I sat in a large lecture room during the summer of 1993 listening to the guest speaker during our annual state association athletic clinic in Columbia, S.C. Fresh off of a perfect season and national championship, Alabama head coach Gene Stallings was the speaker. I was impressed at the somewhat quiet, yet solid, demeanor of the Crimson Tide coach. His speech was a low Texas drawl I was sure could turn into a loud growl if necessary. Something in me believes it was rarely necessary. I was amused at a story he told about being embarrassed. In front of millions of viewers, a camera perfectly framed a reaction to a play that included an “F-bomb” expletive perfectly formed on his lips. One of those viewers was his youngest daughter, Martha Kate, who took him to task over the language he used.
You just knew Gene Stallings was a good man and there is nothing in his Bio today suggesting otherwise. One could not be hard-hearted enough not to tear up when Coach Stallings spoke about his son, John Mark. Coach Stallings teared up, I teared up and about a thousand others did to. John Mark was born with Down syndrome and was the light of his father’s life…along with his wife and four daughters. As you can tell, Coach Stallings spoke more about life than he did about football.
I never had the opportunity to sit down and hear Mark Richt speak in person. From clips, comments and sport’s stories I have read and viewed, I would say there is a lot of Gene Stallings in Mark Richt…except for the National Championship thing…but then again I am speaking about life. Richt, the former Georgia coach, now Miami coach, could have been bitter about his firing at Georgia despite two SEC championships, six SEC East championships to go with one hundred and forty-five victories to just fifty-one losses over a fourteen year career. Unfortunately college football is a “what have you done for me lately” profession. It’s about championships I guess.
Richt could have been bitter but made a profound “life” statement instead, “Life is about people, not rings. Rings collect dust.” While not the coach Georgia needs now, they think they need the rings, he is a man the world needs. Richt walks the “Christian Walk,” and has been a positive role model both on and off of the field. Along with his wife, the Richt’s have adopted two Ukrainian orphans, one with proteus syndrome, to go with their own two kids. This is something most people are very unlikely to know, Mark Richt plays everything close to the vest. One thing that he can’t keep close to his vest is the fact that he is a good man.
I wrote a book entitled “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…” It was about kids, peers, family and fans, along with memories of teaching and sports, all more important than victories, championships or passing test. I wish I had come to their lesson sooner. Is it more important to win championships or to produce up-standing, disciplined players? I know you can do both but which is more important? Good luck Mark Richt, I will be pulling for Miami to win championships when Clemson doesn’t. Interestingly, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney played football at Alabama. His mentor and head coach…Gene Stallings. He too is one of the “Right Men.” Theirs’s are legacies that are far more important than sports.
If you are interested in reading more by Don Miller his books may be purchased on Amazon or downloaded on Kindle at the following links
“Winning Was Never the Only Thing…” goo.gl/dO1hcX
“Floppy Parts” http://goo.gl/0Lt0O8