As Vikings free safety Marc Trestman jumped up after delivering a hard hit that leveled Chargers running back Johnny Rodgers, he got lost in the moment.
This was a meaningless NFL exhibition in 1979 and Trestman a mere undrafted rookie fighting for a roster spot but a rush of adrenaline magnified everything. Unprovoked, Trestman started taunting Rodgers with "words I had never said aloud,'' according to Trestman's enlightening book, "Perseverance.''
That image of Trestman crossed my mind the other day at Halas Hall saying hello to the friendly Bears coach. Since Trestman took over in January, he has made an impression by being considerate, deliberate and transparent but not rash; attentive but never explosive. General manager Phil Emery warned me after I characterized Trestman as professorial not to underestimate his coach's competitiveness. What fun it will be on Sundays finding out exactly what Emery meant.
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Perhaps the perception of Trestman indeed blurs reality, which is the sensitive 57-year-old father of two couldn't have made so many family sacrifices working for 17 head coaches in 10 cities throughout his career if he weren't so driven. Truth is, we can pretend to know Trestman but it takes more than eight months to understand a man with so many layers.
To hasten the process, I plowed through Trestman's 280-page memoir and concluded if every Bears player cared about improving himself as much as Trestman did throughout his 32-year coaching odyssey, this could be a playoff team. But the depth of Trestman's introspection seems rare.
A great strength within Trestman comes from his vulnerability, a willingness to admit and examine his own flaws or shortcomings. He looks like someone more likely to run a winery than a football team but his passion for the game comes through every paragraph of his book, which provides glimpses into Trestman's personality that have yet to emerge in Chicago.
Who would have guessed Trestman, who considered himself "reclusive to a fault" as a young adult, played guitar in a band at birthday parties and bar mitzvahs for $25 a gig? Other fascinating details revealed fall somewhere between trivial and telling.
On a recruiting trip to Notre Dame, Trestman met Irish alum Joe Theismann and struck up a friendship that endures. Trestman backed up Tony Dungy as a freshman at Minnesota, making his first start in a 21-13 victory over Northwestern. The Golden Gophers assistant coach who recruited both was Tom Moore, the offensive guru who later became Dungy's Colts confidant.
After Trestman transferred to Moorhead State in 1978, his car broke down just as he exited the freeway to arrive at his new campus and he "seriously wondered if I had gone crazy.''
He had given up his dream of playing in the NFL and enrolled in law school at Loyola (Calif.) when his favorite boyhood team, the Vikings, called to offer a tryout — as a defensive back. He drove home only to have his tryout delayed when his back went out so badly he spent four days in traction at the hospital.
During his first NFL training camp as a player, Trestman absorbed the influence of legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant that still guides his policies today: No hazing or rookie shows and minimal hitting because Grant believed a coach's job is "to get to the season without getting hurt.''
After getting cut, Trestman talked his way into a job as a part-time coach on Howard Schnellenberger's University of Miami staff when he also was a law clerk putting in 18-hour days. It all seemed worth it when Trestman walked into an empty coaches locker room Jan. 2, 1984, at the Orange Bowl after Miami's national championship victory and dropped to his knees in tears of joy.
He turned down a small-college head-coaching job in Alabama at 27. He idolized Joe Namath. He eyed the 49ers quarterbacks coach job in 1985 until the Vikings, his first NFL employer, blocked the interview. The Niners hired Mike Holmgren instead.
In an odd, impulsive twist, Holmgren and his wife, Kathy, were the only two guests at the Hawaii wedding of Trestman and his wife, Cindy. Less than an hour after the ceremony, Trestman got a phone call informing him the Browns had fired him.
He walked away from the NFL for three years until realizing "making $100,000 a year selling bonds was a heck of a lot tougher than making $100,000 coaching.'' His layoff ended when former 49ers coach George Seifert called out of the blue, within days of winning Super Bowl XXIX, to offer him the job of offensive coordinator.
On the job as 49ers offensive coordinator, he once pacified Bill Walsh by calling a quarterback draw after Walsh sent him a note at halftime suggesting the play. Steve Young got hurt running it and the Niners lost their next playoff game without him.
He decided to practice "touchdown demeanor'' after observing Barry Sanders for a season on the Lions staff. He used to get up at 2:45 a.m. as a Raiders assistant to beat traffic and head coach Jon Gruden to work. Trestman "cried openly" after the Dolphins fired him in 2004 but getting dismissed by North Carolina State two years later made him "bitter, angry, crushed and just mad at the world.''
As head coach of the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL, Trestman banned locker-room music "with the N-word, B-word or disrespectful to women'' and prohibited female visitors in players' hotel rooms on trips. On the team bus before his first CFL game in 2008, as players loudly razzed the bus driver who had gotten lost, Trestman stood up and screamed: "You haven't ever made a mistake before!? Be quiet and show him some respect.''
His mantra on that team: Everything Matters.
To Trestman, every little thing does.
Nobody knows yet if that approach will make the Bears a better football team. It won't surprise me if it makes the Bears better people.