07-27-2006, 02:55 AM #1Jersey Retired
- Join Date
- Dec 1969
Brad Childress: One very good turn
[size=18px]Brad Childress: One very good turn[/size]
Elizabeth Flores , Star Tribune
The back door beckoned. It offered an escape, a beacon for peace and order in a life on the brink of descent. The boy, 16 years old, was gathering his gumption when a knock at the front door interrupted his thoughts and changed his life forever.
Hiding at a friend's house while his parents fought out a nasty divorce, Brad Childress wanted nothing more than to run. "Just a classic example of an adolescent caught in the middle of things," he would say years later.
Harry Childress felt the toll on his son. He knew where it would take him, and so he turned to a man who could bridge the gap between father and son: a drinking buddy who coached football. And so it came to be that Chuck Dickerson, head coach at Marmion (Ill.) Military Academy, arrived on the doorstep at a most opportune time.
"Brad was right on the edge of going the wrong way," said Dickerson, whose own career would later entwine with Minnesota lore. "He had too much talent and too much to offer for us to allow him to get into a situation that would cause himself problems in the future. His home life wasn't conducive to anything that any parent would want."
Brad Childress spent the next three years living in his coach's basement, finding balance, serenity and a deep love for football as Dickerson's star quarterback. He also developed the regimented lifestyle that brought him to the Vikings' doorstep 34 years later, a coach hoping to return the karmic favor for a franchise seeking its own direction.
"I was searching and I was wondering where things were headed," Childress said. "I wasn't focused, wasn't taking care of business the way I should have been. There was a void at home, and you could say I was headed in the wrong direction. I was trying to head out the back door and [Dickerson] showed up at the front. Him grabbing hold of the situation, and putting back that regimen ..."
He did not finish the sentence. Instead, Brad Childress looked around his office as if to say, It put me here.
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The Childresses made their way to the Chicago suburbs in 1938. Harry Childress and three siblings had been sent to live in a lodge-sponsored orphanage known as Mooseheart City; their father had been killed in a coal-mining accident in southwest Virginia, and their mother could not support them.
Harry grew into an all-state quarterback for Mooseheart's high school, running a no-huddle offense that was decades before its time. He married Joyce Flynn, and the children came fast and furious. There were six in all. Brad was No. 2.
By the time Brad reached his teenage years, however, the marriage was crumbling and tension engulfed the family home in Aurora, Ill.
"His mother and I were in chaos a little bit," Harry Childress said. "We were arguing a lot, and I didn't want Brad to be around it. He had shown a football ability, and I didn't want to disrupt his athletic progress or his academics."
Brad Childress termed his relationship with his parents as "testy."
"If you've been through a divorce," he said, "it's always pitting somebody against somebody. Somebody has to be right. Somebody has to be wrong. And the kids' view may be completely opposite of the way things went down."
Childress already was enrolled at Marmion, which carried a rigorous Catholic/military curriculum. Students wore uniforms, submitted to daily physical inspections and received regular rifle instruction. Dickerson was the school's football coach and had seen Childress' potential as a quarterback/safety on the sophomore team.
"You could tell right from the start that Brad had football in him at a depth that most don't have," Dickerson said. "There was a game where he came to me and said that if I changed a formation on one of his sprint-out passes, the defense would rotate in a way that the play would work better. I thought at that age it was pretty special."
So it was with a mix of professional and personal motivation that the Dickersons and Childresses came together. Dickerson got his quarterback and eventual team captain, one whose promising college career would end in a neck injury. Childress encountered a peaceful household that balanced the teenage needs for space and love.
"It was a two-pronged thing," Dickerson said. "I'm sure Brad was very unhappy with the way his family situation was going. And he knew my environment would be exactly the same every day. He realized it was very important to him. It happened for the right reasons, and it worked well."
It did not always produce perfect results, however. The following summer, Childress attended a party thrown by one of his brothers at his parents' house. A fight broke out and police arrived.
Joyce Childress, home at the time, began arguing with an officer who was looking for her oldest son, Michael. Refusing to back down, Joyce was restrained and arrested. The scene enraged Brad, who lunged into the fray and soon was handcuffed himself.
"I may be the only guy in the world who has ridden to jail with his mother in the back of a paddy wagon," Childress said.
Chuck Dickerson bailed them out.
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If memories were a commodity, Shirley Dickerson could spend a lot of time on eBay. She is among the select few who have seen Brad Childress with a full head of hair.
Chuck Dickerson's wife mothered Brad like one of her own children, cutting his hair, cooking his vegetables and serving as an important confidant.
"I would laugh because it was like a little girl's hair," she said. "It was just really soft and it was thinning already. ... We were blessed to have him live with us. You got the feeling that he would have done anything we asked him to do."
Including, it seems, getting a date. In the fall of 1973, Chuck Dickerson found out that Childress planned to skip the senior homecoming dance.
"He came roaring down the stairs into the basement," Childress recalled. "He said, 'You mean, the captain of the football team isn't going to homecoming? Well, that's a bunch of bull!' "
Chuck called for Shirley to bring the telephone book.
"What's the name of that redhead cheerleader?" Dickerson recalls saying.
Shirley produced the name. Chuck grabbed the phone.
"Are you calling her," he said to Childress, "or should I?"
"Please, Coach, I really just don't want to go."
Dickerson started dialing. Childress snatched the phone away from him.
"He shamed me into it," Childress said.
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The Dickersons moved away after Childress enrolled in Eastern Illinois, continuing a coaching life that would bring them to the University Minnesota (Chuck was the defensive coordinator in 1983) and eventually to the Buffalo Bills as a defensive line coach. The Bills fired Dickerson after Super Bowl XXVI at the Metrodome, where Dickerson famously referred to Washington offensive linemen Joe Jacoby and Jim Lachey as a "Neanderthal" and "ballerina," respectively, in media interviews.
Dickerson turned into an acerbic radio host in Buffalo before retiring to Winter Haven, Fla., where Childress stopped to visit him this spring.
They had not seen each other for years. Childress had started his coaching career as an undergraduate and got his first full-time job at 22. The job ignited a trek of seven cross-country stops through the college and professional ranks, where he developed a scholar's love for quarterbacks and offensive theory.
His reunion with the Dickersons this spring -- the head coach showing up at his mentor's front door -- got Shirley to thinking.
"Brad has always been a guy that has surprised a lot of people," she said. "He's in football, but he's not that big. He's not very heavy. He doesn't have any hair and he's gotten these itty-bitty legs. I've always called them bird legs. But he'll fight, quietly and in his own way, to get things right. He'll never go down easy. We saw that in him.
"Anything you guys got for him up there [in Minnesota], he'll handle it."
And to think, it all started with a knock.
http://www.startribune.com/510/story/576819.htmlKentucky Vikes Fan
When you require nothing, you get nothing; when you expect nothing, you will find nothing; when you embrace nothing, all you will have is nothing.
07-27-2006, 03:23 AM #2
Re: Brad Childress: One very good turn
good to hear he's a strong hearted guy, hope he does as well as we all are anticipating.
"We’ll win our own Super Bowl, with our own players. Real Vikings. Something Brett Favre can never be."
- Dan Calabrese
07-27-2006, 03:35 AM #3
Re: Brad Childress: One very good turn
Very nice read.. It is always nice knowing a little something about your coach..
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