A lot of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the fact that Mike Tomlin does have a football background. He was a wide receiver for William & Mary between 1990 and 1994, during which time he accumulated 101 receptions for 2046 yards and 20 touchdowns, but it never led to the professional aspirations he was looking for. At least not on the field.
Not that it ended poorly for him. Little did he know, he was preparing himself for his ultimate calling, which is coaching, something that he has done since the moment he stopped playing, starting as a coaching assistant and finally working his way all the way up to a Super Bowl-winning head coach in the NFL.
“Really, in pursuit of playing aspirations, all along, I didn’t realize that I was sharpening my sword for coaching, because I was really passionate about the game, and playing and playing to win, and leading, and really getting into the schematics of it, not only from the inside the helmet perspective, but just globally”, he told Carl Francis and Vernon Lee, who interviewed him for the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation.
And why was he drawn to gaining that global perspective? Because he was a wide receiver who always wanted to have the ball in his hands, and he wanted to understand why that wasn’t happening. “When you’re a wide receiver, a lot of people have got to do their jobs in an effort for you to do your job”, he said.
“I would never take anybody’s word for it, so I had to gain some global understanding of why I wasn’t getting the ball enough”, Tomlin added. “That’s why to this day I have so much patience for those that play the position, because, guilty as charged”.
Think this has anything to do with Antonio Brown, who probably as much as anybody has had a reputation for demanding the football? Sure, there was Chad Johnson, and before him Keyshawn Johnson, who literally wrote the book on the subject.
But nobody went quite as AWOL as AB about not getting the ball as often as he felt he should, even if he annual set records for the most receptions over some period of time or another. His six consecutive seasons of 100 or more yards will not be easy to break—even if Michael Thomas is already three seasons into his streak. But how long will Drew Brees last, and who will follow him?
Tomlin has been accused of enabling Brown. No doubt, he did, to some degree. No doubt, that had something to do with his own understanding of what it’s like to play the position. That’s not a bad thing. It did enable us to witness one of the great streaks in NFL history, for better or for worse, one that only blew up because of Brown’s erratic behavior.
We have previously written about Tomlin’s own background as a wide receiver, including a highlight reel of some of his plays back during his college career. You can take a look at that here.