John Wooden’s recommendation fed Dick Vermeil’s Hall-of-Fame profession

Dick Vermeil, who Saturday might be enshrined within the Professional Soccer Hall of Fame, considers himself a connoisseur of coaches.

He labored with so many greats throughout his 46 years in soccer, amongst them 29 who both had been, have been presently or would turn out to be NFL head coaches. Three of these wound up in Canton — Sid Gillman, George Allen and Invoice Walsh.

However one of the vital influential coaches in shaping Vermeil was merely an observer of soccer — a fan, not somebody who devoted his life to the sport.

It was John Wood, who was simply wrapping up his legendary profession as UCLA’s basketball coach when Vermeil was the Bruins’ head soccer coach in 1974 and ’75.

“I tried to spend as much time around him as I could without bothering him,” mentioned Vermeil, 85, who additionally was a UCLA assistant coach in 1970. “I actually brought coaches into his staff meetings so they could watch them too.”

UCLA coach Dick Vermeil is carried from the sphere after the Bruins beat Ohio State within the Rose Bowl, 23-10, on Jan. 1, 1976. His success in Westwood led to a different success story within the NFL.

(Related Press)

Wood taught Vermeil some enduring life classes.

“The glaring thing that happened, and it reinforced my thinking for the rest of my career, is one day I stopped in to see him, sat in a chair in his office, and he said, `You’re looking down,’ ” Vermeil recalled. “I said, `Well, I just lost a couple of good players to USC.’

“He told me, `Listen here, coach. USC is always going to have better players. Don’t worry about that. You just make sure you make every player on your roster the best he can possibly be, and everything else will take care of itself.’ ”

From anybody else, which may have been a platitude the minute Vermeil walked away. However that it got here from Wood, whose groups gained 10 nationwide championships in a 12-year interval, made these phrases droplets of gold to a younger and impressionable soccer coach.

“From that time on, with every job that I’ve had, that’s been a foundation statement that rings in my mind,” Vermeil mentioned. “I coached by it.”

The 2 struck up a friendship that lasted all through Vermeil’s profession, which included stops with the Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams — together with a Lombardi Trophy — the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, and into his retirement.

“After I was done with coaching, I remember going over to have breakfast with him, then going back to his condo,” Vermeil mentioned. “We talked as friends, philosophy. I still have my notes of my meetings with him, and I may even have recordings from those meetings we had with our coaches.”

That’s a trademark of Vermeil’s teaching profession; he was a sponge, all the time trying to be taught and develop and enhance. He had a 15-year hiatus from teaching, from when he retired as coach of the Eagles on the finish of the 1982 season till he grew to become head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 1997 — one thing of a reunion, as he had been an L.A. Rams assistant coach within the early Nineteen Seventies.

Throughout these 15 years, he wasn’t actually away from soccer. He labored as a sports activities commentator for CBS and ABC, and stayed very up-to-date within the sport.

“One of the things that really helped me was I was on the field with a real good football coach every weekend,” he mentioned. “When I’d come into a team, I’d get an open door. I’d sit in coordinators’ meetings, head coaches’ meetings.”

As a former head coach, Vermeil was a member of the membership. He acquired entry the place others from the TV world merely didn’t.

The 2022 NFL Football Hall of Fame class is seen during the NFL Honors show.

The 2022 Professional Soccer Hall of Fame class on the NFL Honors present.

(Mark J. Terrill / Related Press)

“I’d be with Bill Parcells in his first year,” he mentioned. “Then I walk on the field and spend a whole day with Don Shula, going to practices, team meetings. Lousy facility. You talk about a general? I’d describe him as Eisenhower or MacArthur or Patton. Probably a combination of the three.”

He mentioned he labored so many Washington video games throughout his TV profession, he felt as if he have been on the employees of Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs. Then, there have been the faculty coaches.

“Tommy Prothro was a brilliant man,” Vermeil mentioned of the UCLA coach who appointed him offensive coordinator in 1970. “He created a great environment for coaches to coach in. I got to work with Chuck Knox, and he said something to me that stuck with me for the rest of my career.

“One day I came off the field and I was complaining about what my running backs couldn’t do. And Chuck said, `Listen, Vermeil. If they could already do all those things you’re complaining they can’t do, I wouldn’t need you to coach them.’ ”

Requested if there have been a coach he wished he may have labored alongside, Vermeil mentioned he would have cherished to have been an assistant on Tom Coughlin’s employees.

“I watched him coach Boston College,” Vermeil mentioned. “He leaves college football, takes over an expansion franchise in the NFL [Jacksonville] and takes them to the conference championship game right away.”

Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who helped information St. Louis to that Tremendous Bowl victory within the 1999 season, mentioned he marvels on the means Vermeil left teaching for 15 years then seamlessly transitioned again into the job with a completely new technology of gamers.

“Knowing what he did in Philly, and then knowing the adjustments he had to make when he came back a decade-and-a-half later, he changed the style in which he coached,” Warner mentioned. “His ability to deal with the new-age player, and to have the success he had, just speaks volumes about Dick Vermeil.”

As for Vermeil, he would love to have the ability to converse volumes from the lectern Saturday. However, as with the opposite inductees, he’s restricted to eight minutes. That’s a tall order for somebody whose thank-you listing is so long as the rolling credit in “Star Wars.” On prime of that, he’s well-known for the feelings that effectively in him and the tears that so simply fill his eyes.

“In my presentation, I put thanking my family at the end because I may not be able to get through it,” he mentioned. “I think I’ll be able to get through the first part.”

He might need to pause a bit. However of all individuals, Vermeil — he of the 15-year hiatus — understands easy methods to come again and end sturdy.

As Wood would possibly advise him, he’ll be fast however gained’t hurry.