From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, March 28, 1983
EVERY MORNING OF HIS LIFE AS A FOOTBALL COACH, DICK VERMEIL would pull a yellow legal notepad from his office desk and make lists. With a first-grade teacher's neatness, he would write a number, circle it and then print the task to be performed. Exclamation points, as if by a zest all their own, would spring from his pencil at the end of his sentences. � One of his lists would be for his wife, Carol; he would call her in mid-morning and read it. One would be for his administrative assistant, one for his personnel director. The longest would be for himself. In recent years, before starting his lists he would listen to the small tape recorder he kept beside his bed to transcribe the ideas that awoke him during the night. � It seemed all his life would be like this. List it. Do it. Check it off. He was one of a generation of sprinters, of young American males shot down a straightaway out of the starting blocks of the Depression, neither their feet nor their eyes ever leaving their lanes. Vermeil's sprint would simply be faster and straighter and more dramatic than the others'.
The sprint began on the Calistoga ( Calif.) High cinder track, as he walked with his football coach on a spring day during his senior year. The school counselor had glanced at Vermeil's grades and recommended a future in his father's garage. Vermeil saw himself coaching football. "If I'm going to do it," he vowed to coach Bill Wood that day, "I'm going to do it right."
It was as if, upon parting with his coach that afternoon, he had sat down and written a list.
1. EARN COLLEGE DIPLOMA AND MASTER'S DEGREE! BECOME HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACH!
1.1 BECOME HIGH SCHOOL COACH OF THE YEAR!
1.2 WIN LEAGUE TITLE!
HE WANTED CAROL to stay at home with the children, so when he was finished with his hours of coaching at Hillsdale High in San Mateo, Calif., he would change clothes and work some more. At various times he had a job at a food warehouse, dug swimming pools, drove an ice-cream truck, pumped gas, fixed cars under a single hanging lightbulb in a silent garage at midnight. "That man's going places," people would say. They had no idea how fast.
2. BECOME JUNIOR COLLEGE HEAD COACH!
2.1 BECOME JUNIOR COLLEGE COACH OF THE YEAR!
HE WAS 27 AND PERSONABLE AND HANDSOME, and the coeds at Napa College, a J.C. in Northern California, wished he would stand still long enough for them to flirt. He couldn't. He was busy bullying a wreck of a football program to a 7-2 season in his first and only year there (1964). His reputation began to spread.
3. BECOME MAJOR COLLEGE ASSISTANT COACH!
4. BECOME NFL ASSISTANT COACH!
5. BECOME MAJOR COLLEGE HEAD COACH!
5.1 WIN ROSE BOWL!
5.2 BECOME PAC-10 COACH OF THE YEAR!
THE NEW HEAD COACH OF UCLA WAS 37. NOT A wrinkle crossed his clothes or face; even his charisma was crisp. "Men," he told his staff as the first day of practice approached in 1974, "I want to get off to a good start. We'll meet at 6 a.m."