NFL names minority coaching program after Bill Walsh

It was Bill Walsh’s idea to create an intern program for minority football coach. And, fittingly, the NFL announced today the program will be renamed The Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship.

The program has brought more than 1,300 minority coaches into NFL training camps. Walsh introduced the concept in 1987 when he brought a group of coaches to 49ers training camp in Rocklin.


“Bill knew it was important to create these opportunities, so we’d go into our meetings and there would be a young minority coach sitting with us,” former 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark said.


The program grew to the point that now every NFL team participates in it at every training camp.  Last summer, 90 minority coaches were invited to NFL camps. They were responsible for planning and participating in practice sessions, working with players. They also were able to learning from coaches with more experience.


“Bill Walsh is known for his ‘coaching tree’ that produced many NFL coaches such as Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren and Dennis Green,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “But that tree has even more branches because of Bill’s initiation of the minority internship.  That is why the program will now bear his name.”


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose teams faces the Cardinals on Sunday in Super Bowl 43, is the youngest head coach (36) in Super Bowl history. He is a graduate of the internship and endorses its efficacy.


Tomlin interned with the Cleveland Browns in the summer of 2000 when he was the defensive backs coach at the University of Cincinnati.  Sunday he will join another graduate of the minority program – the Chicago Bears’ Lovie Smith (Super Bowl XLI) – as two products of the internship to be head coaches in a Super Bowl.


“I came into the league as a minority intern with the Browns when I coached college football,” Tomlin said this week.  “That was a great avenue to expose the NFL to me.  Really, prior to that, I had no intentions whatsoever of coaching in the NFL.  I left that internship committed to coaching in the league because it was such a positive experience.”


The newest minority internship grad is new Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris, just appointed on January 17. Morris — the youngest head coach in the NFL at 32 — interned with the New York Jets in 2001 when he was the defensive backs coach at Hofstra University


Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards also got their starts in the program.


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