Hum­ble Trest­man per­fect fit for Als

Montreal Gazette - - Sports - J ACK TODD


this seems to be nos­tal­gia week around here, we’ll go back to 1970 by way of in­tro­duc­ing the Alou­ettes’ new head coach.

That was the year a chap named Free­man White came to Canada to play for the Ottawa Rough Rid­ers. This, I thought, should be some show: White had been an All-Amer­i­can wide re­ceiver for the Ne­braska Corn­huskers. He was a se­nior when I was a fresh­man at Ne­braska, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound pass-snag­ger to make pro scouts drool.

White was drafted by the New York Gi­ants and spent four years in New York be­fore end­ing up in Ottawa. When I saw that he was play­ing in the CFL, I thought White would light it up. One sea­son, and he was gone. White, of course, was nei­ther the first nor the last of many: Amer­i­cans who come up here from the NFL or from big col­lege foot­ball pro­grams think­ing they will show this lit­tle league a thing or two. More of­ten than not, they get their come­up­pance in a hurry. Think of Vince Fer­rag­amo, an­other for­mer Husker who had gone to a Su­per Bowl with the Los An­ge­les Rams. With the Alou­ettes, Fer­rag­amo flamed out in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion.

Point is, if you come to the CFL think­ing it’s a bush league that you’re go­ing to dazzle with your big-time Amer­i­can tal­ent, you’re go­ing to get burned. The CFL, as too many ath­letes and coaches learn the hard way, is a ter­rific and highly com­pet­i­tive league in terms of its play­ers’ ath­leti­cism and the pres­sure to win. If it’s some­how lesser than the NFL (and I’m not con­vinced it is) it is by de­grees so slight they are all but im­per­cep­ti­ble.

That’s why, if Marc Trest­man didn’t quite march the Alou­ettes down­field for a touch­down in his first Mon­treal out­ing yes­ter­day, he did at least move his team into scor­ing po­si­tion: He was hum­ble. He in­di­cated a bound­less will­ing­ness to learn.

And he won, I sus­pect, more than a few friends while he was be­ing in­tro­duced as head coach of the Als yes­ter­day. For a guy who was all but counted out within mo­ments of his hir­ing three weeks ago, that was quite a feat.

“If you aren’t hum­ble,” Trest- man said, “if you aren’t ready to work hard, this game will eat you alive. You have to be hard-work­ing and you have to be hum­ble. And you have to treat the play­ers and all em­ploy­ees with re­spect.”

So here’s the skinny on the new guy: He’s tall, lean, highly in­tel­li­gent and ar­tic­u­late. He has a beau­ti­ful wife. He has a port­fo­lio many foot­ball coaches would die for, even if things have been a bit rough for him of late. And I am not just say­ing th­ese things be­cause he has a law de­gree and might sue me if I don’t.

Above all, he doesn’t suf­fer from that Ar­ro­gant Amer­i­can syn­drome. He’s hum­ble, and in the end that might take him farther than all the rest of it.

“I’m glad I’m not a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in the CFL,” Trest­man said, “where the field is 53 per cent larger and you have only one more guy to cover it and all that mo­tion.”

Be­cause the CFL is unique and be­cause Trest­man ac­knowl­edged that his strength is on of­fence, one of the first tasks he faces is to find a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor to re­place Chris Jones, who left for Cal­gary. The Alou­ettes also an­nounced yes­ter­day that Scott Mi­lanovich, af­ter one sea­son with the Als as quar­ter- backs coach, will be­come the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor – re­plac­ing the de­parted Mar­cel Belle­feuille – and that Vince Martino will be the of­fen­sive-line coach af­ter win­ning the World Bowl as head coach of the NFL Europe Ham­burg Sea Devils.

But Trest­man is the man of the hour. If he has a weak­ness, it is that he has not spent time on the side­lines in the CFL, apart from a brief visit to the Als train- ing camp last spring. But yes­ter­day, you could see the qual­i­ties that per­suaded the Alou­ettes to hire him over a long list of can­di­dates with CFL ex­pe­ri­ence.

First, there’s the ré­sumé: He has worked with some of the best peo­ple in the game, start­ing at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota, where he was the backup quar­ter­back to a guy named Tony Dungy. He was quar­ter­backs coach for the Mia- mi Hur­ri­canes in 1983 when (we painfully re­mem­ber) the ’Canes de­feated the ’Huskers 31-30 in the Orange Bowl.

The next year, with Trest­man still as his coach, Bernie Kosar set school records for pass com­ple­tions, pass­ing yards and touch­downs.

When Bud Grant came out of re­tire­ment in 1985, he hired Trest­man for his staff. Four years later, Trest­man was named of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for the Cleve­land Browns, go­ing back to work with Kosar. In 1995, he was hired by Ge­orge Seifert as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and quar­ter­backs coach for the San Fran­cisco 49ers.

He also worked as co­or­di­na­tor for the Ari­zona Car­di­nals be­fore be­com­ing the se­nior of­fen­sive as­sis­tant to Jon Gru­den with the Oak­land Raiders. When Gru­den left, Bill Cal­la­han made Trest­man his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and the team went to the Su­per Bowl, where they lost to Gru­den’s Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers. Most re­cently, Trest­man was the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at North Carolina State be­fore the en­tire coach­ing staff was let go.

If there’s an alarm bell on the ré­sumé, it’s that Trest­man hasn’t stayed any­where that long, but as­sis­tant coaches rarely do, and the trend seems to be down­ward of late, but that’s the na­ture of the game: You have to find a sit­u­a­tion that suits you, an owner who be­lieves in you. The good part is that with all the names on his ré­sumé, Trest­man could come on like the rein­car­na­tion of Vince Lom­bardi. He doesn’t, and that will give him a chance to suc­ceed.

Ob­vi­ously, Bob Weten­hall be­lieves in Trest­man. Af­ter some of the things he said yes­ter­day, his play­ers should, too. And Trest­man em­pha­sized that he wants to work with the me­dia and with the com­mu­nity, which means he’s al­ready a far cry from Don Matthews.

His first words to Mon­treal were:

This guy is go­ing to suc­ceed with the Alou­ettes. You read it here first.


“If you aren’t hum­ble, if you aren’t ready to work hard, this game will eat you alive,” new Alou­ettes head coach Marc Trest­man says.

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