Lovie Smith: From Tulsa Football To The Super Bowl

Sunday, February 4th 2007, 6:15 pm
By: News On 6

Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears fell to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, but no matter how the game ended, Smith's name was already going down in history. Two weeks ago, the Chicago Bears' top man became the first African-American head coach to earn a place in the Super Bowl. While he's at the top of his game now, 25 years ago he was just getting started here in Tulsa.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood reports on Tulsa’s ties to Super Bowl XLI.

Before Lovie Smith was walking the sidelines in the Super Bowl, he was defending his territory at the University of Tulsa. Smith was a standout linebacker, twice named an All-American.

"He's really hit the ultimate right now," said Smith’s former coach Tom Ososkie.

Ososkie remembers coaching a younger Lovie, an ambitious player, named a starter as a sophomore who knew the value of hard work.

"He felt this would be a way to get to the NFL,” said Ososkie. “Even back then, I think he, you know, that was going to be one of his goals. He was a very determined young man, very competitive, great team player, great personality."

And those values served him well as he made the transition from player to coach.

"Every time I see him interviewed, I see the same guy that coached me," said Joe Medina.

Medina played Lovie's favorite position, linebacker. And just like his coach Joey became a sophomore starter.

"He was a very aggressive football player, a tough guy, and then all of a sudden he landed here at Cascia Hall and he was everything but the tough guy,” Medina said. “He was a very sincere and caring football coach, which was a complete opposite to the persona he showed on the field."

From Cascia, Lovie Smith returned to his alma mater and coached linebackers at TU. The fuse was lit on a meteoric rise that would take him to the pinnacle of professional athletics. He'd hit several other colleges and pro teams before landing any coach's dream job.

His hair's a little shorter; his face a little older, but with age comes experience and opportunity. Folks who knew him say even playing under the brightest of spotlights hasn't phased him.

"He really hasn't changed that much. He's more of a quiet type leader," said Ososkie.

"You have this picture of football coaches and most of the pictures are guys on the sidelines screaming, yelling, cursing out the players - that's the only way to get players to perform a certain way - I've never believed that,” said Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.

And he's never forgotten those whom he met on his way to the top. 25 years later, he gave Joey Medina a call when he took the reins in Chicago.

"When he called me, it was, ‘Hey, Joey it's Coach Smith.’ And here he was the head coach of the Chicago Bears, yet somehow or another found my phone number," Medina said.

Now, it's not Joey, but Joe, Coach Joe, and he takes the reins at the same place Coach Smith began his climb to the pros. Coach Medina calls plays for Cascia Hall, yet the signs of Coach Smith's success still show on the sidelines.

Any Bears fan will recognize the team's familiar logos, and the familiar lessons passed on one coach to another.

"One of the things I try to do as a football coach is exactly what Coach Smith did for me, and that's try to get close to the players and give them the confidence that they need, because when they go out there, it's a one-on-one battle," said Medina. "It's so neat in this day of professional sports to see a great person play for one of the ultimate prizes in athletics, and that's the Super Bowl, so good guys do finish first."