Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin always proudly says, “Football is what I do, being a husband and father is who I am,” and on Saturday he showed exactly what he meant at the team’s All Pro Dad Father & Kid’s Experience.
Tomlin hosted the event for the sixth straight year at the team’s practice facility at the UMPC Sports Performance Complex, bringing fathers and their children together for an afternoon of fun and games, but more importantly for an afternoon of quality time and family bonding.
“If I can encourage others to be the best they can be in that area it’s a blessing,” said Tomlin. “It’s always an awesome event because you see people get past some thresholds of discomfort to express themselves and let each other know how they feel about one another. It’s all positive.”
He understands that in this day and age, when tough economic times have some fathers working two jobs or extended hours, getting quality time with your kids can be tough. That is why he encourages making sure the time you do have together is special.
“Not letting our work define us is a big challenge,” said Tomlin. “I know the workplace is a competitive one regardless of what industry you are in. But some things money can’t buy. I try to carve out time with my kids as much as I can. It’s the things that don’t seem to mean much, but they really do. It’s making their hobbies, your hobbies. My hobbies are their hobbies and I love it.”
Tomlin was joined at the event by his own three children, Dino (11), Mason (10), and Harly (6), and by his stepfather, Leslie Copeland, who has been an inspiration in his life and is the man Tomlin always refers to as “Dad”. Tomlin talked about the relationship with him and how it grew from the time he married his mother when Tomlin was eight-years old.
“He was my dad,” said Tomlin. “He coached my little league baseball team. He encouraged me in everything I did. He was an inspiration and blueprint for me in terms of what I do with my kids. He taught me it’s okay to compete to win. I think that comes out in my professional life. We were unashamed about competing and playing to win. That is okay. That it’s what life is about, competition and being the best you be and going as hard as you can.
“We did it all together. He taught me how to be my best. I love him. He is the best. This guy did it all for me. This guy is my dad.”
Copeland can’t help but beam seeing what Tomlin has turned into professionally, but the real pride in his heart is seeing the type of father he is.
“I can’t say how proud I am,” said Copeland. “I love the success as a parent he has had. That is what I tried to be with him. It wasn’t what he did playing sports, as long as he participated and learned from it, it was good.
“I am so thankful and proud of him that he has carried on to help someone else. That is what it’s all about.”
Tomlin, who got involved with All Pro Dad because of his mentor in coaching and former boss at Tampa Bay Tony Dungy, encouraged the dads to be there for their kids, put them first in life no matter what else you have going on.
“We all have the same challenges,” said Tomlin. “We all have responsibilities of taking care of our families, but it’s what we do, not who we are.
“We need to encourage them, show them the difference between right and wrong and give them the necessary disciple they need. We need to hug them, tell them we love them, and focus solely on the relationships with them.”
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