Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Man behind Curtain avoided limelight
Former University of Arkansas football player Dennis Winston at the Washington County Historical Society in 2012. Winston and other former Razorbacks spoke about their experiences being among the first black players to play at the University of Arkansas.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Sometimes great coaches outshine their great teams.
Others not so much.
Dennis Winston, the University of Arkansas graduate from Marianna, Razorbacks Hall of Honor member, Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame member and current Eastern Illinois defensive line coach, said he played for an understated NFL coach despite the coach's enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for Super Bowl achievements that top them all.
It seems the flurry of Chuck Noll articles since Noll's death last week at 82 about matches the attention Noll received while coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969-91.
Noll coached the Steelers to a NFL-record four Super Bowl championships yet didn't net the national publicity of other Hall of Fame coaches of his time like Tom Landry, Don Shula, Hank Stram and John Madden.
Noll, Winston said, was content to be the man behind the Steel Curtain.
"He never was a limelight guy," said Winston, a Steelers linebacker from 1977-81 and again in 1985-86 after spending three years in New Orleans. "Chuck believed people come to see the players playing."
Noll came off as dry as toast to the public, but so did Landry, called "The Great Stone Face." So does the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick. Yet Noll lagged considerably behind them in media attention.
"He didn't wear certain things that he could be known for, like Landry with the hat and the Patriots guy with the sweatshirt," Winston said. "Chuck wasn't into that kind of stuff."
Better his team stand out than his attire.
"Chuck was strictly old school," Winston said. "Fundamentals and straight-up. Most of us were that same way. We weren't a rah-rah team. You never saw [Hall of Fame linebacker] Jack Lambert high-fiving and low-fiving and all this other fiving. You didn't see [Hall of Fame cornerback] Mel Blount or any the defensive guys doing that kind of stuff. That was not our personality."
Nor was it Winston's, including during his Razorbacks days (1973-76) under Frank Broyles and these last 25 years coaching.
"Waste of energy as far as I am concerned," Winston said. "Just go over there and sit down when you recover a fumble, because we might fumble and where does all that emotion go then?"
Imitating his old Arkansas linebackers coach's DeWitt drawl, Winston chuckled while just imagining had he "chest bumped" Harold Horton.
"It would have been, 'Come on, Dennis, now go over here and sit down and get your rest,' " Winston said.
Noll, Winston said, devoted his time for "hands-on coaching" that was fundamental, detailed, creative and caring.
"Chuck always said to prepare for the hereafter because eventually you are going to have to get into your life's work," Winston said. "Make sure you put in and prepare what you are going to do when playing football is over with."
An NFL coach actually educating like college coaches are supposed to educate? Now that's Hall of Fame worthy in itself.
Sports on 06/25/2014