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July 12, 2010
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July 12, 2010

"good Things Were Going To Happen"

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During nine seasons under Coryell in San Diego, Fouts led the NFL in passing yards four times and was the first quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons (1979 through '81). Fouts shared some memories of his former coach with SI's Jim Trotter.

Don was such an innovator when it came to offenses and the passing game that we players just knew we were going to be successful when he gave us plays or schemes. For me, the excitement came early in the week, when I got the game plan and saw how we were going to attack opponents. You could just see the anticipation building among the players as the week went on. There was a feeling that you wanted to be in there, you wanted to be on the field, because good things were going to happen. The games were almost anticlimactic because we expected to make plays.

Don treated practices like games. We had play clocks out there, and we kept a pretty good pace throughout. That was important to him—and to me—because that's the proper way to practice. He was demanding in that way, but I don't remember him ever going crazy mad at someone. I know he never had a cross word for me, although I'm sure he said some things under his breath after I threw a few interceptions. He was just so positive. It was always, "Let's go. O.K., let's do better. Way to go, guys." He was a genuinely nice man.

It's tough to speak about somebody when you owe him as much as I owe Don. In the later years we became such good friends, beyond the player-coach relationship. That was wonderful for me, because I wanted that, and he gave it to me. He gave me a lot. I'm saddened that he never got a chance to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame while he was alive, but he was there for me when I was inducted. He made a great presentation and sat on the back of that convertible during the parade. We shared a lot of special moments in Canton.

I heard that Tony Dungy said Don's impact on the game as an innovator and a tutor of coaches was on par with Paul Brown's. That's a huge statement, because you just don't put things out there like that when you're talking about Paul Brown. But Don was deserving. He was one of a kind: a major contributor, a person who changed the game. There aren't many men in the Hall of Fame you can actually point to and say that the game changed because of them. Coach may be gone, but the man and his contributions will never be forgotten.