NFL assistant coaches Doug Colman and Greg Roman go way back.
Almost back to the beginning.
Colman, who was just named the Houston Texans' assistant special teams coordinator, grew up in Ventnor. One of his neighbors and boyhood buddies was Roman, who just finished his third season as the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator.
"I think the world of Doug and his family," Roman said in a recent phone interview. "We grew up about two blocks from each other. I consider him a good friend."
Both still have sand in their shoes.
Although Roman, his wife, Dana, and three children now live in the San Francisco area, they always spend a few weeks in Ventnor over the summer so they can visit with family and friends.
One of the few down sides of taking the job with the Texans is that Colman will not be able to come back to the Jersey Shore very often.
When he was serving as linebackers coach for Coastal Carolina University, his recruiting trips to South Jersey would begin with a quick flight on Spirit Airlines from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Atlantic City International Airport.
"I was very happy at Coastal Carolina," Colman said Saturday while driving his wife, Colleen, and four children from Myrtle Beach to Houston.
"Myrtle Beach is a great place to raise a family, and it was much closer to home. But when (Texans head coach) Bill O'Brien offered me this opportunity, I couldn't pass it up."
Colman, 40, and Roman, 41, also began their football careers in Ventnor.
Although they have experienced their share of success at all levels of football - Colman played in a Super Bowl with Tennessee in 1999 and Roman coached in one last season - they count their days playing with the Ventnor Pirates of the Atlantic County Football League among their fondest memories.
Colman recalled playing for the Pirates' peewee, junior varsity and varsity teams from grades second through eighth and winning ACJFL titles at every level. Colman and Roman were teammates on the varsity team that won a title in fall 1985 under coach Glen Wagner and his assistants.
"Those coaches were great guys," Roman said. "They really got us loving football and excited about playing the game. And I definitely know we won the championship. You don't get a chance to win too many championships, no matter what level you're at, so when they happen, you remember them more than you remember the losses."
Colman will get to enjoy a reunion of sorts from those days.
When Colman accepted the position with the Texans, one of the first people to congratulate him was Wagner.
"I grew up with his son, Matt," Colman said. "(Glen Wagner) has been living in Houston for the last 25 years ,and he called me two nights ago."
For a time, Colman and Roman were rivals.
Colman, a 1991 Ocean City High School graduate, was a running back and linebacker for the Red Raiders before accepting a scholarship to the University of Nebraska.
Roman, a 1990 Holy Spirit graduate, was a junior guard for one of the best Spartans teams in school history. In fall 1988, Holy Spirit featured a talent-laden lineup that included quarterback Al Mallen, running back Brian Little, wide receiver Kevin Hallman, tight end Chris Stoll and safety Mark Reardon (now the coach at St. Augustine Prep).
The Spartans not only went 10-0 that season en route to winning a South Jersey title, they were rarely even challenged.
"Ocean City had a good team, but we were really good," Roman said. "I think we were leading 42-0 at halftime. But Doug was such a tough and talented player, even as a sophomore. Even back then, you could tell he was going to be special."'
Both endured hectic experiences as coaches this season.
One day after the 49ers defeated Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs, Roman flew to Chicago and interviewed for the head-coaching job at Penn State that became open when O'Brien left for Houston. The Nittany Lions hired former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.
Five days later, before the Niners beat Carolina, Roman interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings' vacancy that eventually went to Mike Zimmer.
"I only got a chance to speak with the Vikings for a couple of hours, but it was a good experience," Roman said. "I enjoyed it."
When O'Brien was still at Penn State, he had an opening for a linebackers coach. Colman landed the job but soon learned that O'Brien had decided to become the Texans' coach.
One of O'Brien's first moves was to ask Colman if he wanted to join him in Houston. Besides being a special-teams assistant, he will also get the opportunity to work with linebackers coach Mike Vrabel.
"I was Penn State's linebackers coach for about a week," Colman said. "I was looking forward to working with student-athletes like (Oakcrest High School graduate) Brandon Bell. But when (O'Brien) asked me if I wanted to come along (to Houston), I said I'd love to. I just think my personality fits into what he's trying to accomplish."
Colman can draw from his experience as an NFL player. He spent five seasons as a linebacker and special-teams player with the New York Giants (1996-98), Tennessee (1999) and Cleveland (2000).
He was on the field during one of the top plays in Titans history. They beat Buffalo 22-16 in the first round of the playoffs when tight end Frank Wycheck threw a lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson during a kickoff return that led to a 75-yard touchdown in the final seconds.
The play is forever known as the "Music City Miracle."
Colman wasn't sure if he'd get a chance to watch today's Super Bowl.
He was leaning toward rooting for Denver because his father, Wayne, played with Peyton Manning's father, Archie, with the New Orleans Saints. And Broncos coach John Fox was Doug Colman's defensive coordinator with the Giants.
But he might have trouble finding a place to see the game.
"I won't have a TV yet because the moving company won't be bring all of our furniture and things until Tuesday," he said. "We'll be sleeping in sleeping bags for a few days."
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