By: Meaghan Mcnichol – Staff Writer
University of Dayton alumnus and four-time Super Bowl champion Chuck Noll was 17-years-old when he suffered an epileptic seizure on the field at practice, prompting the Notre Dame football team to release him from the roster.
Shortly thereafter, in September of 1949, former Flyers football coach Joe Gavin offered Noll a spot on UD’s football team and he officially became a member of the university community.
UD recently honored Noll at the first home football game Sept. 7 as he passed away in June at the age of 82. He died at his house surrounded by loved ones in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, due to natural causes.
Although freshmen were not eligible to play in 1949, Noll spent three years as a varsity player, playing on both sides of the ball as a lineman and a linebacker. As a senior co-captain, Noll led the Flyers to the “Salad Bowl” in Phoenix, Arizona, today known as the “Fiesta Bowl.”
Noll was a role model both on and off the field, according to local sources.
In a 1991 article from the Dayton Daily News, Ritter Collect said that Noll was nicknamed “The Pope” by his fellow teammates thanks to his infallible judgment.
It was this judgment that helped build a juggernaut in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during his tenure as head football coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.
During his years at UD, Noll contributed to more than just the football team.
Director of media relations, Doug Hauschild said, “I think his impact goes beyond the football team. He was a shining example of what a UD student athlete could be. He was very well respected by everyone in the student body when he was here.”
Noll continued to earn success immediately after he graduated. In 1953, the year of Noll’s graduation, he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and played in the NFL until his retirement in 1959.
Shortly after his playing career ended, Noll was inducted to the UD Athletic Hall of Fame as the member of their charter class.
After rejecting a coaching position at UD, Noll worked as an assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers for nine years.
Although he is the only head coach to win four Super Bowls in NFL history, Noll was respected for much more than his on-field success.
“He very much inspired his players. They had tremendous loyalty to him as a coach,” Hauschild said. “In pro football, it’s very much more of a business but his players were very loyal to him. He was also extremely well-rounded. He was very versed on collecting wines and classical music.”
Noll also set the stage for success for Jon Gruden after him.
With the help of 1986 UD graduate Gruden’s Super Bowl win with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, the two have earned the University of Dayton the title of the university with the most Super Bowl wins by a head coach in NFL history.
While both attended UD and went on to coach Super Bowl winning teams, Noll and Gruden differed in style.
Noll was more of an introvert, preferring to stay out of the limelight, while Gruden appeared on a cover of Sports Illustrated and now works as a TV analyst for Monday Night Football.
“Same path, same goals, but totally different personalities,” Kelly said.
In many ways, Noll is irreplaceable.
“I don’t think you’ll ever find another person like him in the NFL,” Hauschild said.