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Notes on a napkin from weekend at Marvin's

Posted May 19, 2014

No one in professional sports does a better job than Lewis raising money for what he calls "The Kids." The two events over the weekend, Saturday night's V.I.P dinner at the Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse and Sunday's celebrity golf tournament at Shaker Run Golf Club are the two biggest fundraisers for his community fund that has generated more than $10 million for programs aimed at opening up educational opportunities for Cincinnati's youth.


92 Crisscross Corkscrew.

That's one of the two plays from Super Bowl XXIII, one of the high tides of Bengaldom, that Sam Wyche drew up on canvas and donated to Marvin Lewis this past weekend.

"I'm done giving away footballs and sideline gear. I want to file those away now," said Wyche, his marvelous mix of gentle sarcasm and self-depreciation still humorously intact at age 69. "I only draw up 150 plays. About 50 plays from each of the Super Bowls I was lucky to be in. That way there's value. And when I croak, the value will really skyrocket."

It's always fitting when Wyche visits the Marvin Lewis Golf Classic. If there's any coach who showed those before him how to not only help the community but become a part of it, it is Wyche. When he was the head coach of the Bengals from 1984-91, he set the gold standard with his work against hunger. Much like Lewis has done for education during the last dozen seasons he's coached in Cincinnati.

"Part of it is your position. When you're the head coach of a team in a town, there's no question you have a great opportunity," Wyche said during a break in the many festivities. "And Marvin's doing a great job.  A lot better than I did to raise some money."

No one in professional sports does a better job than Lewis raising money for what he calls "The Kids." The two events over the weekend, Saturday night's V.I.P dinner at the Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse on the eastern edge of the city and Sunday's celebrity golf tournament at Shaker Run Golf Club in Lebanon, Ohio, are the two biggest fundraisers for his community fund that has generated more than $8 million for programs aimed at opening up educational opportunities for Cincinnati's youth.

Because of various commitments in his own endeavors, Wyche could only make it for the second time, so when the two men that have coached the most games in Bengals history are under the same tent, it's a special time.

Wyche figured to draw between $300 and $400 in the silent auction for his work. He got the idea from all those dinners with Hall-of-Fame 49ers coach Bill Walsh in San Francisco, where Wyche was his right-hand man on the 1981 team that beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. During dinners Walsh would scribble plays on napkins and before they'd leave the waiters would ask him to sign them.

Wyche came up with two plays for this one; both from the Super Bowl where Walsh The Mentor barely beat Wyche The Student in January of 1989 in the final 34 seconds of the 49ers' 20-16 win in Miami.  A third-and-eight and a third-and-short.

"One was complete, one was incomplete," Wyche said.

On the third-and-short, quarterback Boomer Esiason ran a quick trap play where he pulled the ball out of running back Ickey Woods' belly at the last instant on a play-action pass.

"I'm trying to remember what the protection number was," Wyche paused. "It was 92. The backs run about 20 yards up field and turn in and then back out. Like a corkscrew. Then you have (running back) James Brooks and (tight end) Rodney Holman crossing over the middle."

On the official play-by-play sheet, there's one third-and-eight. It went for an 11-yard completion to wide receiver Cris Collinsworth. More than 25 years later, Wyche is still creating big-time connections. As a volunteer assistant coach for the high school team back in Pickens, S.C.., he runs the Sam Wyche Food Fight bowl every year in a combined fund-raising effort with their arch-rivals to raise money for Meals on Wheels.

"I'm saving the signed footballs and the gear," he said with a smile.

SOLLY CELEBRATION: On Sunday, the leader board was dotted with current and former Bengals as well as familiar NFL names.

It is a sign, said Tony Siragusa, of the wide-ranging respect Lewis has in his town and around the league. Incumbent Bengals long snapper Clark Harris won a long-drive contest. Former three-time Bengals Pro Bowl safety David Fulcher won two closest-to-the-pin contests in the opening half hour, the first in the celebrity contest. Siragusa's group won the tourney with 13-under, not bad for 14 holes. That stopped the annual raid of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's group, which just missed at 12-under.

"We had a ringer. Don't know his name. The littlest guy out there," Siragusa said. "A ringer."

Siragusa, not as mammoth as he was when he and Sam Adams were the linchpins of Lewis' NFL record-setting defense in Baltimore 15 seasons ago, still cuts a pretty big swath as a TV pitch man and FOX NFL analyst.

"Marvin does it right and he reciprocates. He's coming to mine in a couple of weeks," Siragusa said. "Marvin's been here such a long time and he's got unbelievable support in the community and this isn't the only thing he does. In a few weeks he's honoring the kids on the honor roll."

Siragusa referred to "Learning Is Cool," the program that offers a range of incentives for kids in the Cincinnati Public Schools and other systems. Dovetailed with Sunday's presentation of six $20,000 college scholarships and spring is more than Bengals OTAs.

It also stands as an annual reunion for all Bengals.

In one corner there was Wyche talking to John Stofa in a meeting of two of the first Bengals quarterbacks. In another corner there was former safety Chinedum Ndukwe talking with his old secondary coach, Kevin Coyle. Over there was Ken Moyer, a guard from the 90s and now the first year head coach at Dayton Christian. Wyche told him when he plays Fulcher, the coach at Cincinnati Christian, he's coming up from South Carolina for the game. Up there is former linebacker Dhani Jones as the big-money auctioneer in a comedy bit with Lewis that conjures up the chemistry that helped a low-rank defense blossom into an AFC North winning defense five years ago. 

And over here was Solomon Wilcots, the old safety from the S.W.A.T. team poster that immortalized the Bengals' 1988 secondary. If Wilcots' visage hung in the bedroom of Cincy's baby boomers, his voice is as familiar to their kids as one of the NFL's best analysts.

This weekend was tough for the '88 Bengals. They lost the son of wide receiver Mike Martin when Marcus Martin died suddenly one morning late last week. A dastardly blow to men and women who were so close to each other as young families finding their way in Cincinnati all those years ago.

"They're like brothers to me," Wilcots said. "We remember when Marcus was born. I was as close to Mike and Michelle as I was with any teammate. Barney and Beverly Bussey. Ira and Jean Hillary. Anthony (Munoz) and his wife. It breaks our heart. We don't take anything for granted. We're getting to that age."

Getting to that age where reunions are bitter and sweet.

"When we get together now," Wilcots said, "we're all laughing and talking. We almost lose our voices, you know?"

Wilcots never loses his voice. He's always got an unvarnished opinion.

The Bengals' draft?

"Loved it. Absolutely loved it," Wilcots said. "The first two picks, you take them that high and they have to be plug-and-play guys. If you talked to the Bengals in February, March, and April, I'm sure they would have told you they never thought (Michigan State cornerback) Darqueze Dennard and (LSU running back) Jeremy Hill would be there that deep. They were arguably the two highest-rated guys on their position boards."

Wilcots understood why they picked Hill over Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde in the second round.

"Hill comes out of a pro offense where he really excelled against eight men in the box in the SEC," he said. "I think that's where he had a little bit of an advantage. Hyde played in more of a zone-blocking scheme and ran through, bigger gaping holes. Hill's degree of difficulty was much higher."

How do the Bengals over the hump?

"Coaches can only take teams so far," he said. "Players have to say, 'This is our team.'"

 COYLE's RETURN: Coyle, now the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins after 11 years as the Bengals' highly-regarded secondary coach, had an up close look at Dennard. It turns out they left the NFL Scouting Combine at the same time back in February and got to spend some time together. It's a good thing for the Bengals the Dolphins weren't looking for a cornerback.

"There's no question he was one of the top defensive players in the draft. Physically, he's got what it takes," Coyle said. "But he's got the character and makeup to be one of those top guys. Guys like the Leon Halls of the world that are professional in everything that they do. Guys you can count on. I was impressed and I think he'll have an outstanding career."

Coyle, who has been gone two years, probably summed up the weekend best. It was the week after the draft, teams are in Phase II of their offseason workouts, and OTAs are set for next week. But Coyle had a weekend off and wanted to come north.

 "I'm fortunate to be able to come back and be a part of this and what Marvin does up here," Coyle said. "Not only what he does on the field, things that have never been done here, like an unprecedented three playoffs in a row, but he's been building a legacy that's so much more than football. What the foundation has done for all kinds of people all over Cincinnati has been incredible and I feel fortunate to be a part of it."

And so Coyle came north to play and he took some good-natured abuse from Lewis for his South Florida white pants during the celebrity closest-to-the-pin contest. But he had the last word wearing his Dolphins visor. There's no question that the toughest loss the Bengals suffered in 2013 was in overtime in Miami Halloween Night when Coyle's line stunt produced Cameron Wake's sack of Andy Dalton for a safety and a walk-off win.

"That was a tough game. A back-and-forth game between two good teams and we were fortunate we came up with a couple of turnovers," Coyle said. "I pull for the Bengals whenever we're not playing and when I was talking to Mike Brown before the game he was saying how difficult it was playing against people you have really high regard for and I can't say enough how much my time with the Bengals meant to me and my family.

"I gave him a quote from Godfather II, I think it was.'This is the life we've chosen.' This is the NFL. We got a chuckle out of that."

But for one weekend, anyway, the only scoreboard that mattered was for the kids.

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