September 23, 2018

Sid Gillman

Sid Gillman, former Rams and Chargers football coach, diedin his sleep on Jan 3. He was 91. The following tribute was written by ProFootball Hall of Fame member Ron Mix for the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage.

Sid Gillman was my coach. There is no greater compliment onecan give a person, because a coach is a teacher; a teacher of not only athleticskills, but of fundamental character traits that serve as a foundation for asociety with values. He recognized that it is on the athletic field we learnloyalty, discipline, the value of hard work, acceptance of responsibility andrespect for oneself and others.

I first learned of Sid when I needed him most. In 1955, hewas named the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, the team of my boyhood. I hadbeen born in Boyle Heights, at the time an East Los Angeles Russian Jewishghetto. When I learned about Sid, I was short of a father figure and short onidentity. Then, I read that a Jew had been named the head coach of the team Ihad loved for years. And I learned that this Sid Gillman guy had been anAll-American end at Ohio State and played in the first College All-Star Game.

What a revelation it was for me: Jews were All-Americanfootball players and leaders of the Los Angeles Rams. My world had begun anexpansion that continues to this day.

He was my coach during my 10 years as a member of theChargers. He personified the adage “tough but fair.” Sid demanded that playersperform to their potential and never stopped challenging them to reach theirpotential. As much as he demanded from you, he gave more of himself. His workhabits were legendary. His contribution to the development of the game ismatchless.

Football did become a bigger canvas than just wins andlosses. In the early ’60s, when the civil rights movement was in its infancy,and some professional football teams appeared to have a quota on the number ofblack players allowed, Sid had open competition and initiated socialintegration on the team: he assigned training camp roommates by position sothat there would be a natural reason for blacks and whites to room together.

Coach, life flew by in a wink. It was only yesterday thatyou were playing on the green field of Ohio State; that you were playing jazzpiano and meeting your future wife, Esther, that you and Esther raised fourchildren in a home filled with love and excitement while forging a careerculminating with your induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But youtreated life’s time as precious and you went through it as a noble warrior.

Sid Gillman is survived by his wife, Esther; four children;eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.