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September 29, 1989 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-29

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falo Bills, who also is
"I haven't had any of his
mail for three or four years
now," says Detroit's Levy,
who has known the other
Levy since the latter was
head football coach at the
University of California-
Berkeley. "We used to get
each other's mail when I was
an assistant coach at the

"Dave Levy has
every facet of
coaching that a
good coach would
like to have."

University of Southern
California. And then there
are people today who have
met me before but have
forgotten my first name.
When they hear my last
name, they'll call me 'Marv'.

Levy says compare players after their careers.

The 'Other' Le

The coach of the Lions' Sanders & Co. is getting his
own mail these days.


Staff Writer


t's not too hard a scene
to visualize:
A trio of young
teenage boys, sitting on
their bicycles, squinting
into the bright southern
California sun, trying to size
up the stranger who is facing
them, challenging them
with his seemingly
boundless enthusiasm.
"You boys coming out for
the team?" asks Buck
Catlin, the new freshman
football coach at their junior
high school in Long Beach.
"No, not this year, Coach,"
says young Davy Levy,
group spokesman. "We're
thinkin' about coming out
next year."
"Next year?!" Catlin ex-
claims in disbelief. In an ins-
tant, the boys are his--and a
championship tradition is



But not right away, recalls
Dave Levy, who today is a
good 42 years and some
2,000 miles removed from
those memorable times.
"That was the beginning of a
real athletic dynasty, but I
don't think we won one
game that year. We tied one
game out of the six we
played--but it was against
the team that won the city
That sort of moral victory--
and the strong memory of
those early days under coach
and mentor Catlin, with
whom he is still friends--
have carried Levy to where
he is now: running backs
coach for the Detroit Lions.
"He was a very strong,
positive influence," Levy
says of Catlin, who coached
Levy in football and track, in
which Levy threw the shot
and discus. "He was a very
inspirational teacher. He got
a group of us young guys

together and was very en-
thusiastic and positive. He
watched us, encouraged us,
got on our case if we needed
it, but he also was suppor-
tive of us. And not only me
and my friends, but hun-
dreds of boys throughout his
long career."
Catlin eventually became
a school principal, but Levy
was hooked on coaching. "It
may not have been a real
mature decision back then,"
he says today, "but I never
changed my mind after that.
I never really thought about
being anything else."
Although Levy, a veteran
of 32 years in the coaching
field, is sure there are other
Jewish assistant coaches in
the National Football
League today, he has the
distinction of being the se-
cond Levy actively coaching
for a pro football team.
His counterpart is Mary
Levy, head coach of the Buf-

"We see each other several
times per year and Mary
usually asks me, 'Say, have
you gotten any of my mail?"
If Dave Levy's first name
isn't well-known, his
coaching reputation is.
Levy helped coach the San
Diego Chargers nine seasons
(1980-89), including two
divisional championships
(1980-81), and was offensive
line coach two of the three
seasons (1981-83) in which
San Diego led the NFL in
fewest quarterback
sacks—one per 27 pass at-
"Dave is one of the—and I
mean this very sincere-
ly—one of the top coaches
and people in this profes-
sion," says Al Saunders,
Levy's head coach his final
two years with the Chargers.
Saunders, now a Kansas
City Chiefs assistant who
was a USC graduate assis-
tant under Levy, says he
admires Levy's people-
handling skills and football
"Dave Levy has every
facet of coaching that a good
coach would like to have. His
ability to communicate and
to teach is, in my opinion,
unparalleled. He's obviously
a very intelligent man and
very articulate. He's able to
communicate to young,
aspiring players as well as to
senators and team owners.
He's a charming man and a
great human being."
A one-time guard for
UCLA, Levy was a Califor-
nia high school coach and
also coached 16 years at
USC, during which the Tro-
jans were in eight Rose
During four of those sea-

sons (1972-75) under head
coach John McKay, Levy
and Wayne Fontes—now
Lions' head coach—were
assistant coaches together.
"I knew Wayne and the
minute he contacted me
(about Detroit) I was very in-
terested," says Levy. "I
knew him for so long, I know
how he works and thinks."
Levy, 56, is probably hav-
ing a bit of deja vu these
days, finding himself in a
situation not unlike that of
his junior high football days.
The 1989 Lions, too, are
winless after three regular
and four pre-season games-
in fact, haven't won since
last Dec. 4, a 30-14 Silver-
dome victory over the Green
Bay Packers, a total of 10
games ago.
Not that Levy is to blame:
his running back corps, led
by Heisman Trophy winner
Barry Sanders and veterans
Carl Painter and Tony
Paige, has done its part to
put "stretch" into the Lions'
new Silver Stretch offense.
To date, Sanders & Co. have
accounted for 452 of the
Lions' 973 total yards in
offense, putting the Lions
among the top 15 in rushing
in the National Football
League heading into Sun-
day's game against the
visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.
Levy, who coached
Heisman winners O.J.
Simpson and Mike Garrett
at USC as well as Ricky Bell
and Chuck Muncie at San
Diego, shuns comparisons,
preferring to let career
records speak for them-
Sanders, he says, "has
tremendous talent. Once you
get talent (in addition to
power, speed and balance),
you get into all the mental
things that make a person
good: his toughness, desire
to succeed, which is a blend
of talent and ambition, and I
think he (Sanders) has both
of them. And he learns
quickly. "We expect great
things from him, but more
importantly, he expects
great things from himself.
"Winners have character,
and Barry Sanders is a
winner, no question about
Noting that the Lions'
Silver Stretch offense is
designed to use the passing
game to open up the running
game, instead of the other
way around, Levy says that,
"So far, the running game is
very adequate."
Regarding the Lions'
future, Levy urges patience,
noting that "a team doesn't
improve just because
somebody new comes in and
says, 'Let's do it this way.'

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