OXFORD — Most football fans, especially those who follow Miami, probably are quite familiar with two former RedHawks —Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, both Super Bowl-champion coaches.
Miami Director of Athletics David Sayler is concerned that other coaches who passed through Oxford on their way to morenotable accomplishments might be overlooked. Sayler, working diligently, convinced a reluctant Harbaugh to let the university install back in 2014 a bronze statue in the Cradle of Coaches Plaza at the south end of Yager Stadium.
McVay got his turn on Saturday, unveiling a bronze statue in the plaza to become the 10th and youngest coach to be so immortalized.
“At first, he was like, ‘Are you sure?” Sayler recalled about first reaching out a few weeks after the Rams edged the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl. “I explained to John and Sean that people know who they are and that they could serve as a link to our past. We hope to invigorate the rest of the statues.”
“I was humbled and flattered,” said McVay, 37, who added to his list of age-related accomplishments, from being the youngest head coach NFL history to the youngest to be named Coach of the Year to the youngest to not just lead a team to the Super Bowl but win it.
He also joined his grandfather, former University of Dayton coach John McVay, and uncle John McVay as the only members of the same family to be inducted into Miami’s Cradle of Coaches Association. Sean McVay became the 82nd member of the prestigious group as part of the ceremonies during the half-hour event.
A folding chair next to Sean McVay was left empty in his grandfather’s memory.
Sean McVay’s wife, Veronika, and parents, Cindy and Tim, joined him in the front row. Among those offering brief remarks were university President Greg Crawford, accompanied by his wife, Dr. Renate Crawford. Also on hand were Lori Brown, chairperson of the Cradle of Coaches Association selection committee, and artist Kristen Visbal, who’s crafted all 10 of the plaza’s statues.
McVay’s statue joined those honoring Harbaugh, Ara Parseghian, Earl “Red” Blaik, Paul Brown, Carmen Cozza, Paul Dietzel, Weeb Ewbank, John Pont and Bo Schembechler. Pont also is one of four Miami players to have their uniform number retired.
McVay earned three letters as a wide receiver while playing under the Terry Hoeppner and Shane Montgomery before earning a degree in health and sport studies in 2008. He also earned the Miami’s Scholar Athlete Award as a senior.
He credited the late Hoeppner with imparting a valuable piece of wisdom.
“He said ‘Be in the present,’” McVay recalled. “‘Be in the moment. It’s OK to have idea about your plans, but bloom where you’re planted.’”
He almost immediately embarked on a coaching career, landing a job in 2009 as assistant wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and moving up at a whirlwind pace that led to him being named the Rams’ coach in January 2017.
He is following in the footsteps of, among others, former Miami coach Sid Gillman, who also coached at the University of Cincinnati before leaving for Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. Gillman left Miami to serve as Blaik’s assistant before taking over the Bearcats.
Sean McVay credits the relationships built by his grandfather while serving as an NFL executive.
“I got some jobs I probably didn’t deserve,” he said, standing behind a podium during a pre-cermony media session wearing a light blue suit and white gym shoes.
McVay and several former teammates celebrated the impending ceremony on Friday in uptown Oxford. Somebody asked him if wasn’t concerned about running into Bengals fans still smarting from the Super Bowl outcome.
“Oh, I got it last night,” he said, smiling. “People were yelling ‘Who Dey.’ I’m glad people are still (upset) after a couple of years.”