Randy Walker will be remembered as the coach who kept Northwestern competitive. That was the hardest thing at a school with few resources, playing in a league with giants.
Any coach will tell you it's harder to stay there than get there. Gary Barnett accomplished more in the moment, taking the dregs of college football to the Rose Bowl in the 1990s. Walker was a long-term guy who wasn't around long enough. He was the first Northwestern coach in 104 years to win at least six games in four different seasons.
|Randy Walker was diagnosed with a heart ailment in October 2004. (AP)|
I think of Type A personalities who internalize stress. I think of guys whose idea of breakfast is a doughnut and three cups of coffee. Or vice versa.
I think of people like you and me.
It's easy to start a healthy lifestyle; it's much harder to maintain it. That's why the diet book section at Barnes & Noble is bigger than the Cotton Bowl.
That's why you wonder how many other ticking time bombs are out there. Walker's death from an apparent heart attack Thursday night should remind us that the leading cause of death in the U.S. remains cardiovascular disease.
Walker was examined 1½ years ago after experiencing chest pains. Turns out he had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. We don't know if that's what killed him, but he did the right thing at the time. Walker changed his lifestyle, his diet, his workload. It went against the unwritten coach creed that more is more.
David Cutcliffe was one of those guys. He endured a triple bypass last year before ever coaching a game as a member of Charlie Weis' staff at Notre Dame. Would working a desk job upon his return have been safer? Sure, but Cutcliffe is back on the stress rocket ship, as Fulmer's offensive coordinator.
Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden seemingly gets up 15 minutes before he goes to sleep -- somewhere around 3:30 a.m. Countless coaches from Joe Gibbs to Dick Vermeil have proudly slept on an office couch during game week.
Former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder actually tried to train himself not to eat. Consumption of body fuel wasted too much time.
What did all that silliness accomplish? Nothing good, no matter how many games they won. Snyder said upon his retirement that he had neglected his family.
Steve Spurrier and protégé Oklahoma's Bob Stoops make sure Wednesday is "family night" during game week. Kids and parents gather at the football complex to socialize. I'm sorry, but I can't think of another example.
But here's a radical thought: I have no idea if this is required, but make coaches take annual physicals. I'm sure some schools require it, but the contracts I have seen don't. Coaches are more worried about how much they'll get from Nike than about a teensy, weensy, little request from the athletic director.
These are athletic role models at the highest level of their athletic profession looking anything but athletic.
OK, that's a generalization. But Walker's death was a shock. It would be wonderful if his legacy included a kick in the pants to his peers. Get to the doctor for a full physical, every year. The whole deal: prostate, EKG, blood tests.
Maybe the American Football Coaches Association should urge that annual physicals be written into every contract.
Stoops got up at a coaches convention a couple of years ago and basically proposed the same thing. We all work on campuses with major research hospitals, he said, there's no reason we shouldn't get checked out each year.
The hurt for Stoops is still there. His father, Ron Stoops Sr., died of a heart attack on the field in 1988 while coaching Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown.
Ron Stoops Sr. reportedly loved powdered doughnuts and coffee.