Mike Tomlin acknowledges his Peninsula roots as he becomes head coach of the five-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The National Football League's second-youngest head coach praised his big brother, his mentor and his God. He recognized his team's heritage, challenged his players and thanked his bosses.
He even wore the proper color suit and necktie- black and gold.
In just 25 minutes with reporters Monday, Peninsula native Mike Tomlin flashed the humility, presence and wisdom that landed him one of sports' most prominent jobs: head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers introduced Tomlin at an afternoon news conference carried live by Pittsburgh television stations to the team's rabid fans. A graduate of Denbigh High School and William and Mary, Tomlin made a brief opening statement before reporters peppered him with questions.
Many focused on his age, 34, and relative inexperience, six seasons as an NFL assistant coach. He would have been the league's youngest head coach until the Oakland Raiders announced hiring 31-year-old Lane Kiffin late Monday.
"I can't worry about concerns that other people might have," Tomlin said. "I've been hired to do a job, and I intend to do it at a high level."
It was the only time self-assuredness surfaced from the father of three and former star receiver at William and Mary.
"I know this is not my plan," Tomlin said. "This is God's plan, and I take comfort in that. ... We intend to make no bold predictions about what we are going to do. What we are going to do is promise to have a first-class, blue- collar work ethic."
The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been considered first-class. Owned by the Rooney family since their origin in 1933, they share the NFL standard of five Super Bowl victories with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.
Tomlin replaces Bill Cowher, who resigned earlier this month after 10 playoff appearances and one championship in 15 seasons. Previously, Chuck Noll guided the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in 23 years, giving the team unrivaled coaching stability.
"It's obvious that what's been done here has been special," Tomlin said. "I want to be a part of that legacy."
Tomlin, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and Steelers assistant coach Russ Grimm were finalists for the position. Media portrayed Grimm, a Pittsburgh-area native, as the clear favorite, but during a 21/2-week search that included two in-person interviews with Tomlin, the Steelers defied convention.
"Mike Tomlin is first and foremost a good person," team president Arthur Rooney II said. "That is the first test you have to pass."
Tomlin served this season as the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator, the previous five as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs coach -- the Bucs won the Super Bowl in his second year. In his first season in Tampa, Tomlin worked for Tony Dungy, who on Sunday coached the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl.
"We don't have enough time for me to talk about how I feel about Coach Dungy," Tomlin said. "He is a life mentor for me."
Tomlin, his wife and their three children were watching Sunday's conference championship games in the family basement when the Steelers called with their offer, a four-year deal worth a reported $2.5 million annually. The coincidental timing was not lost on Tomlin.
Sunday was also the day Dungy and the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith became the first black head coaches to make the Super Bowl. Tomlin is the NFL's sixth active black head coach and the 10th in history. Moreover, it was Dan Rooney who in 2002 shepherded passage of an NFL rule mandating that teams interview at least one minority for head- coaching vacancies.
"It gives people an opportunity to present themselves, their ideas and their vision," Tomlin said of the so-called Rooney Rule. "Maybe the rule itself opened the door for me. ... We'll make true advances in the process when (race is) no longer an issue."
Tomlin -- his gold tie and black suit matching the Steelers' primary colors -- stood at the podium with his wife, Kiya, a former William and Mary gymnast, at his side. His brother Eddie is his "measuring stick for everything I did athletically," he said. "Some of my toughest battles were in my backyard."
"When you listen to Mike, he just fits with everything the Rooney family stands for: commitment, loyalty, family," said Carl Francis, a Hampton native and communications director for the NFL Players Association. "I've spoken to a lot of coaches the last few years, and whenever they mentioned Mike Tomlin, they said he was a rising star."
Coach Jon Gruden, Tomlin's boss for four seasons in Tampa, echoed Francis. "We're really proud of him, really happy for him, thrilled for him honestly," Gruden said. "Pittsburgh got a great young coach."
Tomlin inherits a team one year removed from a Super Bowl victory. Pittsburgh finished 8-8 this season and failed to make the playoffs, but the roster includes acclaimed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and four players voted to this season's Pro Bowl.
"I am sure that the recent Super Bowl success and the failure that followed will make them a hungry group of men," Tomlin said. "We all feel a little pressure in this business. We embrace that, I embrace that and look forward to meeting those challenges." *Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun