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Seizing the opportunity
Tomlin: In a hurry, in the Super Bowl and not done

TAMPA, Fla. - Mike Tomlin is always going somewhere in a hurry.

No matter the role - childhood sprint king in Newport News, Va., speed reader, honor student, pizza delivery man, star wide receiver at William & Mary, or football coach with planning notebooks that go back to the first day of his first job - Tomlin doesn't know the concept of slowing down.

Not with another paper to write. Pass to catch. "A' to earn. Job to interview for. Practice to run. Player to motivate. Child to raise. Hug to give. Game to win.

Tomlin briefly considered law school after college, mostly because his mother wanted him to, but coaching has consumed him since his playing days ended.

"Coaching is something I was meant to do," Tomlin said Friday.

Tomlin wasn't quite good enough to make the NFL as a player - he had tryouts with the Browns and 49ers - but no colleague who has worked with him the last 13 years is surprised he's made it as the Pittsburgh Steelers' coach.

Made it to the Super Bowl, too, where the 36-year-old Tomlin can become the youngest coach to win it if the Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

"This is a man who was born to coach. Born to coach," said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who gave Tomlin his first sideline job at VMI in 1995. "His players play for him, his players respect him. And he respects them. You knew Mike Tomlin was going places."

When Tomlin accepted that $12,000-a-year job, his new boss knew Tomlin wouldn't spend much time in football's lower echelons. The young man was too polished, detailed, smart, determined - and motivated. Broke, but motivated.

"I was single, I didn't have cable or long-distance calling, so there was nothing else to do other than immerse yourself in the game," said Tomlin, now the married father of three. "I was with a bunch of guys that were like-minded, and we had a great time."

That job lasted one season, and so did the next. Each subsequent job was the same, be it at Memphis or Cincinnati or Arkansas State, the Buccaneers or the Vikings - he was too good to stay very long.

Even if the Steelers win, Tomlin is likely to hear what he's been told throughout his career: This guy has a lot more left to do.

"He's been that guy that's always done it his way," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "He always stayed the course. He really never let anything deter him off that. It's no longer Bill Cowher's team and we're going to do it his way. As players, you respect that. A guy comes in and you want to test him a little bit, but he held his own and here we are, in his second year, in the Super Bowl."