Glanville's return inspired by U.S. troops

PORTLAND — It wasn't his longtime love of teaching that ultimately brought Jerry Glanville back into coaching.

Nor was it advice from the late country music star Waylon Jennings, an old friend, who told the former NFL coach, "Don't you dare die with the music inside of you."

It was, instead, a visit to U.S. military troops in Iraq that drove Glanville back to the sidelines — first at Hawaii and now, for the last two years, at Portland State.

"I promised the good Lord that if I got home, I would coach these 19-year-olds," Glanville, 67, tells a visitor to his office on Portland State's downtown campus. "The guys over there said, 'Come back and coach us, come back and coach our group.' And I made a promise that that was what I would do.

"It didn't matter where."

A football broadcaster after coaching the Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons from 1985 to 1993, Glanville rebooted his coaching career four years ago as an assistant to June Jones at Hawaii.

That led him to Portland State, where Jones once played and former Hawaii offensive coordinator Darrell "Mouse" Davis once coached. They urged Glanville to take the job.

The hiring of the garrulous Glanville, who compiled a 60-69 record in eight-plus NFL seasons, created a buzz around town, igniting ticket sales and sparking interest in a team that usually toils in the shadows of Oregon and Oregon State.

Consecutive losing seasons for a team that competes in the Football Championship Subdivision have tempered the initial enthusiasm, but Glanville remains upbeat.

Married and the father of a 26-year-old son, the coach still dresses all in black but sprinkles his conversation with colorful anecdotes. And he continues drawing on his 2004 trip to Iraq to provide invaluable insight into the players he mentors.

"It's a generation of kids who live next door to you and you wonder about," he says. "I was guilty myself of thinking, 'Here's a guy with tattoos, pants hanging down by the bottom of his butt, an earring in his ear and a cigarette in his mouth,' and wondering, 'What the hell is this guy going to become?'

"That guy, defending our country, is a totally different guy. I found out over there, 'Don't judge him by what we think is a normal appearance.' The core, moral fiber is still outstanding."

Glanville never dreamed of leading a lower-division college program, even after agreeing to visit Portland State.

"When we flew out here," he says, "my wife told me, 'Let's keep an open mind,' which meant we weren't taking the job. But the very first day, she loved the city.

"She said, 'I could live here.'"

Glanville loves it too. He and Brenda, married nearly 35 years, live downtown in the hip and trendy Pearl District, which is packed with bars, restaurants and art galleries.

"I loved New York," says Glanville, who lived in the city when he was a broadcaster, "but I love Portland even better than New York City. My wife misses New York theater, but we've got everything here — without the taxicabs and the horns honking."

Glanville says his team, 3-8 in his first season and 4-7 a year ago, will continue to improve too, although it concerns him that much of the administrative group that hired him has since left.

"It's my fault we're not better," he says. "One person is to blame, and that's me. You fix that by stringing wins together."

Athletic Director Torre Chisholm remains supportive.

"We probably haven't had the competitive success that we were hoping for," he notes, "but we're headed in the right direction. He's implemented a program that's built on integrity, hard work and doing the right thing, and he's recruited athletes to fit that approach."

Does name recognition give the coach a foot in the door?

"With the parents more than the kids," Glanville says, laughing. "The parents tell the kids of past achievements, past jobs. These kids weren't around when we were winning games in Atlanta and Houston, you know? They weren't even born."

Glanville was reminded of that in Iraq, he says, when a soldier from Round Rock, Texas, asked him to pose for a photo.

Why him, the coach wondered.

Recalls Glanville, laughing, "He told me, 'You're my grandmother's favorite coach.'"

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