Last Saturday, my first day working for a company that does team photos for Little League baseball teams, ended with a chance meeting with Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
We had tents set up to accommodate the 25 teams that were scheduled for photos that day. I’m the new guy there, so I was assigned to look important holding a clip board and keep the lines moving. The teams were coming and going with no problems when I noticed a guy in a black shirt and dark blue sweatshirt with DETROIT splashed across it. He was standing behind his baseball-playing son. He had his hands on his son’s shoulders and looked like most of the other parents there-only he wasn’t any ordinary parent.
It was Lions Head Coach, Jim Schwartz.
I did the required double take, and then turned to the two guys shooting and with my eyes bulging out of my head, whispered “That’s Jim Schwartz over there.” Not being sports fans, one of them said “who?”. With more urgency I repeated “That’s Jim Schwartz, the Lions Head Coach.”
He was behind the roped-off area and quickly made his way around it. As I was approaching him, my co-worker yelled that it was an honor to have “Jim Schwartz” here. Coach put his hands out immediately to indicate “Hey dude, keep it down.”
Did you ever have an unexpected moment? Well, this was certainly mine. After hesitating for a millisecond, I introduced myself and immediately started in on the Lions talk. With the draft only a week old, I had a hundred questions.
His relaxed demeanor set me at ease right away. Talking to him was like talking to one of the guys from my old neighborhood. Even though I was Joe Nobody, he gave me twenty minutes of his time like he was at a picnic.
Midway through the conversation, I told him I was a staffer for the SideLion Report–by the way, he liked the name. We had a frank discussion about the draft and he talked about how special a prospect Ndamukong Suh really is.
The conversation shifted to other things, like him hanging out with Bob Seger and Kid Rock. At one point during the talk I actually looked down at my feet to see if they were on the ground. He said some things that I can’t remember because I was trying to think of another question that wouldn’t make me look stupid. It went so fast.
Never once during that time was he anything but a regular guy. I got to know Wayne Fontes a little back in the 90′s when I photographed the Lions from 1992 to 2000, and I can tell you without a doubt that he would have been working the crowd to stroke his ego. Coach Schwartz doesn’t need anyone to pat him on the back. The dude knows what he’s doing. It’s easy to see how smart he is, he was rattling off stats even I didn’t understand. Alas, all good thing must come to an end. His son was getting impatient and he had to leave.
At the last second, I remembered that I do write for the SideLion Report and had to have a quote. About the draft, he said “In a different year, He (Nick Fairly) doesn’t fall that far. He did because of the four quarterbacks and two special players (Von Miller and Peterson) that went before us.” He waited patiently for me to make sure I got the quote written down then walked off with his arm wrapped around his son’s shoulder’s.
Before I met him I thought he was a great guy, now I know it.