Mike Smith's eyes and Mike Tomlin's confidence. John Quillen's fingers and Dennis Kozlowski's voice.
George Welsh's defiance and Mike London's energy. Jimmye Laycock's ingenuity and Frank Beamer's persistence.
Joe Taylor's faith and Bill Dee's focus. Charlie Hovis' shyness and Curt Newsome's decency.
The Cradle of Coaches label was first applied to the University of Miami, Ohio, and with good reason. Sean Payton, Jim Tressel, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, Red Blaik and Sid Gilman are among the renowned football coaches who attended and/or worked at the school.
Football players, fans and observers in these parts have been similarly blessed. Men of wildly divergent personalities, philosophies and backgrounds have prowled our sidelines with little more in common than a dedication to craft and championship results.
The 12 local coaches mentioned above are not offered as a complete list. Far from it.
We didn't have the pleasure of meeting Thad Madden, Suey Eason, Johnny Palmer, Warren Coleman and the Lovetts, but their reputations are sterling. Marv Levy and Lou Holtz coached at William and Mary before our time, ditto Jerry Claiborne at Virginia Tech.
Bill Dooley elevated Virginia Tech to the brink of national prominence before running afoul of NCAA rules, Matt Kelchner spoiled Christopher Newport with instant success, and Alvis Mann spent decades as a loyal and principled assistant.
Whether you prefer the preps, colleges or pros, or celebrate the game at every level, there's no choice but to marvel at our coaches.
They are, and have been, tacticians, teachers and father figures, salesmen, motivators and managers. Some work(ed) for peanuts, others for millions. All work(ed) their backsides off.
Not that coaching is work to this bunch. It's more passion, calling and privilege than job.
And that's what makes them so good. Well, that and, as all never forget to mention, quality players.
A few reflections:
Welsh dismissed conventional wisdom and turned Navy and Virginia into nationally ranked programs. He embraced a crusty image, but his subtle wit, love of history and total recall made him a far more complex character than most realized.
Smith became the winningest high school in Virginia history in 1996 with his 268th victory at Hampton High. Fourteen years later, his stare still icy, Smith remains a force as he prepares for his 40th season.
His Crabbers no longer rule the Peninsula District -- rival Phoebus does -- but in 2008 Smith marked victory No. 400, and last year Hampton won at least eight games for the 33rd consecutive season.
Even as Smith amassed astonishing numbers, rivals such as Kozlowski and Dee never wavered.
Sporting a tie and short-sleeve shirt on game day regardless of conditions, the gravelly voiced Koz guided Bethel to three state championships, the last in 1992 with Allen Iverson at quarterback. If Koz isn't the only football coach to have an NBA (Iverson) and NFL all-star (Shaun Gayle), he's among the few.
Smith and Kozlowski were in the primes when Dee arrived at city rival Phoebus. But with the bruising defense and no-frills running attack he learned in his native Pennsylvania, Dee forged a program that won four state titles in eight years prior to his 2009 exit to assist Kelchner at CNU.
The unassuming Hovis is another multi-time state champion, and his tenure at Tabb High is most associated with All-Americans Chris Slade and Terry Kirby, the latter Parade magazine's 1988 Player of the Year. But only one of Hovis' three state crowns came during the Kirby-Slade era.
A Hampton native, Newsome coached Kecoughtan to a state final and was on the brink of similar feats at Heritage when he opted for the college assistant track, first at James Madison and then Virginia Tech. In a profession teeming with oversized egos and personalities, Newsome is a soothing respite.
Two years after Newsome headed to JMU, his former top assistant, Quillen, led Heritage's 2000 squad to an undefeated, state-title season. You'd never know it from his soft-spoken manner, but Quillen was a gang member growing up in New Orleans, where he had H-A-T-E tattooed on his on his right fingers, L-O-V-E on his left.
Taylor navigated Hampton University's transition from Division II to I-AA and not only made the Pirates postseason staples but also infused the program with Christian values. Hampton hasn't been the same since he departed after the 2007 season for conference rival Florida A&M.
Many assistants approach their first interviews for head-coaching jobs resigned to losing out to more established candidates. Not Tomlin, a graduate of Denbigh High and William and Mary.
As a 34-year-old rookie defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings, Tomlin entered January 2007 interviews with the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers determined not to wait his turn.
Sure enough, his remarkable preparation won over Steelers ownership, and two years later, the franchise collected a record sixth Super Bowl trophy.
Like all William and Mary players for the last three decades, Tomlin learned volumes from Laycock, the Tribe's institution of a head coach. Few design offenses as effectively as Laycock, and while integrity, longevity and success define his time at W&M, the question nags: How would he have fared in the big time?
London worked under Laycock for four seasons and then beat him as Richmond's head coach in 2008 and '09. Two playoff bids in as many years with the Spiders, the first ending with a national championship, earned London the corner office at Virginia, where in December he inherited a program recovering from its worst year since 1982.
London is unfailingly and contagiously optimistic, a trait he may need in long supply this season.
Magnifying the Cavaliers' struggles is Virginia Tech's relentless winning -- 17 straight bowl seasons -- under Beamer, approaching his 24th season at his alma mater and second only to Penn State's Joe Paterno in Bowl Subdivision seniority.
Beamer inherited Dooley's mess and endured six trying seasons from 1987-92. But neither Beamer nor his bosses lost patience, and Tech now ranks among the nation's top 15 programs by any measure.
Laycock and Beamer are fast friends and offseason golf partners, and when William and Mary dedicated the Laycock Center support building, Beamer was among the coaching who's-who in attendance.
"I don't know how you explain it," Laycock said of our embarrassment of riches. "These are coaches, I think, who could (work) at any level, anywhere."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times