By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporter
5:22 PM CST, January 21, 2013
"Without family, close relationships, and people you enjoy being around, all the work in the world just isn't worth it.''
— Bears coach Marc Trestman, author of "Perseverance: Life Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork"
Jerry Trestman never finished that basement inside the suburban Minneapolis home he once shared with his wife and two children.
His son, Marc, was a multisport athlete primarily involved in football, baseball and basketball. Yet often, the younger Trestman invited a couple of friends over and transformed the basement into a full-fledged puck battle.
"There were too many holes in the walls from all the hockey games,'' Jerry Trestman said.
"I also had a table tennis thing down in that basement. We used to play that, too. But Marc, he's not little at all. His reach was too big.''
Marc Trestman never stopped reaching. Now he's at the pinnacle of his profession.
The 14th head coach in Bears history didn't climb to the summit overnight. He put forth the time. He made the sacrifices.
Trestman eagerly volunteered to coach at the University of Miami 32 years ago while attending law school there and now has fulfilled a dream that he shares with his wife and two daughters.
"I thought Marc should have been an NFL head coach years ago,'' Jerry Trestman said. "That's where he wanted to be … eventually.''
Marc credited his parents for instilling in him the values of hard work and dedication. Jerry Trestman, a musician who never played sports or attended college, owned and operated a musical instrument store for 45 years. He had other side businesses that were "nothing illegal'' he joked, including a restaurant where Marc once worked.
"I used to leave at 8 in the morning and never got home until about 2 the next morning,'' Jerry Trestman said. "My daughter, Cari, she's 13 months younger than Marc, and I think she knows him better than me because she spent more time with him. My wife (Sharon), she's the one who went to every game. She was the one who drove him all over.''
But Marc Trestman was the one who was driven.
"He left the house when he was 17. All the decisions between now and then have been his,'' Jerry Trestman said. "Like with law school, that was his decision. I tried not to influence him, although I'm a great admirer of education.
"I recall him making the decision that maybe he didn't have the physical ability to keep playing quarterback. As you know, it's a sport that very much involves the quarterback being hit. And Marc had some back problems. But still, I was not involved in any of his decisions.''
Jerry Trestman couldn't remember all the details of his son's athletic career save for his stint at the University of Minnesota as a backup quarterback to Tony Dungy, and his son's cameos as a defensive back at Vikings training camp.
Marc Trestman was a three-sport start at St. Louis Park (Minn.) High School who played three years with his hometown Gophers. Then he transferred to Minnesota State-Moorhead, where he replaced current MSNBC talk-show host Ed Schultz as the starting quarterback.
Jerry Trestman, however, vividly remembers his son's rooting interest. Fran Tarkenton was an idol.
"He always was a Vikings fan,'' the father said. "Yes, we were all Vikings fans.
"But not anymore.''
"When a passionate vision is combined with a proactive daily attempt to succeed, the vision will manifest itself into reality.''
— Marc Trestman, from "Perseverance: Life Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork"
The dream could have taken him down a different path if Marc Trestman had heeded the advice of a well-respected elder.
Onetime Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger remembered when a young Trestman sat in his office before the 1981 football season and pleaded for an opportunity. Trestman had just completed law school.
"I asked him what he wanted to do after graduation, and he said, 'I want to coach.' And I told him, 'You're out of your damn mind,'" Schnellenberger said. "I was like, 'You have a law degree and you already have an invitation to join one of the top law firms in Miami Dade County.'
"I spent a few months trying to talk him out of being a coach. As hard as I tried, I couldn't convince him that he was being an (idiot).''
Schnellenberger finally caved after initially turning Trestman down, allowing Trestman to come on staff as a volunteer quarterbacks coach. As Schnellenberger explained, the NCAA frowned upon the whole volunteer-coach label at that time, so he was forced to give Trestman a salary.
"That was around the time Jim Kelly was graduating, and so we're leaving this guy responsible for the training of Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde,'' Schnellenberger said. "With Marc there, it was really smooth. We win a national championship (1983), and I didn't have to spend as much time with the quarterbacks. He was there to refine and be detailed."
The two continue to share a bond. Schnellenberger, a longtime college head coach who also led the Baltimore Colts briefly, probably wonders if he was the "idiot'' after watching Trestman leave behind the CFL Montreal Alouettes to succeed Lovie Smith — who once tried to hire Trestman as offensive coordinator (2004).
Trestman brings with him a resume that includes tutoring Steve Young, Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice and being mentored by Bill Walsh, Bud Grant and Jon Gruden.
"Marc wasn't born into the NFL like so many of the other coaches," Schnellenberger said. "He had to work his way up to that position.''
Trestman's background includes 12 previous coaching stops — 13 if you include the offensive coordinator role he briefly accepted with Schnellenberger at Louisville before turning it down.
It always left Schnellenberger perplexed when Trestman's name rarely surfaced for NFL head coaching jobs. He figured the fact Trestman never remained in one place very long worked against him in the coaching circles.
There was another barrier he noticed.
"He developed such a superior position just by his presence and how he handled himself, and, you know, in the NFL, that's pretty much a buddy-buddy situation,'' Schnellenberger said. "If some young guy rises up and blows by them, they have a problem with that.''
There was at least one head-coaching job Trestman should have secured well before he joined the Alouettes in 2008. And it wasn't in the NFL.
In 2007, Trestman was in contention for the top job at Minnesota. The position, however, went to Illinois grad Tim Brewster.
Former NFL linebacker Bob Stein, the first president and CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves, was Trestman's agent at one point.
"He interviewed at Minnesota, but it ended up being a much better fit for him to go to Canada,'' Stein said. "Tim Brewster? Oh my God. I don't want to beat up on the guy at this point, but he really had no qualifications.''
Brewster lasted just four seasons at Minnesota and is now the receivers coach at Mississippi State. Trestman — who interviewed for head-coaching jobs with the Colts and Browns the last two seasons — just took over one of the most storied franchises in the NFL.
Safe to say Trestman came out on top.
Total overhauls often slow the process, so sometimes it is better to take what is done well and build on it rather than reinvent the wheel.
— Marc Trestman, from "Perseverance: Life Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork"
Anthony Calvillo gained a better appreciation for the word "respect'' by watching the actions of his head coach.
The American-born, 40-year-old quarterback of the Alouettes took pregame rituals for granted — until Trestman altered his view.
"Half the players up here are American and half the players are Canadian,'' Calvillo explained. "So Coach Trestman said to show respect for the country, he wanted every player to stand on the sideline, shoulder to shoulder, with their helmets in their left hands. He did it his first year, and we did it every year after that.''
Calvillo already had thrown for more than 50,000 yards in his career before Trestman's arrival, yet that never deterred him from wanting to learn from a guy he respected immediately. Pro football's all-time passing leader with 78,494 career passing yards actually elevated his game under Trestman, winning two CFL Most Outstanding Player awards.
"He always has been open-minded,'' Calvillo said of Trestman. "When he first got to Montreal, he called some of the veterans and wanted to get some input on how the offense should be run.
"That was very impressive to me because being a new coach, you always assume that's it going to be my way or the highway. With him, that wasn't the case.''
Trestman has vowed to take a hands-on approach with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, whom he has met with and tutored in the past. The onus will be on Cutler to digest a new, West Coast offense and absorb the knowledge of a head coach known for polishing quarterbacks.
It will take time, as Calvillo knows.
The year before Trestman arrived in Montreal, Calvillo had 75 to 100 plays to use. Under Trestman, the number increased to up to 160.
"You have to put in the time to study,'' Calvillo said. "I always joked around with Coach Trestman and said he was a crazy man in terms of how many plays that he had. That's just his mentality. He wanted to make sure he has a play to call no matter what defense is going to be thrown at us.
"He never wanted to walk away from a game saying, 'I didn't have a play for you. I didn't give you the best chance to help you win.' ''
Trestman's cerebral approach and attention to detail certainly stood out in Canada, where he won two Grey Cup championships in five seasons with Montreal. Longtime friend Stein mentioned a recent conversation during which Trestman talked about how difficult it would be to leave the country.
Jerry Trestman noticed the same attachment.
"The people up there really liked him,'' the father said. "As a matter of fact, he could have run for president in Canada.''
The prime minister might have taken issue with that.
Bears fans would be content just to see Trestman fix their team's offense, for starters. If he succeeds, then maybe he could run for mayor of Chicago.
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