JONESBORO, Ark. (8/21/14) – The Arkansas State Touchdown Club held its annual preseason banquet Thursday night at the Convocation Center, and coaching legend Dick Vermeil was the featured speaker for this year’s event that also included silent and live auctions and dinner.
The former NFL coach and 1999 Super Bowl XXXIV winning coach of the St. Louis Rams spent a large portion of the afternoon and evening on the A-State campus, meeting with the Red Wolves football team and taking part in a reception prior the banquet.
“(Coach Vermeil) is one of my heroes, and it was just a tremendous opportunity for our team to hear from him,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. “It was nice to hear him say some of the same things we say to our players, and that just makes you feel good about what you’re telling them. It’s always a pleasure for our team to hear from someone with his kind of experience and his track record, so it was an honor.”
“"I told them hard work is not a form of punishment -- hard work is how you get better,” Vermeil said about addressing the team during practice. “Hard work is your ally and that means you are investing your efforts to get better as an individual and as a team. You have to work on little things each day and gradually get better. I also spoke on building programs, and I told them the future of this program is in their hands and I asked them to assume some of the responsibility for it."
The banquet, emceed by Arkansas State play-by-play announcer Matt Stolz, began at 7 p.m. with introductory remarks by A-State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir. Anderson then addressed those in attendance and following a live auction, Vermeil made an insightful and motivational presentation.
“Arkansas State has a tender spot in my heart because (former A-State and NFL player) Bill Bergy played here,” said Vermeil. “Bill played for me for seven years and he was a great player, great person and a greater friend. I have a feel for this, and I think that personal touch and the invitation was all I needed to come.”
Vermeil is a 31-year coaching veteran, including 16 years as a head coach at both the collegiate and professional levels. His first head coaching stint came in 1974 with the UCLA Bruins, where he compiled a 15-5-3 record in two seasons and capped the 1975 season with a victory over the No. 1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl.
Vermeil began his NFL head coaching career in 1976 with the Philadelphia Eagles and within two seasons had the Eagles in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. He was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1980 and helped lead the Eagles to Super Bowl XV after defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Vermeil retired after the 1982 season and spent the next 15 years working as a sports announcer for CBS and ABC.
He returned to coaching with the St. Louis Rams in 1997 and led the team to its only Super Bowl victory in 1999. The Rams went 13-3 in the regular season that year after backup quarterback Kurt Warner took over for Trent Green, who had suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Vermeil won the NFL Coach of the Year award for the second time in his career and retired from coaching after Super Bowl XXXIV.
Vermeil made his final return to the coaching ranks in 2001 with the Kansas City Chiefs and helped the squad to a 13-3 record and the AFC West title in 2003. He retired again in 2005 and finished his career with a 126-114 (.525) record.
The Calistoga, Calif., native has achieved many accolades, including being the NFL’s first-ever special teams coach with the Los Angeles Rams in 1969. Since his retirement, Vermeil has been a highly sought after speaker and also owns a winery near Napa Valley.
Season tickets for the 2014 Arkansas State football campaign are on sale at the A-State Ticket Office, located at the Convocation Center’s lower red entrance. The ticket office can also be contacted at 870-972-2781 and tickets may be purchased online at tickets.astate.edu.