The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 17, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Noll was the most successful football coach I ever knew

MORGANTOWN — Charles Henry “Chuck” Noll was without question the most successful football coach at any level that I’ve ever known in my writing career.

Noll, who died in his sleep at 82 last Friday night, served 23 enjoyable – and most memorable – years as mentor of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The owner of the franchise, the late Arthur Rooney Sr., couldn’t have come up with a better, classy hire.

Noll guided the Steelers to 209 victories and an all-time record of four Super Bowl titles.

I got to know – and respect – Noll from his arrival in 1969 through 1993 when he retired from coaching. I happened to be associated with The Dominion News in Morgantown nearly all of that time.

It was delightful to watch and report on his great teams, then after the games, attend Noll’s well-spoken post-game press conferences.

I’m sure Steeler fans throughout the tri-state area enjoyed those, too, on radio and TV. There are so many interesting things to write about Chuck Noll that I hardly know where to start.

In the 1970s, he brought a team to Morgantown and defeated Cincinnati in a pre-season NFL game at Mountaineer Field. Some readers likely remember that sunny afternoon.

He also has flown his own plane, as a licensed pilot, into Morgantown on Pro Day workouts at WVU.

My younger brother, Bill Furfari, who died several months ago, also piloted his own plane, and he got to know and admire Noll as a flier in Pittsburgh’s airports on occasion.

The Cleveland, Ohio, native also was a licensed sailor. He and his wife had a home in Florida as well as in Swickley, Pa., where he died of natural causes.

Another memorable link to Morgantown as well as to the Steelers, was the late broadcaster Jack Fleming’s call of Franco Harris’ “immaculate reception” on a pass catch. It gave the Steelers a win against a Florida team in a playoff game.

Fleming, a widely known local-native, was “Voice of the Mountaineers” for many, many years and a WVU alumnus. He also broadcast Steeler games for 37 years.

Gerry Dulac, long-time sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recalled in an excellent article that success was never a destination for Chuck Noll.

“It was not a road that had an ending, rather always a new beginning,” he wrote. “It was a journey, a path that never allowed for complacency or made room for satisfaction.”

Noll taught his players that, whether it was life or football, getting to the top was not nearly as important as staying there.

He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and quarterback Terry Bradshaw along with several other players are in there with the guy they dearly loved and admired.

Gerry Dulac noted, Noll always traveled with the same dose of humility and purpose, never seeking attention.

What’s more, he always tried to prepare his players for a career after football. That was a vital role in Noll’s teaching.

He always referred to that as “their life’s work.”

I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to cover the Steelers during Chuck Noll’s 23 glorious years of unmatched success in Pittsburgh.

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