Trestman's redemption

The grace Bears players will encounter in Trestman always has been there. But sometimes it was lost in the vortex of game planning, play designing and deciphering tendencies.

Throughout Trestman's past are examples of common and uncommon kindness.

Mark Anthony DiBello still calls Trestman "brother" 30 years after Trestman helped him through one of the darkest times of his life. DiBello was a walk-on at the University of Miami, and Trestman was a grad assistant.

DiBello had to leave the team to be with his mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He said his mother urged him to return to the team, but Trestman told him to stay with her, and promised he would help him regain his roster spot the next year. Trestman stayed true to his word.

Thirteen years ago, a young job seeker with no connections was standing outside the gate of a Senior Bowl practice. Most NFL people had no time for him. He recognized Trestman and approached him, telling him he had driven to Mobile, Ala., from St. Cloud, Minn.

Could Trestman give him some advice? Trestman not only gave him some time, but he also gave him a pass to get on the field.

Later that year, Trent Kirchner was hired by then-Seahawks personnel director John Schneider, whom he met on the field that day. Now Kirchner is the Seahawks' assistant director of pro personnel, and he considers Trestman a friend for life.

And then there was this. When he was in Cleveland, Trestman would invite one of the other assistant's sons into his office to watch tape, follow him around and talk ball. He tried to make him feel at home.

They lost contact and 20 years passed. But the young man turned out to be the general manager of the Montreal Alouettes, and five years ago Jim Popp reintroduced himself to Trestman. He told him he never forgot his good will, and that he had been watching his career closely.

Oh, and he wanted to talk with him about being a head coach.

During his job interview with Popp, Trestman didn't talk about X's and O's or calling plays. He talked about leadership, teaching life skills, making the locker room an environment of respect and clarity, and his newly adopted "servant mentality."

If it was his aloofness that drove Trestman from the NFL, it was his tenderness that led him to Canada.

"Back when I was in Cleveland, I wasn't trying to set myself up for a head coaching job 20 years later by being nice to Jim," Trestman said. "I was trying to help a coach's son. When you give and don't ask anything in return, and you do it because it's the right thing to do, it comes back to you. It eventually comes back. That was the lesson I learned."

Trestman thinks a lot about selflessness these days. It creeps into every aspect of his coaching philosophy.

In recent years, Trestman has had opportunity to encounter some of the people he worked with during the first half of his coaching life. And without provocation, he has had something to say.

"I've told them I wish I could have handled some of those situations better," Trestman said. "I didn't say it because I wanted to be liked, but because it was time to do that."

When Trestman and Gary Stevenson met in 2007, Stevenson talked about how wisdom comes with age. And then Stevenson looks at his friend today.

"You put experience, passion and wisdom in a blender, and it turns into a pretty good shake," he said.

Even the CFL was a testing ground for Trestman's new coaching style. Ultimately, after two Grey Cups, Canada was his proving ground, the place where his career was resurrected.

Trestman's journey would have stopped short if not for his persistence, adaptability and undying faith.

CHICAGO

More