San Francisco 49ers new head coach Jim Tomsula had a rocky road leading to his first head-coaching job.
In a wonderful profile of Tomsula from SI’s Emily Kaplan, Kaplan reveals Tomsula’s long, winding journey to the NFL, which began with an up-and-down post-college career.
Tomsula bounced around from job to job, some high-paying, some not, before getting his coaching career started at his alma mater.
After graduating from Catawba College, a Division II school in North Carolina, he instead began a six-figure job in Greensboro, North Carolina, selling medical equipment.
However, he was unhappy with the job and began working as an assistant coach at Charleston Southern for just over $US9,000 a year. He worked side jobs to make some extra money. Eventually, the lack of income sent him to Pittsburgh where he worked for a food distribution network. He again wasn’t happy, and his wife encouraged him to follow some of the college coaching offers he had been receiving from DII and DIII colleges.
Kaplan explains that Tomsula’s wife and kids moved to Florida while Tomsula began an assistant coaching job at Catawba, where he lived out of his car:
In 1997, Julie took their two daughters, Britney, 4, and Brooke, 2, to stay with relatives in Florida while everything they owned was put in storage. And so began the year that Tomsula lived in a car, a red Cadillac given to him by his Uncle Tic. Tomsula drove the 430 miles down to Catawba and became an unpaid volunteer assistant at his alma mater, charged with strength and conditioning. He slept in parking lots and cleaned himself up in the locker room. To combat loneliness, he kept a black lab and a cat as roommates. Tomsula hung his suits in the back seat, right above the litter box.
Tomsula sold carpets for commission on the side. The next season, he became a salaried coach. His wife and daughters joined him, and Tomsula moved his family into a $US650-a-month fishing cottage 25 miles away from campus. They didn’t have heat.
Tomsula is remarkably laid-back about the period, telling Kaplan, “Ah, the homeless period. Everyone makes it out to be a bad thing, but it really wasn’t.”
Eventually, he got an offer from the 49ers to work as a defensive line coach in 2007 after working in NFL Europe. He signed a four-year, $US3.5 million contract to become head coach this past offseason, according to Kaplan.
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