Tom Coughlin is the lone Syracuse Orange connection to this year's Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. As a former player and assistant coach, he's a major name in Syracuse's football past.
With a win on Super Bowl Sunday, he could eventually find himself with the kind of credentials that gets him into the Hall of Fame. If he does, two of his former backfield-mates are waiting.
ESPN NY's Rich Cimini has a piece on Coughlin's late emergence from the shadows of Floyd Little and Larry Csonka, the Hall-of-Famers he shared a backfield with during his time at SU.
Both Little and Csonka are so proud of their friend.
"I've watched him truly become a coach where the players now will kill for him, where the players would put him on their shoulders …I'm getting emotional right now … hold on a second," he said, pausing for a deep breath.
"I've become so proud of him," continued Little, who's hoping one day Coughlin will join him and Csonka in Canton. "At the 49er game, he gave a talk to his players and got emotional. This is not the Tom Coughlin that coached the Jaguars. He has made the change. He has become a coach where his players rally around him and they work hard for him, they try to win for him. I like that. He's the coach of now, he's not the coach of yesterday."
Not that Coughlin always enjoyed their company. The Giants coach was so angry at his lack of carries that the defense wold often know what play was coming based on Coughlin's body language leaving the huddle.
Coughlin returned to Syracuse after graduating as an assistant, first as QB coach in 1974 and as offensive coordinator between 1976 and 1980. It was there that he tutored many notable players, including future Maryland head coach Randy Edsall. Even then, Coughlin was a charmer:
"We were doing dropback drills," said Edsall, now the head coach at Maryland. "Under center, Tom told us that we should imagine both feet at high noon on a clock face. When we drop back, his instructions were to take our first step back and at 4 o’clock.
"Later that day, we’re watching practice tape and Tom is getting on me big time. ‘Randy, you’re stepping back at 3:30, not 4 o’clock.’ I’m 17 years old and I thought, ‘What is the deal with this guy?’ "
Even Jim Boeheim has a connection to Coughlin. As a sign of just how much college athletics have changed, he was Coughlin's RA:
"I figured he’d become an eighth-grade math teacher, that seemed to be the kind of personality he had: pleasant, funny, low-key, comfortable.
Coughlin has many more memories of Upstate New York football than just playing for Syracuse. He was a three-sport star in Waterloo and even started the football program at RIT. You'd think he was destined to coach the Buffalo Bills and not the Giants. And yet, here he is, on the precipice of his second Super Bowl with the team and a chance to go out with all the glory.
Not bad for the other guy in the backfield.