from homelessness to success

From Peter King’s Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback column several weeks ago, I’ve got a little piece of the article pulled out for a random article here on brip blap, and I don’t know if the fact it’s a football-related piece will appeal or repel … but give it a chance and enjoy, anyway.


If you weren’t rooting for the interim San Francisco coach against Arizona in the meaningless game of the weekend, you should have been. He was the defensive line coach of the Niners when Mike Singletary got fired last week, and when the Niners picked him to finish out the final game of the season, all of the Bay Area asked, "Who’s he?” A football junkie, that’s who, who never took no for an answer to a career he just had to have.

Looking for a coaching job when an assistant strength coach job at Charleston Southern dried up in 1995, he moved home to Pittsburgh. No football team was hiring. He cleaned floors at a department store, then worked as a sales rep for a food distributor. Hired as a lowly volunteer assistant at Catawba (N.C.) in 1997, he sold carpeting to get by and lived in his car because he couldn’t afford housing. Hs reputation as a defensive line technician got him a gig in NFL Europe, which he held ’til 2006. The Niners hired him for Mike Nolan’s staff in 2007. "I’m a football coach,” he said last week. "I’m Jim Nobody from Nowhere. I keep my spoon in my soup. I don’t eat anybody else’s soup. I just do my job.”

West Coast scribes heard a collection of those gems last week. The Niners consider him a long-termer, and they hope the next coach hires him to stay on. It was fun to watch him Sunday. The FOX cameras caught him smiling more than the rest of the coaches in the league smiled all season, collectively. And his team-for-a-game rewarded him with a 38-7 rout of the Cards, many players hugging him afterward, thrilled for him. "At least they didn’t throw me in the trash can,” he said.

Pressed to talk about how he felt and what was going through the mind of a guy who lived in his car for weeks so that he could VOLUNTEER to coach football, he said, "It was just — that was just football, and you see those guys with smiles on their faces, and that’s — pure football, and just playing football and having fun and going through, you know … One football game is like an entire life. The ups, the downs, the turns, the curves, you know, you go through all of these things through a whole game and the team has to do it together and stay together, you know. So, I’d really just like to talk about what these guys accomplished today."

I thought that was an awesome piece from King.  It’s easy to get weepy for these "extreme" stories of last-to-first, and why not?  We loved the ’91 Braves, the ’99 Rams, the Paul Potts; all of the people who came from nowhere to become famous or successful.  It appeals to the best desires, I think, in most of us – to see people improve their lot in life, to hope for the same ourselves and (I hope) to generally rejoice in the success of others.  Let us hope.

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