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He was a Baptist college coach en route to the Dallas Cowboys

DALLAS (BP)–Five years ago, he was a Baptist college coach with a 5-6 record.
Today, Chan Gailey is head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s no fluke, however, that Gailey, 46, progressed from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., to become the fourth coach in the 37-year history of one of the NFL’s most storied franchises in which each of his predecessors were Super Bowl victors.
Gailey’s one year at Samford was sandwiched between his two years as head coach of the Birmingham Fire in the short-lived World League and the past four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last two as offensive coordinator. And, before his stop in Birmingham, Gailey had spent six seasons as an assistant with the Denver Broncos.
In fact, in his 10 NFL seasons, he’s made four trips to the Super Bowl, ending up, unfortunately, on the losing side three times with Denver and once with Pittsburgh. Earlier in his career, he led Troy State in Alabama to the NCAA Division II championship in 1984, his second year there before joining the Broncos’ staff.
Each stop along the way, Gailey, who signed a five-year contract with the Cowboys Feb. 12, has left his mark as a worthy coach — and a committed Christian.
Pete Hurt, who was Gailey’s defensive coordinator at Samford and was on his Birmingham Fire staff, described Gailey as “a tremendous person a person of high moral standards and a fine Christian man who carries his beliefs to his job. He’s going to do things the right way or he’s not going to do them.” Gailey had no interest in finding “gray” areas in NCAA rules, for example, Hurt said.
Johnny Witherington, president of the Troy City Council who worked with Gailey during the mid-1970s when their sons were in a Tiger Cubs pre-Cub Scout program, said the coach was an excellent motivator of any age group. “He encouraged the kids to do their very best” and “included the Lord” in every meeting in a time of prayer.
“It’s a wonderful thing that Chan Gailey, a man of such Christian faith, can have an opportunity to coach a National Football League team,” Witherington said. It disproves the saying that nice guys don’t win, “because here’s an example of a nice guy winning. He’s won in every area of life he’s been a part of,” said Witherington, owner of Cox & Associates insurance agency in Troy and a member of Southside Baptist Church.
Gailey’s life and witness “will speak volumes” nationally and even internationally, Witherington said.
In Birmingham, Gailey was a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church and, in Troy, First Baptist Church.
“I became a Christian at 11 years old and was very fortunate to grow up in the church,” Gailey, of Americus, Ga., and the son of a football coach, said in a July 1996 Sports Spectrum radio broadcast affiliated with the Christian sports magazine with the same name based in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Both parents went to church; we opened the doors and closed the doors of the church,” Gailey said in answer to a youth’s call-in question. “But it was actually at age 29 when I said, ‘Hey, I’ve really got to live it and believe it and breathe it and eat it. I’ve got to just do everything the way I think Christ would want it done, or don’t say I am (a Christian) don’t be a hypocrite don’t say one thing and do another. You know am I living it or am I not living it? Have I given it to him or have I not given it to him?
“And I decided that that was the only way life had any meaning to me . I knew who Christ was, but at 29 is when I said I’ve got to live it right.”
Of his witness to the players he coaches, Gailey said, “I tell them every year that I’m a Christian and that I’m going to treat them in a certain way and I hope they’ll understand that, and if they ever want to talk about it I’d be happy to talk with them about it.”
Gailey, at the time with the Steelers, said he would like to be a pro-football head coach again, “but I know the way to get there is to be successful here and now in the position you’re in.”
Even so, in a Dallas Morning News Internet article, Gailey listed “cutting players” as being the toughest aspect of an NFL coach’s job.
In answer to other questions, he listed:
– Person in history I would like to meet: Jesus Christ.
– Favorite singer: Sandy Patti.
– Favorite song: “More Than Wonderful.”
– If I were president one day I would: Allow prayer in school.
Hurt recalled the concern Gailey had for his coaches and their families at Samford when he was offered a job with the Steelers. “It was hard for him to be excited about going back to the NFL because he had such a concern for us,” Hurt said.
When Hurt and his wife were doing a will soon after their son was born, Hurt recounted that Gailey told him that if anything ever happened to them, “he would take care of my son for me, and he really meant it.”
For more than three years, Gailey and Hurt were part of a group that met for prayer and Bible discussion at 6 a.m. each Friday, usually at a Shoney’s.
Stephen Allgood, Samford’s athletic director, described Gailey as “a very principled person committed to his spiritual beliefs and very family oriented. He was very much a coach’s coach, a team player and very much a player’s coach.”
With Dallas, Gailey will face multiple challenges, including: working under one of the NFL’s most vocal, hands-on owners, Jerry Jones, and overcoming a 6-10 record in 1997, just three years after winning the Super Bowl. Last fall, the Cowboys lost their last five games, posted their worst record since 1990, failed to score more than one offensive touchdown in 10 games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1991 — factors which led to the resignation of Gailey’s predecessor, Barry Switzer, Jan. 9.
In trying to return the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, Gailey also will be working with one of the NFL’s oldest teams age-wise, with quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin coming off their worst seasons in years.
Even so, Gailey was quoted as saying, “This is the beginning of a dream. Another part of that dream is when (Jones) and I, the coaches and the players stand around the podium one late January afternoon with our hands on that Lombardi Trophy. The end of the dream will be that we were champions and winners with class and character.”
Jones, of his reason for hiring Gailey, said, “I wanted someone who was highly regarded as an innovative and creative mind on the offensive side of the ball. I wanted a proven play-caller, who had done it in big games, and I wanted someone who had head-coaching experience. I was looking for someone who was in tune with today’s NFL athlete. I wanted someone who had earned the respect of his peers, players and opponents, and I wanted someone who wanted to be this organization’s head coach very, very much.”
Gailey is a graduate of the University of Florida who was a special-teams player and backup quarterback from 1970-73 under starters John Reaves and David Bowden. Gailey and his wife, Laurie, have two sons, Tate, 21, and Andrew, 17.