PITTSFORD, N.Y. (July 30, 2007) -- Marv Levy will never forget the first time he met Bill Walsh. Levy was so impressed interviewing this bright and enthusiastic high school coach he gave Walsh his first college job.
It was 1960, after Levy took over California, when he was looking to fill out his staff and happened upon Walsh by accident.
"I called and asked the San Jose State coach for a recommendation on somebody, and he told me the guy had just taken a job elsewhere," Levy recalled. "But he said, 'There's a high school coach over in Fremont. I'd recommend you interview him.' And that was Bill."
It was with sadness that Levy, the Buffalo Bills general manager and former coach, recalled the story shortly after learning of Walsh's death. Walsh was 75 and died following a long battle with leukemia.
"It's sad. You realize it's inevitable, but it's still sad," said Levy, who will turn 82 next week. "I don't remember Bill Walsh being old. I remember young Bill Walsh. He wasn't gray-haired and neither was I when we first met."
From a modest beginning, and after Levy and his entire staff -- including Walsh -- were fired in 1963, the pair emerged as two of the NFL's most successful coaches, both earning induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Levy eventually went on to coach the Bills to an unmatched four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, all of them losses, in the early 1990s. Walsh outdid his former boss, coaching the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles.
"It was a unique situation," Levy said, referring to how a five-person coaching staff at California produced two Hall of Famers. "He was one of the brightest minds that has ever coached the game. And his record will show that."
Walsh earned the nickname "The Genius" for his innovative offensive schemes, play-calling strategies and coaching techniques, some of which were already evident during those coaching meetings at Cal. Levy recalls Walsh -- initially hired to coach the team's freshmen and eventually promoted to coaching receivers -- occasionally dominating staff meetings.
"Bill loved it where he would go up to the blackboard and expound," Levy said. "And once in a while, I'd have to say, 'Hey, Bill, we've got to get out to practice.' "
Levy noted that Walsh already showed hints of having all the attributes that would eventually lead to his successful career.
"I couldn't predict, 'Oh, he's going to be in the Hall of Fame someday.' But I could see right away how bright he was," Levy said. "I just sensed that this guy was uniquely bright."
The two stayed in touch over the years. They last met in person at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2002, when former Bills star quarterback Jim Kelly was inducted.
And Levy spoke to Walsh by phone about six weeks ago.
"He said he had come off a certain type of a treatment and he felt much more energy. But he told me then, he said, 'Marv, I don't have long,' " Levy said. "He said it honestly. He was vibrant. Understood it. And yet, I was sad to hear it."
The Associated Press News Service
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