Merry Christmas, 2010
To celebrate Christmas, I am sharing my Christmas Day columns, a tradition that started in 1996. Here is the 2010 version:
A Christmas story, every year: The crusty old coach gathers his players each December.
He’s usually barking instructions about the zone blitz, the defense he virtually invented, or how to stop the world’s best offenses.
There are no softies who make a 38-year career out of coaching in the NFL. Not a lot of softies who played college football for Woody Hayes and then 14 years in the pros, making 62 interceptions.
He’s a humble guy who doesn’t like the spotlight. Except every Christmas, when he gathers his troops in the locker room and, from memory, recites “The Night Before Christmas.”
And some of the toughest players in sport sit transfixed as their leader starts off. “Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house …”
Now maybe you know why guys like Troy Polamalu and James Harrison will run through fire for Dick LeBeau.
A Christmas story, mid-1980s: The kid was six years old, maybe seven, and a sports nut. Football mostly.
But instead of a helmet or a jersey or a ball, this Christmas he got something else.
A whistle. Matching coaching shorts and shirt. Astro-turf shoes. A painted locker, to sit down in the basement.
Years later, when he was a coach on the field, and then a virtual coaching prodigy, those days growing up in Middle America came full circle.
For it certainly seems that the coaching life was meant for Josh Heupel.
A Christmas story, mid-1990s: The whole family made the decision. In lieu of presents, they would go snow skiing in Colorado.
Snow skiing was fun. The scariest part was the lifts. Our man didn’t like the lifts.
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