SAN DIEGO – Former members of the Chargers organization are paying tribute to Marty Schottenheimer, their former head coach, colleague and a longtime staple on NFL sidelines.
Schottenheimer died Monday night in North Carolina, his family said through Bob Moore, a former Kansas City Chiefs publicist. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014. He was moved to a hospice on Jan. 30.
Schottenheimer, who coached in San Diego from 2002-06, was the eighth-winningest coach in NFL history.
Here’s what some former players and coaches told FOX 5’s Troy Hirsch about Schottenheimer:
Stephen Cooper, former Chargers linebacker (2002-11)
Cooper, who played his entire NFL career in San Diego, said Schottenheimer guided him along in his first two seasons after signing as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maine.
He said everything Schottenheimer preached was about the team working together as a family.
“There were many times I was on the field with Marty at practice where I got kicked off the field because I would get into a fight,” he said. “But Marty would come back to me after practice or the next practice that day and take me to the side one-on-one and say ‘Great job. I love it. Cool. Keep it up. Keep showing that energy and emotion.’”
Cooper added, “Being him and being the leader that he was and a head coach, he always had to command order and discipline and respect among teammates, but deep down he was a blue collar guy, fiery, very emotional, somebody you truly loved playing for.”
Terrell Fletcher, former Chargers running back (1995-2002)
Fletcher, a running back out of the University of Wisconsin, spent his entire eight-year NFL career with the Chargers after being drafted in 1995.
He called Schottenheimer “a leader of men” for his ability to connect with players without making enemies in the locker room.
“Marty understood how to galvanize a bunch of alpha males, which is what a locker room is — a bunch of egos that come from all different walks of life,” Fletcher said. “He understood the language of a guy who may have grew up in the mountains of Wyoming but also could sit down and have a conversation with a guy that grew up in the inner city of New Orleans or Chicago.
“He knew how to speak the language and get guys motivated and he knew how to make men buy into a program without tearing down their egos and their masculinity, and I appreciated that.”
James Lofton, hall of fame wide receiver and ex-Chargers assistant coach (2002-08)
Lofton, an NFL Hall of Famer who made the Pro Bowl eight times, remembers Schottenheimer both from his time playing in the league as well as in serving as an assistant coach with the Chargers.
“He was so involved in everything that he did and everything he did was heartfelt,” Lofton said. “I remember it was the second year I was there coaching with him and I thought to myself, ‘Man, I wish I’d gotten the chance to play for him,’ because he was so inspiring. I think his teams played to that level of success.
“It’s just unfortunate that he didn’t get to the big dance, but he sure did win a lot of ballgames.”
Lofton said Schottenheimer cared for his players as much as they cared for their own careers.
“He was so honest with them,” he said. “He wanted to pull the best out of them. He wanted to make sure they were the best, on and off the field. He was really the type of coach who would have been great in a college setting, too, because if you give your kid to Marty Schottenheimer for four years, you knew he was going to come back a better person.”
Lorenzo Neal, longtime NFL fullback who spent five seasons in San Diego (2003-07)
Neal, the battering ram fullback who played five of his 16 NFL seasons in San Diego, said Schottenheimer had “a unique ability to get men to do anything.”
“You want to run through a wall for him,” Neal said. “He was a coach who wore his emotions close to his heart, emotions on his sleeve and not just that, but what he did for players and their families in tough times, bad times, good times.
“He was always consistent and he always preached family first.”
Asked about Schottenheimer’s famous sayings, Neal said he liked to repeat the name of a specific play, one that would be used to run over opponents for much of time with the Chargers.
“He’d say, ‘I want 60 and 70 power written on my tombstone’ — that’s how much he loved that play,” he said. “We were going to play the Raiders and that’s all he would talk about. He would get so emotional. He could not stand the Raiders and we’d walk around all week, ‘You know what time it is? You know what week this is? It’s Raider week.’”
Neal continued, “He would get emotional, give you a speech every day and Marty — the tears, he’d start crying — and he was so fired up like he wanted to go out and play again and he was such a passionate coach that played the game and knew what the game’s about.”
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