Discipline and Longevity

Deep in the heart of Texas, there are hundreds of people who want one man to live a long, prosperous life.  They want this for him because he is family.  They want it because he is a friend…because he has done right by them and made them smile for as long as they can remember.  They wish him longevity because it has been denied to so many like him.  It has been denied to star football players like Korey Stringer and Reggie White.  Longevity was not available to Reggie Lewis or Len Bias or Hank Gathers or Malik Sealy or Conrad McCrae or Darrent Williams.  It has been denied to world class journalists like Ralph Wiley and Ed Bradley.  It has eluded the grasp of elite performers like Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes.  It was snatched from great political leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In another city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there is a coach that wants the same thing for that young man.  The coach, though, has other immediate needs as well.  He wants to instill discipline and make his mark on a team that won the Super Bowl under the leadership of an icon.

The young man has already achieved all that could be done at the collegiate level.  He was a standout performer for the Longhorns.  In the NFL, among those who know, Casey Hampton is arguably the single best nose tackle in the entire league.  He has a Super Bowl ring, the respect of his peers and the adoration of family, friends and fans.  What Mr. Hampton does not have, right now, is the job that provides his livelihood.  In order to get back on the field, he has to lose weight.  It’s been reported that he came to camp close to 400 pounds, at that has happened previously.  Under the old regime, it was okay.  They found a way to work it out.

Under the new regime, it’s not acceptable.  I have no doubt that Casey Hampton will find himself back on the field as the anchor to Mike Tomlin’s defense. Until then, he will remain on what is called the “physically unable to perform” (PUP) List  The larger concern is that he find himself positioned to live life after the game is gone and the impositions of a coach’s discipline have passed from his routine.  The future is promised to none of us.  If our own demise is brought about by our own hand, as it so often is, we impose needless hardships on ourselves and others.

Hampton’s coach, Mike Tomlin, is a disciple of former Steeler player and current coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy.  Dungy has always been a proponent of speed over size.  Cut from the cloth of Chuck Noll, Dungy always sought to have the fastest and best-conditioned athletes on the field.  In the 1970’s, when Dungy played for Pittsburgh, the Steelers were arguably the best-conditioned and strongest team in the entire league.  Of course, the game was different then and all players were smaller, but many of the Steeler greats were never especially big players.   There were exceptions like Mel Blount and Joe Green, but there was also Jack Lambert and Lynn Swann.  Speed and execution were decisive for Noll, then and those principles are essential for Dungy now.  So, too, it seems with Mike Tomlin.

Perhaps a long-standing personal philosophy with links to 5 Super Bowl championships and a young man’s need to impose his will can combine to extend the life chances of another talented person with a great deal to contribute.

5 comments

  1. As a die hard Cowboy fan, I am appreicative of the atheticism needed to be a lineman in today’s world. The flex defense called for lineman who were agile and mobile with great upper body strength. The Too Tall Jones and Randy Whites of the 70’s were precursors to the Jerry Ball and Warren Sapp types in the 90’s.

    Tomlin has a major task ahead of him, as the league gets citius and fortius, how does he stay competitive in the mud, slop, and snow division where the ground game is the game? Yes, the AFC East has some of this, but the Ohio River Basin contains Pittsburgh, Cleavland, Cincinatti where its gets wet and sloppy in late October. (By the way the Ravens by Chesapeake Bay have the same issue too). You must have power and you must have speed.

    Mr. Hampton in order to be on Sportscenter, must stop watching it so much…

  2. I think you’re 100% right. The field conditions dictate what type of defense goes on the field. I noticed an online listing of defensive lineman (actually a ranking) and Hampton was the only player listed in a 3-4. All others were part of DT tandems. Hampton is critical for the team as long as they run a 3-4. Tomlin wants to play more 4-3 and increase his flexibility at the position.

  3. I always feel for those heavy ball players, having been one myself, because I know that once they stop playing their weight skyrockets.

  4. The weight is always a factor. It’s interesting, though, when you see cats who’ve lost a ton of weight and look like totally different people. The main thing, I think, is awareness of lifestyle choices and the personal assistance/partnership with a coach, friend or family member who can support the transition.

    You can’t eat the way you used to. You can’t drink the way the used to. You can’t party the way you used to. It’s a big, big shift. I just want the best for these guys because they really are the heart and soul of the game. They pay the heaviest price of all. QBs retire and become avid golfers with high-priced endorsement deals until they die. These cats often live largely anonymous lives with all the physical aches and pains of building the foundation for a franchise. It’s a tough hustle.

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