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As many people sing Marty Schottenheimer’s praises following his passing, I wanted to share my favorite story about the coach and person.
His football accomplishments are well documented. The fiery speeches from the old English major are legendary. I can still hear “one play at a time” and “hit ’em in the mouth,” two of his pre-game favorites. My anecdote doesn’t involve his signature Oklahoma drill but rather the humorous side of the man.
David Ball, rookie fifth round 2004 draft pick out of UCLA, portrayed Coach Schottenheimer at the rookie show at the end of training camp and brought the house down with a Saturday Night Live-style impersonation.
The then San Diego Chargers subsequently played the San Francisco 49ers for the final preseason game of the year. During this preseason game dominated by non-starters, Ball made a great play and sacked the 49ers QB. The referee signaled offensive holding on the play and automatically indicated the penalty was declined until coach stopped him. With a “take that” attitude, Schottenheimer accepted the penalty to erase the sack as payback for being the brunt of Ball’s jokes at the rookie show.
Schottenheimer coached probably the best team I was ever a part of. The 2006 Chargers squad was 14-2 with the No. 1 seed and Super Bowl bound until a fluke loss to young upstart Tom Brady and his Wild Card Patriots team.
My last encounter with coach was at LaDainian Tomlinson’s Hall of Fame induction in 2017. It was clear Schottenheimer had Alzheimer’s Disease, but he was still glad to see his players. All of the Chargers players were just as excited to see Schottenheimer as Tomlinson, the enshrinee. Perhaps more so. It was like kids getting to see their revered father or grandfather. It was a special moment that is my fitting final memory of the man.