Fri, Jan 24 2014 02:10 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
There are only six NFL coaches who have taken two teams to the Super Bowl. That short list includes such luminaries as Don Shula (Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins), Bill Parcells (New York Giants and New England Patriots), Dan Reeves (Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons), Dick Vermeil (Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams), Mike Holmgren (Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks) and John Fox (Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos).
Fox is the latest coach to do so, and the Castle Park High School alumnus could be seen strolling the sidelines with a smile during the waning moments of the Broncos’ 26-16 victory against the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game.
The Broncos will meet the NFC champion Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 in New Jersey.
Sunday’s win over New England must have served to conclude some unfinished business for Fox; it was the Patriots who spoiled Fox’s first trip to the Super Bowl in 2003 on a last-second game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
Fox spent nine seasons in Carolina before moving over to Denver in 2011 where he has led the Broncos to three consecutive playoff appearances.
Obviously, everyone associated with the football program at Castle Park High School is enthused about Fox’s upcoming Super Bowl appearance with the Broncos.
“I think it’s awesome,” CPHS head coach Hans Graham said. “He’s a great guy. He’s so likable.”
Fox is a member of the Castle Park Athletic Hall of Fame and his photograph adorns a display case in the foyer of the school’s gymnasium. He was inducted in 2002 when he earned the head coaching job with the Panthers. Previously, Fox had served as an assistant coach (either as a defensive backs coach or defensive coordinator) for five other NFL teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1989-91), San Diego Chargers (1992-93), Los Angles Raiders (1994-95), St. Louis Rams (1996) and New York Giants (1997-2001).
Other enshrined former CPHS student-athletes to make the jump to the professional ranks include Steve Riley (1974), Benji Gil (1991), Moses Moreno (1998), Zeke Moreno (2001) and DeMarco Sampson (2011).
Sampson, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, was a member of the Buffalo Bills’ training camp roster last summer and was most recently signed by the San Francisco 49ers for the 2014 NFL playoffs. He’s also on the roster of the L.A. Kiss of Arena Football.
Graham attended CPHS with Fox, who went on to play briefly at Southwestern College before ending up at San Diego State where he played defensive back alongside future NFL player and head coach Herman Edwards.
Graham is one year younger than Fox and a year older than Fox’s brother. “We all hung out together, it was cool,” Graham recalled.
Fox played football at CPHS under legendary coaches Gil Warren and Bing Dawson. Warren finally retired following the 2012 season at the age of 70.
Fox, who was born in Virginia Beach, Va., but moved to San Diego at the age of 15, was the son of a US Navy SEAL. It’s understandable then where the Broncos coach gets his gritty nature.
“He taught us how to wrestle,” Graham said of Fox. “His dad was a Navy SEAL, so he knew all the positions.”
Fox also played rugby for OMBAC under Dawson, the team’s head coach, right out of high school.
Fox still maintains contact with staff at CPHS. Graham said he received an autographed Denver helmet from Fox about four months ago to place in the school’s Hall of Fame.
“I’ve never been a Broncos fan but I love having the helmet,” Graham said.
Interestingly, there are other ties to Fox from the land of Troy. Former Chargers safety Martin Bayless, whose son Martin Bayless Jr. attended CPHS for three years, got his first NFL assistant coaching job with Carolina in 2003. His boss: Fox.
Ex-Charger defensive end (and former CPHS assistant coach) Burt Grossman was a player at the University of Pittsburgh when Fox served there as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator (1986-88).
Fox, who began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with SDSU in 1978, remains a big Aztec supporter. “He still keeps up on State,” Graham said. “State’s still his team.”
The Broncos are 37-16 under Fox’s leadership since his arrival in Denver, including 13-3 regular season marks in each of the past two seasons and a 24-17 win over the Chargers on Jan. 12 in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Fox missed four weeks of the current season when he underwent aortic valve replacement surgery in November. He later admitted he was close to death with his heart issues — specifically for putting off open-heart surgery in a bid to continue coaching the Broncos — and called it “a scary time.”
Fox has since dropped to his high school playing weight of 185 pounds, though he jokes he doesn’t look as good as he did in high school.
His return to the sideline has proved an inspiration to his team — as well as his fans.
“For the first time in my life, I am going to root for Denver,” Graham said.
He won’t be the only one.
The Broncos are favored by a mere point over the Seahawks, who matched Denver with a 13-3 regular season record. Seattle toppled San Francisco, 23-17, on Sunday to eliminate last year’s Super Bowl finalist.
© 2009 The Star-News