Only two other men have looked like Mike Tomlin and done what he is about to do on Sunday. As the third African American coach to reach the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers head man is also the youngest in league history.
But at just 36 years old, Tomlin is quick to divert attention from any edge his youth might add to his role as coach.
"I think it's in vogue right now to talk about the youth of coaches, being able to relate to today's athlete and so forth," Tomlin told reporters in Tampa. "I don't know if I buy into the concept that today's athlete are any different than they were some 20, 30, 40 years ago. I'm a traditionalist in that way and I think that people that have a way with people and can communicate with people and teach people and convey messages to people – they can do it at 35, 45, 55, or even 71. I think it's a personality thing and not an age thing."
Much can be said about Tomlin’s personality. He grew up with his mother in Newport News, VA, a scholar-athlete. His athletics were notable, but it was his academic achievement that helped him adapt to life at the elite William and Mary College. A thinking man, Tomlin always studied the game and his opponents, and was quick to offer advice to his coaches.
"I've been blessed to be around some great coaches, some people who took personal stake in my growth and development." It’s clear going into his first Super Bowl in only his second season as head coach of the Steelers, that he is just as influential with his players, even if only a few years their senior.
"I thought it was going to be kind of weird when he first got here," said Steelers linebacker James Farrior, who once played against his coach in a college game. "I knew the age difference. So I thought it was kind of funny to just think of my head coach being a year or two older. But once he got here and I saw what type of guy he was, I knew he was the boss. It was pretty easy."
His age and race might be noteworthy, but for Mike Tomlin, the only stat that matters is victory.
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