Waterloo native Tom Coughlin earns Super Bowl victory - Catholic Courier

Waterloo native Tom Coughlin earns Super Bowl victory

You aren’t likely to catch many news reports linking the New York Giants’ stunning Super Bowl success with St. Mary Parish in Waterloo. But Ted Young, mayor of this Seneca County village, knows better.

Young is well-acquainted with the traits of Tom Coughlin, a fellow 1960 graduate of St. Mary School, who as New York’s head coach guided the Giants to a 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots Feb. 3 in arguably the most thrilling Super Bowl ever played. Young said he believes Coughlin’s Catholic-school upbringing helped shape his coaching achievements that have followed in college and the National Football League.

“I think it played a large part. It sets your life values, and your values are set very early on,” he said.

Young recalled that “Tom was very dedicated no matter what he did, as far as sports and school work.” He acknowledged Coughlin’s reputation as a stern disciplinarian — a tag that’s led to occasional conflicts with his players. Yet Young asserted that his childhood friend’s intensity and passion have reaped big rewards.

“Say what you want, he’s been successful everywhere he’s gone,” Young said. “His values, his determination, his dedication — if a little bit of that can be instilled in the players he’s coaching, that can instill success. A coach like Tom drives you to put heart into what you’re doing.”

Such qualities came in handy during Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., for which the Giants were heavy underdogs. By coming from behind in the game’s final minute, New York thwarted New England’s bid for a perfect season, following 18 consecutive regular-season and playoff wins. It was New York’s fourth straight upset victory in the playoffs, following equally gritty triumphs over Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay. The Giants’ final record was 14-6.

These are pretty lofty heights for the 61-year-old Coughlin, whose early exposure to football involved pickup games with Young and other neighborhood youths.

“The Coughlin house was right next door to the library, and it was nothing to get local kids together to play on the library lawn. It started as touch football and probably turned into tackle football,” Young chuckled.

St. Mary’s Parish also was a big component of their young lives. Young noted that he and Coughlin were both altar boys, and that Coughlin’s penchant for orderliness could well be traced back to the nuns who taught them.

Young and Coughlin went on to play football together at Waterloo High School, where Coughlin still holds the school record of 19 touchdowns in a season. Coughlin was then a star receiver at Syracuse University before he moved into coaching. His first head job was at Rochester Institute of Technology from 1970-73, and he then spent many years as an NFL and Division I college assistant before serving as Boston College’s head coach from 1991-93.

His first NFL head position began in 1995 with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, with whom he posted an eight-year record of 72-64, reached two American Football Conference title games, and was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1996. Coughlin became the Giants’ coach in 2004 and has a record of 38-31. Though this is his first Super Bowl as a head coach, Coughlin did enjoy a title as assistant with the 1990 Giants when they edged the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.

Young said many of Coughlin’s schoolmates and family members still reside in the Waterloo area. He added that the Giants’ coach has stopped back frequently over the years, remaining visible in the village and at St. Mary’s Sunday Masses. Coughlin was also on hand in the fall of 2005 when Waterloo High School’s football field was dedicated in his name.

“Our lives went different ways, but he never really forgot where he came from,” Young remarked.

Coughlin and his wife, Judy, have four children and four grandchildren. In addition, he is involved in many charitable efforts. Young, noting that Coughlin is always warm and approachable whenever he passes through town, said that “the pride in the community for Tom has always been there.”

He contended that his old friend’s affable side doesn’t receive nearly enough attention.

“The New York (City) media, they love you one minute and then if you blink wrong, they’re down your throat,” he said. “Do they know the person? Absolutely not.”

Well, it’s now guaranteed that the positive buzz on Tom Coughlin will last longer than a single minute. For the next year, he’ll be known as coach of the reigning Super Bowl champions — a status owed in some part to the life skills he developed 50 years ago at St. Mary School.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally posted on Jan. 28, 2008, this story was updated on Feb. 4, 2008.

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