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by Joe Radder

Unless you've been living in a cave the past 20 years, you know all about Marv Levy, the football celebrity. Coach of the Buffalo Bills from 1986 through 1997 including all three Super Bowl years, and now General Manager, Marv’s football successes are well known.

However, we wanted to tell Marv Levy's personal story.

He was kind enough, a few weeks ago, to give After 50 this exclusive interview:

After 50: Let's begin with your childhood. What is your most vivid childhood memory?

Levy: "My favorite childhood memory is of the times we would get together as a family in Jackson Park, Illinois. Ours was a very large family, by the way. Those were depression years, so we'd go on picnics together and things like that."

After 50: Was football part of your childhood?

Levy: "Very much so. I was introduced to football at age 5. My father was a great athlete, an outstanding basketball player. He introduced me to football. I played all through high school and college. It's been part of my life as far back as I can remember."

After 50: Tell us about your family.

Levy: "My father's name was Sam Levy. He was born in England and came to the United States when he was five years old. He was an outstanding basketball player, was in the Marines during World War I, and had a very successful wholesale produce business. - My mother, Ida, was also born in Europe, and was self-educated. - I have one sister. And with my wife, Fran, with whom I am very much in love, we have one daughter, Kimberly. She was recently married and lives with her husband in Chicago."

After 50: What, in your opinion, describes the Buffalo Bills fans in one or two words?

Levy: "I'd have to say they're passionate and they're dedicated."

After 50: If we asked, what is your philosophy of life? Would you have an answer off the top of your head, so to speak?

Levy: "Have fun. I don't mean that to be what it may sound like. What I mean is devote yourself to things you feel good about."

After 50: What do you think about retirement age? Would you agree that yesterday's age 60 is today's age 80?

Levy: It's up to the individual. I'm not into golf, or cruises or things like that, so my work is my way of having fun. I believe that if you stay active physically, it helps you to stay alert mentally."

After 50: What is your most memorable moment of the Super Bowl years:?

Levy: "It was in the first game of the play-offs that third year. We were playing the Houston Oilers. Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas were both out injured. And, after a 35 to 3 deficit in the second half, Frank Reich led the team to victory. It went into the record books as one of the biggest comeback victories in NFL history."

After some research into Marv Levy's background, we learned a few more things about his family and his career. For example, he learned patriotism and self-discipline from his father, the former Marine. Marv said "I remember that even in his latter days after my mother passed away, his bed was always made with tight hospital corners. And when I opened his bedroom closet, his clothes were all neatly folded and squared away side by side. When I opened his kitchen cabinet, he had his food cans in alphabetical order: apricots, beans, corn etc" clearly a strong carry-over from his Marine Corps days

Levy's academic interests come from his mother who read all of Shakespeare, Milton and Keats. It's hard to believe that her formal education was limited to the first grade.

His first coaching job was as an assistant at Coe College. He went on to become head coach at the Country Day School in St. Louis, the University of New Mexico in 1959, the University of California from 1960 to 1963. and William and Mary from 1964 to 1968.

His first NFL coaching job was as kicking teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. He went on to the Los Angeles Rams to be special teams coach, and then followed Rams coach, George Allen, to the Washington Redskins where he served as special teams coach for two seasons. He then coached the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

His first head coaching job in the NFL was for the Kansas City Chiefs. After a few years as a TV color commentator, he became head coach of the Chicago Blitz of the now defunct United States Football League.

Ralph C. Wilson Jr. recognized Levy's talent and hired him as the Buffalo Bills' head coach in 1986. He became the winningest coach in Buffalo Bills history, and coach of the only team ever to win four consecutive conference championships and go to four consecutive Super Bowls. Marv retired in 1997, but Wilson brought him back this year as General Manager.

His book about the Bills Super Bowl years,. "Where else would you rather be?" (Sports Publishing 2004) was on the New York Times best-seller list.

Marv is famous for frequently quoting Winston Churchill. That's not a surprise since he earned a master's degree in English history from Harvard and still reads every evening.

In an earlier interview, he said "I try to read material that's worthwhile. I don't disdain fiction, but I don't read it often."

One of his favorite Churchill quotes is, "Never, never, never surrender." His admiration of Churchill began during World War II when he would listen to Britain's powerful leader through all the radio static that we endured in those days. "What fantastic eloquence, what inspiring words, not just the words, but the tone and the measure of his thoughts," Marv said. "I realized what he had accomplished as orator, historian, writer, and artist. Churchill was probably the greatest statesman of the 20th century."

Levy is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame . The UPI named him NFL Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1995, and AFC Coach of the year in 1993.

He certainly deserves all those honors since he led the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls, and even though victory eluded the Bills each time (in the first "wide right"
game they lost by only 3 points and a few inches in the last seconds of the game,) Levy's teams won six Division titles and four Conference championships from 1990 to 1993. His won-lost record in the NFL is 143/112 in regular season games and 11/8 in playoff games.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Marv Levy is that he started a new job this year as General Manager of the Buffalo Bills at age 80. And, of course, he was hired by
88 year-old Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson. Certainly Ralph C. Wilson Jr. and Marv Levy are proving that todays '80s are yesterday's 60s.

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