For six-time Pro-Bowler Chris Samuels and 42 other former NFL players, life after football has a lot to do with football.
Samuels was one of 96 minority (I hate that word) coaches to participate in the 2010 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship according to a story released on www.nfllabor.com. Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis, Michael Pittman, former Redskin Clarence Vaughn joined Samuels as interns on the Washington Redskins coaching staff.
“Everything was great,” says Samuels. “I learned from a great group of coaches who are experienced in the NFL. I was in a great situation to learn how to coach football. I have always known that I wanted to coach football once I retired. This is always what I wanted to do, so now I’m just going to the second phase of my life.”
Pro coaching slots have eluded African-American players even thought they have made up the majority of most NFL rosters since the 1970’s (That’s my impression. I haven’t done the research.) Tony Dungy is the poster child of capable candidates who were ready, willing and able for assignment but never got a nibble even with strong backing from his boss, Steelers head coach Chuck Knoll.
Hall Of Fame coach Bill Walsh recognized the problem and established a minority coaching intern program with the San Francisco 49ers in 1987. Dungy would get his shot after Dennis Green, a Walsh protege, signed him as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. His performance building a rugged Vikings defense led the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers to hire Dungy as head coach in 1996.
Every team eventually hired minority coaching interns, but a NFL study found that owners were not considering black candidates for head coaching positions. The owners in 2003 established the Rooney Rule that committed teams to at least talk to a minority candidate before making a head coach hire decision. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney chaired the owners committee that developed the rule.
The NFL named its minority coaching program after Bill Walsh in January 2009. The program cycled over 1,300 minority coaches through NFL training camps since its inception. NFL head coaches Lovie Smith, Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris are graduates of the program. So is current Redskins wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell.
Which could lead to big things in the NFL for Samuels in less time, hopefully, than for Tony Dungy.