The Tom Coughlin Few People Know
By James Breig
Source: St. Anthony Messenger magazine
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013
By guiding the New York Giants to two recent Super Bowl victories (2008 and 2012), Tom Coughlin has solidified his position in the ranks of elite pro football coaches. He also joined another fraternity: devout Catholics who have been outstanding gridiron leaders and two-time Super Bowl champions. Others on that list include the legendary Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers, who said he was strengthened by daily Communion, and Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins, who wrote: “Attending Mass and looking to God for guidance aren’t just habits for me. They matter deeply to me.”
Strong Catholic Roots
As with most Catholics, Coughlin’s faith began at his Baptism, but he made clear during a recent interview that a belief system isn’t frozen in place in a single moment. Rather, he says, it evolves over time, through ups and downs.
“I can’t remember any one incident” when his faith was solidified, he says. “You go through stages; all young people do. I was an altar boy and master of ceremonies at midnight Mass and the Easter Vigil Mass. Then you go to a public high school, and you’re not quite as attached [to the Church] as you once were. I went to Syracuse University and became very fond of the Catholic chaplain there. I learned and grew along the way. It’s cumulative.”
Born in 1946 in Waterloo, a small town in western New York state, Coughlin was the oldest of seven children (and is now the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl). He credits his parents and the Sisters of St. Joseph, who taught him at St. Mary’s School, for providing a firm grounding in faith that never collapsed as he made his way through life.
Reflecting on what builds a Catholic, he says that “a lot depends on the strength of the belief of your family—your parents and what they believed. I went to Catholic grammar school through eight grades with the Sisters of St. Joseph, and that’s a big part of it.
“We were raised in a different time and in a different way. I’m a firm believer that that has an awful lot to do with the values I believe in. I’m very proud that my parents sent me to a Catholic grammar school. The idea of [sisters] devoting their lives to the preparation of the young was very obvious. That’s what I felt the whole existence of the Sisters of St. Joseph was: to pay tribute to God [by how] they taught their pupils. And they did a great job of it. There isn’t any question in my mind that my values, my grounding, the way that I was raised are all a part of what I am now.”
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