Coach took some time for a photo

An Unexpected Meeting With Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz

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.

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  • Danielle Detroit

    Marty – that is so AWESOME ! I guess you have next year’s Christmas card figured out. Yay you !

  • Scott

    That’s a great story. Good to hear another story about what a great guy he is.

    I guess for me, one thing that I think we as fans need to think about is, is Jim Schwartz fair game at any time in his life? Can he have “normal” moments with his wife and kids? I realize his celebrity puts him in a different situation than most of us, but shouldn’t he be able to go to his son’s Little League photo shoot and be a dad?

    I think it shows a lot more than “he’s a nice guy” that he was patient and kind while you asked him questions during his personal time with his son. In our world of instant news, TMZ and blogs, it makes it harder and harder for these guys to live normal lives and enjoy the the little things we can as non-celebrities. I suppose someone might say that “they’re paid millions of dollars to play a sport,” but in the end – just as you’ve stated – they’re just normal guys like all of us.

  • Rudy 43

    I wondered why Fairly fell to 13. I was afraid he had some problems that other teams knew about and we didn’t

  • Ross Husson

    In Jim Schwartz We Trust.

  • http://.... randy

    Marty …. great storyline this week ….. ! Let’s go out and have a drink so I can pick your ear and hear a ” full report ” on what the coach had to say !!!

  • stems


    Great story this week. Just Like seeing a hero from the old hood. Coach Schwartz sounds like he’s are man!Coach Schwartz reminds me of the old Lucerne hero Ray Nester.Tough Straight to the point and willing to give you face time. If only a few Minutes.

  • Laura

    i babysat jim’s kids when he was in nashville. granted, he was not a head coach then, but you’re spot on; the man is a genius and as down to earth as they come. he’s a devoted dad and husband, and he’s an exceptional coach. go lions go!

    • Zac Snyder

      Thanks for the comment, Laura! We’re definitely glad he’s in Detroit.