Monday, January 26, 2009

What motivated him was the desire to teach and to learn had a good article recently about former Steelers coach and Hall of Famer Chuck Noll, the only coach in NFL history to win four Super Bowls.

[Chuck Noll, center, with Steelers assistants Tony Dungy, left, and Tom Moore, who would serve as Coach Dungy's offensive coordinator in Indianapolis.]

The story provides some good insight into Coach Noll's psyche. According to a former Steelers PR man, "his sole interest was coaching football. He wasn't interested in extraneous stuff. If Chuck had his way, after the game on Sundays he would've just packed his briefcase, taken a shower and gone home without doing any interviews."

Another Steelers employee described Coach Noll as "an unusual guy. One week he'd be taking lessons for golf, and the next week he'd be learning how to buy a boat and take it down South. He was a man for all seasons."

Steelers LB Andy Russell, who played for the Steelers in the '60s and '70s, remembers a frank conversation Coach Noll had with him:

"I've been watching game film, Russell," Noll told him. "I don't like the way you play. You're too aggressive. You're too out of control. You're too impatient, trying to be a hero. I'm going to change the way you play. You're going to be a lot different in your 30s than your 20s."

Russell would serve as a Steelers captain for 10 years and played in seven Pro Bowls, including six straight from 1970-75.

According to Russell, Coach Noll "had a rare eye for talent, and his 1974 draft class had four future Hall of Famers. But the image many players have is of Noll staying after practice, working with confused rookies who had little chance of making the roster."

"He would teach new draft choices who were All-American guards how to get in a stance," Russell says. "He'd have them start all over. He told me I should move my foot back two inches and maybe an inch wider. He was into an enormous amount of detail."

As the writer for ESPN describes it, "That's what Noll liked to do the most -- get down in a stance and teach. He spent the first 30 minutes of every practice working on tackling and blocking, things many of his players learned in high school. He was the college professor with the 20-page syllabus. Noll made his players study each opponent's tendencies from the past five years."

Coach Noll's son, Chris, himself a teacher, says his father was a teacher -- and a student -- at heart.

"What motivated him was the desire to teach, to learn," Chris says. "He was almost depressed after a Super Bowl win because it was over. It was the process that was exciting, that stimulated him."

[Thank you, Mario, for pointing more toward this story. Growing up in the '70s, I really admired Coach Noll. If you're interested, SI did a nice story about Coach Noll a couple of years ago that's worth reading.]