wow!!! I had no idea he was a smart guy :dunno: Makes me like him even more :bigthumb::ditto: