As expected, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the recent and sudden Sunday morning passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake at the age of 62 during a Tuesday morning press conference and he did so eloquently and with deep respect.
“Obviously, we’re all devastated by that,” Tomlin said of Drake’s Sunday morning passing at the age of 62. “I really can’t think of any other appropriate words. Our time and attention in recent days has been spent in support of the Drake family, Ms. Sheila and Darryl’s daughters and extended family. Many of us have had an opportunity to spend time with them through this. They’ve been amazing. And in just making arrangements and adjusting and so forth, we’ve tried to be as supportive organizationally as we can be to them at what is a very difficult time. You know, professionally, obviously the loss is significant, but personally, it’s even bigger. Those of us that knew and had personal relationships with coach Drake all feel that way.”
After his opening remarks about the passing of Drake and how the organization is attempting to handle the process of grieving through professional counselors while also assisting the family of the coach throughout this tough time, Tomlin was asked to reflect on when it was that he first remembers being influenced by Drake and how the relationship between the two grew from there.
“Gosh, it was probably ’97”, Tomlin recalled. “I was a young wide receiver coach at Arkansas State. He was viewed as one of the top wide receiver coaches in the college game. I was politely aggressive in building a relationship with him. He probably didn’t have a choice, or that’s how he described it, in terms of being my friend. I was too persistent. He extended courtesies to me, like he does a lot of young guys like myself in the profession, and that’s why we felt about him the way we do. He sent me drill tape and things of that nature. We developed a rapport and our relationship grew from there.”
Tomlin was then asked to reflect on how he saw Drake impact players.
“Coaching was coach Drake’s platform for ministry,” Tomlin said. “You know, he wore many hats. Coaching was his vocation, but he was a father, a mentor, a brother, an adviser, like we all are in a lot of ways, to the men that he worked with. Not only now, but, man, over the course of his career, which spanned decades.”
Tomlin this was asked to talk about how Drake helped him off the field throughout his own coaching career.
“You know, I could talk all day about that, as a lot of people could,” Tomlin said. “Strong Christian brother. You know, we were in a coaches group together even before he came here to work with us and I had the opportunity to spend time with him on a regular basis that way, but you know, in just a lot of ways.”
Finally, Tomlin was asked Tuesday if there are any plans currently set for the team to have any type of memorial or get together in the next couple of days.
“You know, we fully intend to pay our respects to Coach Drake continuously,” Tomlin said. “Not only in the upcoming days and this weekend when we step back into a stadium, but continually as we push through this journey that’s 2019. I just don’t want to get into the details of it right now.”
The Steelers canceled their last two training camp practices immediately after Drake passed away Sunday morning and Tuesday afternoon they’ll once again resume their sessions at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. At the end of his Tuesday press conference Tomlin was asked that given all he and the organization has dealt with the last few days in regard to Drake’s passing if getting back to football now will hep restore some sense of normalcy.
“I don’t know that it does,” Tomlin said. “But we’ve got professional obligations just like I got professional obligations to allow you guys to do what it is that you do. So we intend to march.”