Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One coach's "eerie ability to see everything at once"

Over the holiday, I had the chance to read Bill Curry's new book "Ten Men You Meet in the Huddle." Coach Curry, who is now at Georgia State, was the starting center for the Packers in Super Bowl I.

He also started for the Colts in Super Bowl V, so he played with some of the all-time greats and played for both Vince Lombardi and Don Shula.

A couple of highlights from the book:

-- "What professional football players want most from their coaches is what Red Miller was selling. We want to improve. We want to learn from somebody who knows more that we do. We want an encourager."

-- "The No. 1 theme of training camp with the Green Bay Packers was this: Stay the course. So that there was no limit to what inner strength you would find, what resources you would tap, what heights you could achieve."

-- "A real leader understands how to impose his will. Coach Lombardi was the best I have ever seen at sniffing out moments when discipline might be slipping. He warned us -- he promised us -- that he intended to use fear if he sensed complacency or felt us losing concentration on details, and then kept his promise."

-- "[Coach Lombardi] was alert to tiny errors, things most coaches miss. We bought into his eerie ability to see everything at once. Each guy had a different way to process the tension, but it was a force in every mind."

-- "Bottom line: A true leader must believe with all his heart that he's right. And Vince Lombardi believed in himself."

-- "Coach Don Shula could turn the tiniest spark of a player's desire to contribute into a flame."

-- "The man at the helm in our sport -- the play-caller -- inspires something with every word he speaks, with his body language, and with his eyes. He also brings a track record into each huddle. His history steps in beside him. We popped up to the ball because we knew that with John Unitas at the helm, we were going to win."

-- "Under Don Shula, football had been full of joy and fun, the polar opposite of the deadly serious, tension-filled existence I had known under Vince Lombardi. I have tried to employ Don Shula's approach to the game from that day to this. My appreciation for what he taught me is boundless."

-- "Coach Shula built our team by force of personal will, by building personal relationships with each team member, and by allowing autonomy to his staff."

-- "The key to John Unitas' greatness, in my view, came from somewhere inside his soul, from his utter, absolute confidence that he would find a way to beat you."

-- "[Unitas] loved every tiny, obscure, mundane detail of the game he played at the highest level for 17 years as a Baltimore Colt. He loved everything about professional football from the first moment he saw it and felt it. He is the only football player I have ever known who loved, even craved, every sordid detail of our existence."

-- "Unitas' mantra before every game: 'Talk's cheap. Let's go play.'"