By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/11/13
As one of the most respected coaches in recent Philadelphia history, Dick Vermeil offered some advice for young lacrosse players hoping to play the sport in college.
“The first advice for high school lacrosse players is to make sure they’re doing everything they can to excel academically,” said Vermeil, the keynote speaker tonight (7:00) at this wekend’s US Lacrosse National Convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“You should continue to grow so you have more than one option, or many options. The goal is to go to school to get a great education as well as to play lacrosse. Make sure you are investing your time wisely every day so you won’t be held hostage by what you didn’t do so well yesterday.”
Vermeil, the Eagles coach from 1976-82 who turned a downtrodden team into an NFC champion and later took the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl championship, spoke with Phillylacrosse.com on many topics related to lacrosse, the Philadelphia Eagles and his purpose in speaking at the National Convention.
His view of lacrosse:
Though he was a football coach, two of Vermeil’s grandsons were college lacrosse players with playing ties to the Philadelphia area. Defenseman Jack Vermeil, a Henderson grad, played at Washington College (Class of 2008) and was a regular on a team that went to the NCAA Division III tournament last year. Defenseman Tommy Barnett was a two-year starter at Gettysburg (Class of 2011) after graduating from Brunswick School (CT).
“Having had two grandsons play college lacrosse, I have seen how lacrosse players compare to football players,” said Vermeil. “I liken them to defensive backs and wide receivers because they are skilled athletes with great hand-eye coordination that have skilled movements and a great sense of direction. They run with a low sense of gravity and are aggressive and agile in space.”
Spoken like a true coach.
The growth of lacrosse:
Vermeil, a former college coach at UCLA and NFL announcer, is impressed with how the sport of lacrosse has grown at all levels
“I started watching college lacrosse because of my grandsons but I have started to watch the (NCAA) playoffs as well,” he said. “The game has been spreading West into Denver and those areas and I think it’s moving that way rapidly.
“I don’t think the sport costs a lot of money compared to football. You don’t have as much equipment as you do in football and it requires about the same in athletic skills and intense competition. I just hope the sport is not becoming too physical and moving away from having enough finesse.”
On being the Convention speaker:
Vermeil – the former spokesman for Blue Cross/Blue Shield – has always enjoyed the public forum. He is honored to be chosen as the speaker by US Lacrosse.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “It gives me a chance to pass on the things I learned in 35 years of coaching football.
“There are some differences in Division I football and lacrosse. You are watching kids compete (generally) without scholarships. They play for the love of the game and you want to make sure coaches are making it an enjoyable experience.”
Vermeil’s coaching resume is unique. He was chosen by Leonard Tose to take over a struggling Eagle team after several successful years at UCLA. In 1981the Eagles defeated the Dallas Cowboys to reach their first Super Bowl, but they fell to the Oakland Raiders and then Vermeil resigned after a disappointing 1982 season after citing coaching burnout.
After serving as an announcer and working for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, he returned to the sidelines 15 years later and brought a Super Bowl title to St. Louis in his third year there at the ripe age of 63.
Vermeil’s bond with the Philadelphia Eagles and his former players:
“Bill Bergey and Frank LeMaster (former Eagles players from the NFC title team) were over my house for dinner two weeks ago,” Vermeil said. “I still have close relationships with my teams and close relationships with specific players.”
Vermeil also coached into his late 60s with the Kansas City Chiefs (2001-05). Does he miss coaching in the NFL?
“I don’t miss the headaches,” he said. “I do miss the relationships and the competition. I miss the excitement of game day.”
What did he see that lacrosse taught his grandsons:
“I think they learned discipline,” he said. “They sawe that you did what you had to do and to compete, even in the off season. There was a regimen and a schedule. You had to do your studies, and play gams on Saturdays. There was very little time off, and you had to play in bad weather. Sometimes it was miserable. There were so many lessons to learn.”
Did his grandsons come to him for advice? “I give it, but they don’t come for it,” he quipped.
Vermeil owns the rare distinction of being named “Coach of the Year” on four levels: High School, Junior College, NCAA Division I and Professional Football.
What does he plan to say to the coaches that will be among the thousands in attendance at his speech?
“I am looking forward to it,” he said. “Hopefully lacrosse coaches leave with something that stimulate their thinking.
“We as coaches consistently are asking players to get better. We as coaches have to consistently get better ourselves. Hopefully, I’ll give them something to help them in their careers to get better.”