Former Browns coach inspires at golf outing

Former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano discusses faith and values at the annual benefit for Westside Christian Academy in Westlake. Photo by Donna Tanner

Golfers and lunch attendees laughed and were inspired by insights derived from the legendary career of former Cleveland Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano during Westside Christian Academy’s annual benefit golf outing and luncheon on Monday, May 18, at Lakewood Country Club in Westlake.

Prior to Rutigliano’s introduction by WCA Headmaster Jim Whiteman, students made short presentations to help emphasize some features of a classical Christian education. The seventh- and eighth-grade girls choir sang followed by a group of three boys who recited from memory the entire twelfth chapter of the book of Romans in the Bible.

Then the former NFL and NCAA head football coach, who led the Cleveland Browns from 1978-1984 during the famed “Kardiac Kids” era and was named NFL Coach of the Year two years in a row, began sharing the wisdom garnered from decades of leadership in the short phrases that delight audiences whenever he speaks:

“What can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.”

“We’ve polluted the air with profanity and call it ‘expression.’”

“There’s no ‘I’ in team but two in ‘idiot.’”

“If your ‘A’ game isn’t there every Sunday, do something else.”

After leaving the Browns, Rutigliano held sports analyst positions with NBC Sports and ESPN. He spent 11 years as head coach at Liberty University and three seasons coaching in NFL Europe for Spain, Scotland and Germany. Since his return to Cleveland, sports fans have followed his work as an analyst with several of the Cleveland networks.

He recalled a time that he spoke at the Football Hall of Fame on the theme of “Heroes and Character.” He had told the audience that “talent is God-given, character is a choice.”

“Good character is like soup; it is homemade,” he said, emphasizing that building character takes work and cannot be mass produced. “What you do speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say,” he added.

To underscore the importance of making a difference in the lives of others, he spoke of the literacy program for children of his Coach Sam’s Inner Circle Foundation, which was started originally to assist professional football players struggling with drug addiction. Currently in two inner-city elementary schools in Cleveland, plans are to begin working in a third school soon. The goal is to be in six schools. He cited statistics that show children who do not have reading proficiency by the third grade are at higher risk of dropping out of school before their high school graduation and of being incarcerated during their lifetime.

Known for his strong faith, Rutigliano left the audience with words of encouragement that help him as he knows he has more years behind him than ahead of him in life.

“I don’t know what the future holds but I know Who holds it,” he said.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 10:12 AM, 06.02.2015