High school football has been part of my life for as far back as I remember...and that front row seat I was afforded as part of a Football Family gave me an amazing view of the power that one coach can have on a young person's course in life. And as I sat down to write this week's brief blog to reflect on what on how one person can make such a drastic difference, one of our hometown area's greatest legacies suddenly passed away only hours before.
In trying to put into words what Mike Pettine, Sr. did for not only Pennsylvania high school football, but scores of young men, I come to one conclusion. You can talk league titles, state championships, record winning streaks, and 326 wins. But, in my view, these were the least of the accomplishments of longtime high school football coach of Central Bucks West and father of former Cleveland Brown's coach Mike Pettine, Jr.. Records get broken and trophies tarnish, but how one reaches the heart, mind, and soul of another human being with something that other will carry for a lifetime can never be touched.
In reading today's articles of his passing, I came across the words that basically say ... well, words just aren't enough to embody all that a single high school coach did for so many.
As one former player expressed, "Coach Pettine was an exceptional leader of men. Words can’t explain the impact he had on my life as a High School Coach and leader... He extracted the best from every individual and relentlessly pushed us. As a result, we learned to achieve well beyond our expectations. We learned that with hard work any goal can be reached. We learned what team work truly is. I will be forever grateful! After playing and coaching college football, I have yet to meet a coach of his abilities."
A local sportswriter echoed the notion, simply stating, " Words don't do justice to the legacy Mike Pettine left us with." He said nothing more than that.
And he was right.
In mourning the loss of Coach Pettine, many will seek the words that describe him and his work within their own lives and his community. But that words can never explain or measure or completely honor him and his mark on one corner of the world and beyond ... that is truly the greatest victory.