Pittsburgh's Tomlin Reflects on Relationship with Stewart Family - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Pittsburgh's Tomlin Reflects on Relationship with Stewart Family

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MORGANTOWN -

Mike Tomlin has always been one to give credit where it is due and to realize the impact that those in his past had on his current successes.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach shared a story with NFL Films that would make former West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart proud.

Stewart gave Tomlin his first coaching job after his playing days at William and Mary came to an end and as he tells it, his intention was not initially to take a job. Stewart had other ideas, though, and the head coach at Virginia Military Institute ultimately got his way.

"I'll never forget," Tomlin told NFL Films, reflecting on his first weekend with Stewart at VMI. "They were in the middle of spring ball and he said, ‘Hey, just come up and spend a weekend with us and see if it's something that you could sink your teeth into.' Looking back at it, knowing Stew now, I know that was a set up, you know. I got there, they handed me a script, I coached all weekend."

Tomlin coached wide receivers for the Keydets in 1995 before moving on along a path that landed him his first NFL assistant coaching job with Tampa Bay in 2001. Those years working with Stewart, when the love of the job was most important, helped form him into a coach who would wind up reaching the highest level of his sport.

"Some economic constraints at places like VMI; it was full time work, part time pay," said Tomlin. "Shoot, we spent a lot of time in Coach Stew's basement because that was the place to be when you were broke."

In that time, Tomlin not only got to know his head coach as a friend, but also the entire Stewart family. Bill's wife, Karen, and son, Blaine, became close to Tomlin and he learned quickly just how much family meant to the New Martinsville native.

"You couldn't run into Coach Stew or talk to Coach Stew without the conversation quickly going to his boy Blaine and how he was doing," said Tomlin. "That, of course, was his only child, so he really cherished that young man."

When Stewart died of a heart attack in 2012, Tomlin was there to show Blaine that he still cared and would be available if he needed someone to lean on during such a difficult time.

"The day after his death, I got a text from Coach Tomlin," Blaine recalled. "I'll never forget what it said. It said, ‘The sun did come up today. Everything happens for a reason. I love you, and I'll be down to see you this week.' For him to show his support, I'm very thankful for that. When I saw him at the funeral, he just said any time he could help me or any time I needed to talk, he would be there for me and he has been."

Tomlin showed up to Blaine's first football game of his senior season at Morgantown High School and gave him an opportunity to join the Steelers organization for a few days as a ball boy. He learned just how much work goes into making an NFL team operate during the week.

NFL Films captures a moment between Tomlin and Blaine prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bengals nearly a year ago on Dec. 23. The two discuss family and football and Blaine's future in the sport and in the classroom, which ultimately landed him at James Madison University.  

The camera then shifts to an image of Tomlin with former WVU standout and current Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, who approaches the Steelers head coach. The two exchange a greeting before Jones shifts his focus to Blaine, who has grown tremendously from the boy he was when Jones was still making plays for the Mountaineers.

"I see you've got Stew's boy over there. That's good," said Jones.

Tomlin replied that Stewart gave him his first job.

"Stew raised me," was Jones' response.

"I'm going to take care of that young man," said Tomlin. "Promise you that."

That has been Tomlin's promise for quite some time now.

"It's really been a unique relationship after Coach Stew's passing," said Tomlin. "We're friends for life and I mean it in that way. Blaine is an impressive young man; he's mature beyond his years. I just want to be there if he wants somebody to talk to, if he needs somebody to talk to. I think that's important."

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