Former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who resigned as general manager on Wednesday, is a part of American history. The game of football is unique to this country, the players gladiators of the modern era, and Walsh is as much a part of that persona as anybody alive.
He was asked about the game that has been his life, and on this, his last day in charge, he did not emote or give a sense of loss. Rather, the man understood the beauty of the sport he has devoted his life to, and what it means to others.
"The game of football is a unique activity," he explained, "the most violent activity conceived outside of warfare. We are viewed throughout the world through the prism of this game."
Walsh is a giver. He does not withhold knowledge, he passes it on to those who have coached and played under him.
"I was held back a few times in my career," he says. "I never wanted to do that. I look back on the influences of Marv Levy, Paul Brown, Al Davis, Sid Gilman, John Ralston - these people mentored me and taught me.
"Especially Brown, who I was with for eight years in Cincinnati. He was a master of the NFL game. Al Davis was brilliant, a unique person and one of the best coaches I ever spent time with. He was charismatic like Terry Donahue. Sid Gilman may not necessarily be the father of the so-called West Coast Offense, but he was a great influence on me, too.
"Im most proud of the fact that I was able to transition Steve Young and Jerry Rice into a departure from the club that was worthy of their contributions. Im not sure anybody else could have done that without rancor."
Walsh said his greatest thrill was winning the 1982 Super Bowl, but he added that his career was always about "best" accomplishments only to be replaced by other events.
"I remember winning the SCVAL championship with Washington High of Fremont," he recalled. "We had 300 kids, then they built the freeway and the next thing I knew we had 3000. We won the title my second year. I remember some exciting bowl games at Stanford."
Walshs legacy is that he coached some of the all-time greats, the likes of Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, the aforementioned Young and Rice. It is also about the minority hiring program that he started, giving coaches of color a chance to ply their trade. He is very much a product of the diverse Bay Area community that he grew up in.
In many ways, however, Walshs greatest legacy is in the many coaches he brought along, who went on to success on their own. This goes back to his being a giver and a helper. He is not a selfish man.
On Wednesday he gave of himself. It was not a highly emotional day, but Walsh is not that kind of man. However, the sense of Walshs shared experience was something the man was willing to impart to the media.
"We built a dynasty here," he says. "That was part of a process, both on and off the field."
Walsh touched lives. Mike Shanahan, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and George Seifert are just some of the more prominent names he mentored, just as he had been mentored by Levy at Cal, Davis in Oakland, Gilman in San Diego, Ralston at Stanford and Brown in Cincinnati.
Right now, Terry Donahue, once his rival when he coached at UCLA - a man with an ego who does not always agree with him but always respects him - is the latest in a line of protégés.
Is Walsh a greater influence on football than Vince Lombardi, or even Brown? From here the call is yes, he is. He coached the modern athlete. He is part of football making sociological progress. He is part of the transition to the free agent/salary cap area, and he is, more than anything else, the greatest offensive innovator ever.
The former Washington High coach has an ego. He was sometimes a pain to deal with. He is, most of all, a true general of the organized mayhem that so marks this nations place in the world.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism