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Glanville enters seventh decade in football

Defensive Coordinator Jerry Glanville in his trademark hat and sunglasses.

PLANT CITY, Fla. -- In 1964, Beatlemania was taking over America, man was still figuring out how to get to the moon and, in Ohio, a 23-year-old former college linebacker had just accepted his first coaching job.

Who would've guessed that, 56 years later, Jerry Glanville would still be coaching, and still be bringing the competitiveness, passion and no-holds-barred attitude that has made him a living legend.

Glanville is clearly relishing his role as Tampa Bay Vipers defensive coordinator. At every practice, he's decked out in Johnny Cash black, with the reflective sunglasses to boot, calling out adjustments, hitting the big bag, and demonstrating the tackling techniques that made him a defensive guru. 

On Sunday, when the Vipers take the field at MetLife Stadium versus the New York Guardians (2 p.m. ET, FOX), it will officially mark the seventh decade in which he's coached a game at either the college or professional levels. He's coached in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s and now the 20s. Few people in any business have that kind of longevity. Glanville, essentially, has become the Mick Jagger of coaching.

XFL.com sat down with the coach as he prepared for Sunday's opener.

Your path to the Vipers came through your connection with head coach Marc Trestman. How did he approach you about the job?

Glanville: Well, I didn't know Coach Trestman other than we coached against each other. People know he was in Canada, but I was coaching against Marc way back when he was with the Cleveland Browns. Marc was Bud Carson's assistant at Cleveland and I was the coach of the Houston Oilers. So Marc and I have been coaching against each other since the 80s. When he called me up and wanted to know if I'd come here and be his coach, I said, "Do you want to interview me?" He goes, "No, don't need to do that." And I said, "Well, do you want to talk football?" He goes, "No, don't need to do that. I've coached against you for all these years. I know what I'm getting." So that's how we ended up here.

You've coached a lot of teams. How is this one different?

Glanville: I think the team is defensively intelligent. I think we can learn, for the most part, quickly. I think the team's willingness to execute the plan is superior to anyone. But we haven't hit anybody. So whatever I say is always not reality yet. All the pluses I'm telling you about, all the good accomplishments, all the, you know, get out the Purdue drum and beat on the drum ... it doesn't mean anything if you don't hit. This game is about physicality so that we will learn in the first half of this first game. You've got to build up to it, and hopefully, in the first three, or four weeks, that gets better every week. Somebody will stand out and hit harder than you thought. There is nobody left with us that does not want to strike people.

"Somebody will stand out and hit harder than you thought. There is nobody left with us that does not want to strike people."

Jerry Glanville

How are you getting this team ready for Week 1, especially when this will be the first time the team has ever taken the field together for a regular-season game?

Glanville: Our goal is to be undefeated one week at a time. Three times I was coaching, we won nine in a row. Somebody had to tell us we won nine in a row because all we're trying to do is win the week. Nothing else matters. I was at Hawaii and our linebacker Sol Elimimian said, "Geez coach, they got us rated real high in the top teams in the country." That surprised me. I said, "What caused that?" He goes, "Well, we've won nine in a row." I was shocked. I had no idea. I'll tell you another story. We were in Atlanta one time and I started all rookies. I had all rookie linebackers and a rookie corner and a rookie safety. Well, after six games, we were 3-and-3 and the head coach (Leeman Bennett) said, "Jerry, I don't know if this rookie thing is going to work out." Well, the next time he came and talked to me, we'd won nine in a row. We had 12 wins. This is what I'm telling you with this first game. It doesn't happen instantly all the time. Hopefully we're real good early, but sometimes three weeks later you're a whole lot better.

About that first game on Sunday, what is your relationship with New York Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride?

Glanville: Kevin was my assistant at the Houston Oilers. In fact, I gave him his first pro job. He was a quarterback coach with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. June Jones (head coach of the Houston Roughnecks) was my quarterback coach and left the Oilers to go to the Atlanta Falcons, so then I had to hire another quarterback coach. So, each time I coach against Gilbride ... here's a guy that I brought out of Bula Bula Land -- Bula Bula Land for you people don't know is college football -- and he went on and had a long and successful career and now he's the head coach (of the Guardians). I sure hope we beat him.

What's your relationship with him right now?

Glanville: We may say hello. I don't know if we'll speak. It depends who wins. Your relationship, as always, is around who wins.

Glanville on the sideline during last month's training camp in Houston.

You've obviously had a lot of experience in this game at different levels. Take us back to your first job.

Glanville: My first job was 1964. I got the defensive coordinator's job at Lima Central Catholic High School in Ohio. I asked the head coach, "It's such a good job. Why did you hire me?" And he goes, "Well, I hate to tell you. You're the only one that applied." In 1974, 10 years later, I was a defensive coach and special teams coach for the Detroit Lions. So I was very fortunate. I've got to thank everybody that I ever coached from '64 to that day because one reason I was able to have any success at all ... we always had players that ran, chased, hit, played hard ... because of them I was able to get good jobs.

When you think about how the game has changed since then, what comes to mind?

Glanville: In '74, I was with the Lions and we practiced in Tiger Stadium. Our offices where the coaches were ... we took over an abandoned police station ... and we'd walk two or three blocks to the stadium. Now, Tiger Stadium had a grass field. Of course, we had bad weather in Detroit. We were not allowed to practice on the field. It was a baseball field, so we had a lot of area from the sideline -- one side was sort of like the outfield -- and we had like 40 yards of grass. So people said, "Did you throw deep?" We couldn't throw deep because at 40 yards you ran out of grass. We weren't allowed to practice field goals because that would put us on the grass. So, come game day, they roll the tarp off and the grass would look good and people didn't realize that the first time they saw the grass was the first time we saw it.

Sunday will mark the seventh decade in which you've coached a football game. What do you think when you hear that?

Glanville: Wow. That's a lot of huddle breaks. Football has been very, very good to me.