George Welsh's defiance and Mike London's energy. Jimmye Laycock's ingenuity and Frank Beamer's persistence.
The Cradle of Coaches label was first applied to the University of Miami, Ohio, and with good reason. Sean Payton, Jim Tressel, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, Red Blaik and Sid Gilman are among the renowned football coaches who attended and/or worked at the school.
Football players, fans and observers in these parts have been similarly blessed. Men of wildly divergent personalities, philosophies and backgrounds have prowled our sidelines with little more in common than a dedication to craft and championship results.
The 12 local coaches mentioned above are not offered as a complete list. Far from it.
We didn't have the pleasure of meeting Thad Madden, Suey Eason, Johnny Palmer, Warren Coleman and the Lovetts, but their reputations are sterling. Marv Levy and Lou Holtz coached at William and Mary before our time, ditto Jerry Claiborne at Virginia Tech.
Bill Dooley elevated Virginia Tech to the brink of national prominence before running afoul of NCAA rules, Matt Kelchner spoiled Christopher Newport with instant success, and Alvis Mann spent decades as a loyal and principled assistant.
Whether you prefer the preps, colleges or pros, or celebrate the game at every level, there's no choice but to marvel at our coaches.
They are, and have been, tacticians, teachers and father figures, salesmen, motivators and managers. Some work(ed) for peanuts, others for millions. All work(ed) their backsides off.
Not that coaching is work to this bunch. It's more passion, calling and privilege than job.
And that's what makes them so good. Well, that and, as all never forget to mention, quality players.
A few reflections:
Welsh dismissed conventional wisdom and turned Navy and Virginia into nationally ranked programs. He embraced a crusty image, but his subtle wit, love of history and total recall made him a far more complex character than most realized.
Smith became the winningest high school in Virginia history in 1996 with his 268th victory at Hampton High. Fourteen years later, his stare still icy, Smith remains a force as he prepares for his 40th season.
His Crabbers no longer rule the Peninsula District -- rival Phoebus does -- but in 2008 Smith marked victory No. 400, and last year Hampton won at least eight games for the 33rd consecutive season.
Even as Smith amassed astonishing numbers, rivals such as Kozlowski and Dee never wavered.
Sporting a tie and short-sleeve shirt on game day regardless of conditions, the gravelly voiced Koz guided Bethel to three state championships, the last in 1992 with Allen Iverson at quarterback. If Koz isn't the only football coach to have an NBA (Iverson) and NFL all-star (Shaun Gayle), he's among the few.
Smith and Kozlowski were in the primes when Dee arrived at city rival Phoebus. But with the bruising defense and no-frills running attack he learned in his native Pennsylvania, Dee forged a program that won four state titles in eight years prior to his 2009 exit to assist Kelchner at CNU.