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Monday, November 28, 2022

Former NFL coach Westhoff honest, as clear as ever in new book

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Mike Westhoff has always been blunt and brutally honest. He doesn’t pull any punches and cane nothing.

And the way he sees it, it couldn’t be any other way.

He is a cancer survivor who has overcome long odds many times. He is an innovator who has established himself as the sport’s greatest special teams coach over 32 NFL seasons. He has been a tireless fighter and has been a constant achiever throughout his life. And he’s always confident – although some might suggest cocky or arrogant.

“I don’t consider myself a writer,” Westhoff said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I mean, I’m not Ernest Hemingway. But I always thought I had a great story to tell.”

So Westhoff, 74, did exactly that by writing “Figure It Out,” an entertaining autobiography published by Mascot Books. That is everything he coached with or against, played for or against, or covered him in the media, he would expect. Lots of laughs, eyebrow-raising comments and inspirational lessons have been shared.

And it’s told in the freshly candid words of Westhoff, mixing colorful anecdotes from several dozen others who know him best—from his humble beginnings in the Pittsburgh area to his many college stops as a player and By his years with the Colts as a coach, the Dolphins, Jets and Saints.

“Even though I can be a little tough, I think I’m quite respected and I know I have a lot of respect for the game because it means so much to me,” Westhoff said. “I’m not just trying to write a book and be stupid. But come on, if you’re going to tell a story, you’re going to be honest, you know? What people never got was that I was 10 times more harsh and critical on myself than I was on anyone else: players, coaches, anyone.

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“I mean, unless they were really just stupid — some of them were.”

During the two-year writing process, Westhoff used to get his ideas down on paper and then asked his girlfriend to take a look—especially when he was criticizing someone. He didn’t want to go too high for himself.

“She called herself a ‘dial-down instructor’ because I used to call her and she’d say, ‘Mike, you need to dial it down a little bit,'” Westhoff laughed. “So I’ll reconsider it. I’ll say, ‘Okay, let me scratch it. Let me rewrite it a little bit,’ and that’s how it worked.”

Inside the book’s more than 400 engaging pages, Westhoff describes how coaches such as Lee Corso, Woody Hayes, Paul “Bayer” Bryant and Don Shula helped shape his outlook on the field. Westhoff discusses the inner workings of special teams, including detailed diagrams of the plays, and how his philosophy changed that aspect of the game.

“We keep most of the records,” Westhoff said. “We were very good at what we did.”

He also dedicates a portion of the book to his “All-Star Special Teamers” – all the players he coached. These included kicker Olindo Mare, punter Thomas Morstead, long snapper James Darth, returners Leon Washington and OJ McDuffie, and special team standouts such as Zach Thomas, Larry Izzo, Louis Oliver, Bernie Parmali, Kenyatta Wright, Brad Smith, Eric Smith and Tessum. . Mountain.

“There are people who have thanked me and talked about how I changed their lives,” Westhoff said. “It’s the greatest thing ever.”

Westhoff, on the other hand, also called out some of his least favorite coaches and players. It also includes a coach whose name he declined to mention in the book. With a little research, readers can understand this very well.

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“I can’t stand him,” Westhoff said, “because he was the most stupid (guy) I was ever around.”

There are many more stories related to football, including Westhoff’s first college practice as a player in Wyoming, shortly after getting off the bus after a 36-hour ride. How he turned special teams into his specialty is also in this. Also his mourning as the head coach of the NFL never stood a chance; His once good friendship with Bill Parcells deteriorates; the failed Tim Tebow experiment of the jets; And getting closer but never coaching in the Super Bowl.

“I was a man in a great place at the right time and made the most of it,” Westhoff said. “So I’m proud of how the book turned out. It’s been fun and I think people will enjoy it.”

Westhof’s football journey is certainly a study of perseverance. But his battle with bone cancer, the state-of-the-art procedures he endured and learning to walk again with a titanium rod in his left leg make it even more remarkable.

He opens “Figure It Out”—to his never-give-up approach—with a poignant recollection of the moment he completed chemotherapy treatment on July 3, 1988, a promise he made to himself that guided the rest of him. coaching career.

As the national anthem played outside the window of his hospital room and fireworks light up the sky during the pre-Fourth of July celebration, a contemplative and appreciative Westhoff devoted himself to doing his job better than anyone else. .

“Did I do that? I don’t know. I got too close,” he said. “That’s how I see it. Every Sunday, 657 times, that’s exactly what I did. ,

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More Associated Press NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl & https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 & https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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