It’s not all fun and games to have a dad who coaches professional football. It’s a difficult job with long hours. They spend a lot of time away from home.
“It was just always great to be included. To be at practice, to be on the field for games, it got my passion started for the game and for coaching,” he says. “As I grew up and matured and I started playing, I realized I was a good player, but I wasn’t a great player and I probably wasn’t going to play in the NFL. But I wanted to make sure I kept football in my life. And one way to do that is by coaching.”
Marty Schottenheimer entered the NFL as a linebacker. He played for the Bills and the Patriots before embarking on a 21-year coaching career that took him and his family from Cleveland to Kansas City to Washington and San Diego.
Brian and his sister grew up around the game. But it was Brian who grew up in it.
“I remember when I was probably no more than second or third grade, going in on a Saturday and him dropping me off in the weight room and the strength coach’s name was Dave Redding, he called him Red Man. He just walked in and said, ‘Hey, Red. You’ve got him.’ And Red Man’s eyes were like, ‘What?’ He’s like, ‘You’ve got him. Don’t let him get hurt.’”
Things that were everyday life back then are cherished memories today.
“I was just being a kid. I was just having fun. But again, it was great just to be there,” Brian says. “It made up for the sacrifice that we had to make, not having your dad around like most kids do.”
As Brian grew, so did his privileges as the coach’s son.
“I was able to be in the locker room, as I got older I was able to be on the sidelines holding his cords – this was back when they used to have cords in the headset,” he says. “As I got a little older, sitting in quarterback school, back in the time where they used to let you have that, and sitting in there with Joe Montana and Paul Hackett is putting the installation up. And I’m like, ‘That’s Joe Montana over there.’ And here I am, a high school student. It was pretty cool. Most kids don’t get an opportunity to do that.”
Many of the things Brian picked up from his dad are now part of his own coaching philosophy.
“A huge believer in fundamentals. He always said that fundamentals made the difference between two good players that are matched up against one another. Whoever has got the better fundamentals will ultimately win the battle, if you will,” he says. “And in the classroom, I just thought he was a very good teacher. He made guys write things down, take a lot of notes.”
After graduating from the University of Florida, Brian worked as an assistant coach under Marty with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Washington Redskins, and the San Diego Chargers.
Retired from the NFL since 2007, Marty was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease around 2011.
“We try to make the best of it,” says Brian. “We try to laugh about it when we can. There are certainly moments when we want to cry about it. And we’re just trying to spend as much time together as a family as we can. It’s something we really want to help try to find a cure for.”
In the meantime, Brian tries to help by keeping a close circle of friends and family around his dad.
“He can’t communicate with his friends like he used to do. So, I’m big on telling people when I see them at the combine or the Senior Bowl, ‘Hey, call him.’ I have them call my mom because I know if they call her, she can get them to him.”
He recently had a visit from Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson.
“Harry, just out of the goodness of his heart, was flying back from Mobile and called my mom and just flew into Charlotte, got a rental car, drove an hour and a half, and just wanted to come and tell my father how much he did for his career. He wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for my father.”
For Marty and his family, reconnecting with their football family is even more meaningful now.
“It’s great for him. Because it reminds him what an impact he had on so many people’s lives.”
But none more so than his son’s.
Today, Brian is writing his own football story.
And at the heart of it, is the man who inspired it all – a man who continues to inspire his family day after day.