Tomlin embraces new role as All Pro Dad
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
Mike Tomlin is the spokesman for the All Pro Dad program, which helps fathers develop better connections with their children.
Click photo for larger image.

Mike Tomlin could have performed a show-and-tell at the news conference yesterday to announce that the Steelers' coach had become a spokesman for All Pro Dad. He could have brought his stepfather to the podium.

"He's probably what defines an All Pro Dad," Tomlin said.

Leslie Copeland, 61, stepped into Tomlin's life 27 years ago and became the rock of a family with a missing part, a dad. The postal worker and former Army man married Tomlin's mother, Julia, and replaced the departed father that Mike Tomlin and his older brother hardly knew.

"He's been a father and then some," Tomlin said. "He's been a best friend."

Tomlin quickly signed up as a spokesman for All Pro Dad in part because the man who has been like a brother to him, Tony Dungy, works for the organization, but mostly to honor his stepfather and show the world how a dad should act.

"There's no question, honoring my stepfather is what drives me in that way," Tomlin said. "What he did for me was unique."

Tomlin learned at a young age what it's like to live without a dad after his parents divorced, and then discovered the joy of having one. That's the goal of All Pro Dad, to encourage fathers to spend more time with their children. Tomlin, 35, and his wife have three young ones.

"Regardless of what we all do for a living, what we're going to leave here is our legacy, our name, our children," Tomlin said. "That is our No. 1 priority, that is my No. 1 priority."

It worked that way for his stepfather, too. Copeland volunteered for the third shift at the Post Office, working 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., so he could coach his son's Little League baseball team.

"He was awesome," Tomlin said. "I always had the best equipment. We probably couldn't afford it. I had a $200 glove -- I had a Wilson A2000 in Little League; that's a legitimate glove. I had the Bike Air football helmets, you name it. Cleats."

Sports was only a part of it, a medium, if you will.

"We did everything together," Tomlin said. "Sports is where we connected, but it took us in so many different directions and so many different topics. He was hands-on and he is to this day. You'll see him in Pittsburgh; he'll be coaching the coach."

Dungy, who gave Tomlin his first NFL job as secondary coach in Tampa Bay in 2001, remains a strong influence on him as well. Tomlin said it was typical of the Colts' head coach that on Tuesday morning after winning the Super Bowl Sunday night, Dungy was driving his kids to school when Tomlin called him.

"I think that's where we all are, that's where we should be," Tomlin said.

"It's been an awesome ride for me here of late professionally ... and it's been fun. But it's simply what I do. Being a husband to my wife, Kiya, and a father to my three children, that's who I am. That's why being associated with All Pro Dad is extremely important to me. I look forward to encouraging other fathers to spend time with their children."

Registration for Tomlin's first event as a spokesman is open for the Steelers All Pro Dad Father & Kids Experience that will be from 9 a.m.-noon June 9 at the UPMC complex. The cost is $10 per father, which includes up to four children, recommended ages of 5 and up. Register at or at 1-800-956-8300.