WILMETTE, Ill. — Dave Wannstedt’s 40-year football resume is as impressive as just about any coach in the country.
He has been the head coach of the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins. He was the Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, and has held assistant coaching jobs for the Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was even the head coach of his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, where his team won the 2010 Big East Championship.
But in all those years of coaching, he never had a chance to coach any of his family members – until now.
“I had two daughters,” Wannstedt said. “Now, I’ve got six grandchildren; each daughter had three. Five of ‘em are boys. So, my oldest one – we kind of held off on him, held off on him playing -- he’s going to be 12 and he’s playing tackle football for the first time at St. Francis in Wilmette.”
Wannstedt spent the fall as the defensive coordinator of the Wilmette Catholic junior varsity team, where his grandson is a lineman.
Wannstedt was the coach of the Bears from 1993 through 1998, but none of his current players are old enough to remember that.
Fellow coach Peter Lee said he had to emphasize to the fifth and sixth graders from St. Francis and St. Joseph schools, just how special the experience is: “There’s 32 NFL coaches on the planet at any given time,” Lee said. “He’s a former NFL head coach -- the ultimate position -- to have him working with a bunch of ten, 11, 12-year-olds, it’s a pretty unbelievable experience.”
Wannstedt has been working as a football analyst on TV and radio since 2014. At 67 years old, he said he still has the energy and passion to coach in the NFL, but he said, his time coaching his grandson’s team, is priceless.
“The time I spend with those kids now – I won’t get that back, I know it,” Wannstedt said.