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fordfixer
07-15-2009, 10:27 AM
Mike Tomlin helps his hometown
David Teel

July 10, 2009

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/d ... 847.column (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/dp-spt_teel_0710jul10,0,6248847.column)

HAMPTON

Mike Tomlin couldn't hope to acknowledge every text. His Pittsburgh Steelers had just won the most dramatic Super Bowl ever, and his phone was buzzing non-stop.

But this message demanded a prompt response. No matter his fatigue, the predawn hour or sleepless day ahead.

"How can we make the camp bigger?" Tomlin replied to Carl Francis, his Peninsula comrade.

Francis, the founder of the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation, marveled at the generosity. Mere hours after the fact, Tomlin wanted his success to benefit Francis' annual football camp at Christopher Newport University.

Those dividends were realized Thursday night as the HRYF staged its most successful fundraiser, a "Tailgate with Tomlin" at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.

More than 500 fans, many dressed in Steelers black and gold, paid $25 a head to applaud Tomlin, snap photos, acquire autographs and chow on burgers. And while beyond appreciative of the support, Tomlin, as usual, squirmed in the spotlight.

"I could leave this," he said before greeting the masses. "I don't play football. I coach it. I'm not an entertainer. I'd prefer to keep a low profile, but I know in my position that's impossible. For the most part, I'm a husband and father of three."

Yet Tomlin gladly appeared for one reason: to help his friend help the hometowns they both cherish.

Tomlin hails from Newport News and Denbigh High, Francis from Hampton and Bethel High. They didn't meet until 2001, when Tomlin became a Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach.

Francis, the communications director for the NFL Players Association, told Tomlin about his foundation and camp. Tomlin has been a fervent benefactor since.

"I never need to have a car waiting for him at the airport or a suite waiting for him at the hotel," Francis said.

Indeed, Tomlin is as comfortable with limos as he is fourth-and-15. He was perfectly content Thursday in a polo shirt and faded jeans, and he'll be happier yet today when he's on the field with campers at CNU.

This was not some cameo for Tomlin, you see. As in past years, he'll be mixing it up with the kids.

"We get to put some T-shirts on, sweat a little bit and talk a little trash," Tomlin said with a broad smile. "I appreciate (Carl) allowing me to come in and be a part of this."

The youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl he turned 37 in March Tomlin worked the convention center like a pro. Francis hired security guards, complete with sidearms, who squired Tomlin from room-to-room, from television camera-to-television camera.

Tomlin backslapped sponsors and embraced old friends such as his college coach, William and Mary's Jimmye Laycock. He also took time for a special-needs child.

Miles Harris is 13 and attends special-education classes in Newport News. His grandfather, Edward East, won a Daily Press contest for an all-expenses-paid trip to Steelers training camp next month.

Miles beamed when their names were announced, and again when Tomlin greeted him in a VIP room.

"The great thing about young people is they have pure dreams," Tomlin said. "I was one of those kids."

A kid who never realized his dream of playing in the NFL but rose to unimaginable heights nonetheless. It is a lesson Tomlin imparts to young and old alike.

As he often tells his team: "Keep it simple, grounded and selfless."

That message becomes more important after a championship, when distractions and satisfaction can interfere with the season ahead.

Tomlin opens his third training camp as the Steelers' head coach July 31. The team returns the core of last season's champions after re-signing outside linebacker James Harrison, the 2008 NFL defensive player of the year, to a $51 million contract.

Considering that Harrison returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in the Super Bowl, on the first half's final play no less, he's worth every dime.

The Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals that evening, 27-23, on a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining. Tomlin's life hasn't been the same since, evidenced by the diamond-studded championship ring he allowed select friends to try on Thursday.

Only six coaches Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Jimmy Johnson, Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichick have won consecutive Super Bowls, but please don't talk to Tomlin about repeating just yet.

"I'll be ready on the 31st," he said. "I'm not ready today. I've got some daddy-ing to do."

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.

motter1975
07-15-2009, 01:28 PM
How did I miss this??? I live down by that...would have gone in a heartbeat! :evil: