February 01, 2011
Most coaches come from humble beginnings - they're usually players who couldn't scale the ladder at some point, and they generally find their places in the sports they love through different avenues and the opportunities to teach others. Coaching is generally a hard climb as well; most coaches take years and go from high school on up as far as they can. Along the way, there are the inevitable jobs that must be taken to support families between coaching tenures and out of season. Nearly every successful coach can point to a time when he had to swallow his pride and take jobs that were far less than glamorous.
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy told his story during the Packers' first press conferences after landing in Dallas for the media crunch that will accompany Super Bowl XLV. While working as a volunteer assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, McCarthy made money with a job collecting tolls at the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- spending as much time looking at playbooks as anything else.
"It was a summer job," McCarthy said. "It was something that I felt I needed to do between graduating from Fort Hays State University (in Kansas). You get your master's degree and you go and collect tolls. That doesn't quite add up, but that was my plan and path. Really it was a good experience. It was something really just to make some money before the season started at the University of Pittsburgh before we went to training camp.
"I know a lot has been made about it. I don't want to disrespect the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I did my job and I studied while I was there when there were no cars coming through the booth. It was a good experience. I always felt that was the normal way; you have summer jobs, you do those types of things, and I'm glad I took the path that I did as far as a young man back then being exposed to those types of things."
McCarthy's no-nonsense approach comes from his own experience - his dad was a Pennsylvania firefighter and policeman who also owned his own bar near the steel mills of Pittsburgh. He'll be facing the Steelers this Sunday, but McCarthy is as much a working-class Pittsburgher as anyone who pays for a seat at Heinz Field and waves a Terrible Towel.
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