More than 50 years after taking his first football coaching gig, Jerry Glanville sees the light at the end of the tunnel like only he can.
The colourful Glanville is completing his first season as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ defensive co-ordinator after serving as a guest coach with the club in 2017. The Ticats face the Ottawa Redblacks in the East Division final Sunday after dominating the B.C. Lions 48-8 in the conference semifinal.
“When I took this job my wife (Brenda) asked, ‘How long do you think you’ll stay there,”’ Glanville said straight-faced before delivering the punch line with a broad smile. “I said, ‘No longer than 15 years.’
“I love it (in CFL), I love everything about it. It’s great fun, great players, the players play hard. It’s just been totally great experience.”
He’s appeared in movies, driven race cars and served as a television football analyst. But make no mistake, Glanville _ a former linebacker at Northern Michigan University _ is a football coach and always will be.
“Coaches coach and preachers preach, they take that to the box,” Glanville said. “I’ll be coaching when they put me in the box.
“When I was doing TV, Waylon Jennings told me, ‘Quit TV tomorrow. You know more football than anybody. Don’t you dare die without teaching it, don’t you dare die with the music inside you.’ Watching coaches grow and players play is why you never say, ‘I’m done.”’
Glanville, a Detroit native who calls Knoxville, Tenn., home, took his first coaching job in 1967 as Western Kentucky’s defensive co-ordinator. He spent 20 seasons in the NFL, including nine as a head coach with Houston (1985-89) and Atlanta (1990-93).
It was with the Oilers that Glanville coined the now famous phrase, “NFL means ‘not for long,”’ while chewing out an official for a bad call. Glanville often stands on the sidelines dressed in black with sunglasses, he’s left tickets at will call for the late Elvis Presley and rubbed many people _ most notably former Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll _ the wrong way with his words and antics.
“You can’t try to live forever, try to live the moment,” Glanville said. “The brave and courageous don’t live forever but those who aren’t never get to live at all.
“A cat is supposed to have nine lives and I think I’m down to about four. I’ve been very blessed.”
Taking the Hamilton job reunited Glanville with Ticats head coach June Jones. Glanville was on the Falcons coaching staff when Jones was a quarterback with the club (1977-81) and the two have worked together in both the NFL (Houston and Atlanta) and NCAA (Hawaii).
But the CFL presented challenges for Glanville, none bigger than its unlimited motion.
“You have to be smart enough to throw out a lot of your American coverages,” he said. “In the U.S. I’m a full bump-and-run teacher but I don’t full press bump and run anybody that’s off the line.
“I treat the motion guy like he’s a slotback off the line, then I add four yards in my depth to cover them. You know what? There’s a lot of bump-and-run people playing in the NFL that couldn’t cover anybody up here. It’s different.”
Hamilton’s defence finished the regular season ranked third against the pass (247.7 yards per game) and fewest yards allowed (334.3), fourth in rushing yards (101.6), sixth in offensive points allowed (23.6 per game) and eighth in sacks (31). On Sunday against B.C., the unit surrendered just 319 total yards and one touchdown while defensive back Frankie Williams registered a pick-six.
However, Glanville takes no credit for that performance.
“What I tell them (players) is the biggest difference between American and Canadian football is nothing,” he said. “It’s still who hits who in the mouth, who gang tackles, who hustles.
“It’s your attitude, it’s how you play. I don’t take credit for one thing we do and I shouldn’t because I don’t deserve it. There’s never a game where our guys don’t spill their guts and that’s the fun of it.”
Linebacker Larry Dean, who had 106 tackles this season and is a finalist for the CFL’s top defensive player award, calls Glanville a “football historian,” who delivers sometimes very colourful messages.
“I can’t repeat some of them,” Dean said with a chuckle. “We’re just trying to get as much knowledge from him as we can.
“He has different philosophies, different ways to look at things and I just find it interesting to pick his brain and get the skin and bones of it.”
Glanville credits assistant Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer with helping him learn the nuances of Canadian football. But Glanville gushes about the work defensive backs coach Williams Fields and former Ticat Craig Butler, now the team’s special-teams and defensive assistant, have done.
However football isn’t what defines Glanville, who’s rubbed elbows with such big-name entertainers as Jennings, Johnny Cash and Burt Reynolds.
“I was with Johnny Cash when he was dying,” Glanville said. “When I walked over to see him I said, ‘Gee Johnny, how you doing,’ and he said, ‘I’ve got Parkinson’s and it ain’t funny.’
“Waylon Jennings was playing the guitar when I saw him and I said, ‘Waylon, you’re playing the blues.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Coach, sooner or later we all go back to the blues.”’
But Glanville took Reynolds’ death in September at the age of 82 especially hard. The two worked together in the ’17 film The Last Movie Star and became close friends.
“He taught you humility,” Glanville said. “People would line up three blocks for autographs and he never turned anyone down, he never treated anyone badly, he signed every autograph and spoke to every single person.
“He was bent over and had a hard time walking but he’d never take a double. He was just that type of guy.”
Like Glanville, Reynolds also enjoyed pushing the envelope when he could.
“The movie premiere was in Knoxville, because most of it was shot there,” Glanville said. “Burt is onstage with the producer and director and they’re taking questions.
“So this guy asks what Burt thought about the people of Tennessee. Burt looked at him and said, ‘The first thing we’ve got to realize is we all don’t have a chance to live in Georgia.’ Now who else would do that? The crowd cheered. Anybody else would’ve been booed off the stage.”