Sean McDermott: Mike Tomlin "Gave Me a Blueprint"

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- In a week full of headlines - from the Edmunds brothers to a playoff position battle - one story that stands tall is the relationship between the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers head coaches. Mike Tomlin and Sean McDermott didn't spend much time together at William and Mary, but it was enough to grow a relationship they continue to keep as they both mold their careers in the NFL. 

A former walk-on defensive back, Sean McDermott first met his Week 15 opponent as a freshman on William and Mary's practice field. The now Buffalo Bills head coach only spent a year as a teammate with Tomlin, but in their short time as teammates, McDermott grew to respect his now competitor like a younger brother following his older brother's example.

"He was mature. I'm probably not one of the more vocal people around but I do watch, I do listen, and I try to learn a lot by watching people and Mike was one of the people that I watched and learned a lot from."

McDermott's head coaching career started 10 years after Tomlin's but it hasn't been a disadvantage for his career. At 9-4, in the midst of his third season as the Bills head coach, McDermott has followed the guidelines his former teammate has left through two Super Bowl wins and eight years of winning seasons. The "blueprint" as McDermott described it, is something Tomlin has left for many of his peers, as he and many others continue to look up to the Steelers coach. 

"What Mike did was he gave me a blueprint a little bit for what it looked like. He was such a role model for a lot of us, myself included, on campus as a younger player," McDermott said. "He was a fourth-year senior when I got there so he was a good example for me as well as many others. So to watch him go off and graduate and begin his coaching career and the way he did it and the way he climbed the ladder, I've always looked at him as kind of an older brother in the profession because of where we started."

While Tomlin and McDermott didn't compete as starters in college, McDermott remembers watching the upperclassman carry himself the same way he does today. A persona that's generated an extremely successful NFL coaching career wasn't something Tomlin adopted when entering the league. 

McDermott may not have has the stature that Tomlin did at the time, but he's used his time with the Steelers coach wisely; watching and learning from a player the team held to a high respect. 

"Him being a wide receiver and myself being a defensive back, we had our battles and more so, I was a walk-on and he was a scholarship athlete so he was established and I was just trying to get a pair of cleats," McDermott said. "So really, it was just me watching him battle with some of the older DB's and yet having a good personality and a good rapport off the field with your teammates." 

Holding himself to a high demeanor has always been something Tomlin was capable of doing. When he walks in a room, people turn. When he speaks, people listen. And it appears that's always been the case.

"He's always been a orator. He's always had a good way about him about his command of the english language," McDermott said. 


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