Chuck Noll - 1972

by Chuck Heaton
from the match programme for the Steelers visit to Cleveland

The clipping from The Plain Dealer library was yellowed by the wear of almost two decades. The picture accompanying the story was a familiar one even then to area football fans.

Chuck Noll Pro Magazine photo 1971That article started out, "Chuck Noll is 21, single, handsome, and a dresser and has the physical build of Apollo and a good job - but no girl friends. "Chuck isn't allergic to the opposite sex. He has no intention of avoiding marriage. It's just that in his new job he doesn't have time for the gals."

The year was 1953 and the new job was one of "messenger" for the Browns. Paul Brown sent in all the plays via his guards. On one play Noll would be blocking and the next he would be on the sideline with his ear close to that of the coach. Said Noll, "First, I've got to make good. Then, maybe, I can get serious about girls."

Chuck has continued to be serious about football. That closeness to Brown was part of a solid football foundation. Now Noll is coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who come into the Stadium this afternoon as one of the most respected teams in the National Football League.

It's a homecoming for the blond grid tutor. He was an outstanding lineman for Benedictine High School and helped the Bengals defeat South High in the high school championship game of 1948. Noll had his heart set on Notre Dame as did most of the graduates of Catholic high schools of that era. He made a late switch; however, and decided to go to the University of Dayton.

Coach of the Flyers then was the late Joe Gavin. He had coached at Holy Name High School here and when Noll was a senior at Dayton Gavin recommended that the Browns draft him.

It's a big jump from a medium size college team to the pros and Noll didn't know quite what to expect. He wasn't sure that he could make the grade but the combination of inner toughness, a willingness to work and physical ability soon attracted Paul Brown.

Noll got the job as messenger and before many years rated as one of the best at the position in the team's history. Before his pro career was over, he also performed at linebacker and this combination gave him an excellent background to go into professional football.

It was during this time that a winning attitude developed. In seven seasons in Cleveland, Chuck was on five Eastern Conference winners and two National Football League title teams.

Noll probably was at the peak of his prowess as a pro player when he retired at 27. There was the plan to get into college coaching but a promised job didn't materialize.

That probably was one of the best breaks of his life. Sid Gillman, an Ohioan then organizing the Chargers out in California was putting together a coaching staff. He signed on Noll to his staff and Chuck learned much under Sid, who has a fine football mind.

Winning football continued with the Chargers. There were five division titles and two American Football League crowns before Noll moved back into the NFL as Don Shula's defensive backfield coach at Baltimore.

That victorious tradition continued. There were just seven regular season losses in three seasons and an NFL title in 1968. Noll was ready for a head coaching job and Art Rooney was looking for a new boss in Pittsburgh. The Steelers had won only 11 games in the three previous years. Rooney decided on the change from Bill Austin after a 2-11-1 mark in 1968.

The owner of the Steelers, one of the most popular executives in professional sports, wanted to make sure he got the right man. He interviewed a long line of applicants and then checked many of them out through a variety of sources.

Noll had the strong recommendation of the three very successful coaches - Brown, Gillman and Shula. Rooney also went so far as to talk to his friends in the newspaper business. He discovered that Noll not only was respected as a coach but was held in high regard as a person.

Chuck got the job and began what proved to be a slow rebuilding of the team. It was a 1-13 year in 1969, a 5-9 season in 1970 and a 6-8 campaign last year. Now all the parts seem to be meshing and Noll comes home as head of a very impressive team.

Oh yes. Somewhere along the way he found time to get serious about girls - or at least one girl. Chuck and his wife – Marianne - a former nurse - have a son Chris, 13. And naturally they are Noll's staunchest boosters.

Chuck Noll 1973>>>

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