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Jim Tomsula: High-Fives All Around

Posted May 9, 2007

If there's one thing the 49ers shouldn't worry about when it comes to their new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, it's him getting distracted by anything outside of football.

"I don't have any hobbies," admitted the long time NFL Europe coach. "I don't golf and I don't fish. I tried playing golf, I stink. I tried fishing, I stink. I get to coach football and I wake up every morning, high-five myself and I go to work."

That enthusiasm is a welcome addition to Mike Nolan's coaching staff which looks to upgrade the overall play of the defense. Along with the signings of Nate Clements, Michael Lewis, Aubrayo Franklin and Tully Banta-Cain, the addition of Tomsula as the new coach in the trenches and Greg Manusky as the unit’s coordinator looks to make the team’s much talked about move to a 3-4 defense complete.

The 49ers defensive staff features several former NFL players including linebackers Manusky and Mike Singletary and defensive backs Johnnie Lynn and Vance Joseph. With those guys more or less maintaining the physical prowess of their playing days, Tomsula noticed a stark contrast between himself and the rest of staff he’s recently joined.

"When I got into the defensive meeting room, I looked around at all the coaches and I'm the only guy who couldn't line up and play three-technique on Sunday,” joked Tomsula. “The only thing I have to offer the players is to teach them, enhance what they already have and help them as much as possible. To me, that's what a coach is."

That ability to teach was certainly instrumental in Nolan's desire to hire the former World Bowl champion. Nolan has reiterated time and time again how important it is for his position coaches to be good teachers and communicators of technique. Tomsula obviously fit the bill, but the feeling was mutual. Tomsula was also impressed by how fundamentally sound Nolan's defenses performed and was eager to work for the man who had made a favorable impression upon him from day one.

"When I met Mike Nolan a few years ago I walked away blown away at his approach,” said Tomsula. "It's very direct, it's very honest, it's black and white and I love that because it's great for me. The communication is clear, it' not foggy, and that's a huge factor in success."

Tomsula is no stranger to success himself, winning NFL Europe's top prize, the World Bowl, in 2004.

"Any time, at any level, when you can stand there and realize that you accomplished the ultimate goal, it's a great feeling," said Tomsula. "Everyone at every level has to work together to achieve that goal. That's what makes winning in football so special. The most satisfaction I got out of it was seeing the looks on the faces of the players."

Too bad that feeling couldn't have lasted for more than a few hours.

"That night, after the game, we went back to the hotel and there was a big party downstairs, but me and my family went up to our room because I hadn't been around them for a long time," Tomsula recalled. "We played two games of UNO, my daughter Britney won one game, my daughter Brooke won the other and I got mad."

Despite his heart-breaking post-game defeat, Tomsula will always have that World Bowl title. The very next season, Tomsula took home another accolade as the youngest head coach in NFLE history.

"I guess it's cool," shrugged Tomsula. "My wife will tell you I thought I was 40 years old about seven years ago. The England Monarchs hired me when I was 27 or 28 years old. When I was the youngest head coach in NFL Europe, I already had 10 years of experience in the league."

Though Tomsula may not be as spry as he was in his youth, his enthusiasm and passion rivals many teenagers. As fate would have it, Tomsula will now have the opportunity to coach a player with a passion second to none, Bryant Young.

"I've heard so much about what a great person he is and then I get here and I know exactly what they mean," said Tomsula. "He doesn't have an ego but he is very confident. He's just a nice person who happens to be a great football player. His work ethic is incredible. When you see him, you don't think about that being Bryant Young, he's just another good-looking defensive lineman busting his tail."

Now it's Tomsula who's busting his tail. With his nose in the playbook and his eyes fixed to the screen in the video room, the coach has shown he has no problem rolling up his sleeves in preparation for next season.

"I've had a lot of time to study and get myself up to speed," said Tomsula. "’Am I there yet? No. Am I close? Yes.’ It’s been fantastic to have been in so many meetings with the coaches here. It's not always what you do, it's how you do it. As a position coach, that's your cog in the wheel. That's what you have to get done."

Since his defensive linemen get to the facility by 6:00 AM for the off-season program, Tomsula must now wake up and high five himself before sunrise. But don't worry, with so much success as a young coach, Tomsula has been getting an early jump on things his whole career.