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Mike Tomlin, Steelers Begin Process of Moving on after Death of Coach, Friend Darryl Drake

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UNITY TWP., Pa. — “We intend to march.”

That was the message from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin as the team moves forward with its training camp on Tuesday, just two days after the sudden passing of beloved wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on Sunday.

Tomlin spoke with the media late on Tuesday morning and the team is scheduled for a 2:55 p.m. practice on Tuesday afternoon, though there is rain in the forecast.

It will begin the process of a return to normalcy for the still-grieving players and staff at St. Vincent College. Tomlin said the team has been “devastated.”

“I can’t really think of any other appropriate words,” he added. “Our time and attention in recent days has been spent in support of the Drake family — Miss Shiela and Darryl’s daughters and extended family. Many of us have had an opportunity to spend time with them through this. They have been amazing in just making arrangements and adjusting and so forth. We’ve tried to be as supportive organizationally as we can be to them in what is a very difficult time.”

Drake was not just a position coach for the Steelers, but a longtime friend and mentor to Tomlin, making the loss particularly tough.

“Professionally, obviously, the loss is significant, but personally, it’s even bigger,” Tomlin said Those of us that knew and had personal relationships with Coach Drake all feel that way.”

The Steelers coach retold how he and Drake first connected, over two decades ago.

“In ’97, I was a young wide receiver coach at Arkansas State. He was viewed as one of the top wide receivers coaches in the college game. I was politely aggressive in building a relationship with him. He probably didn’t have a choice, or that’s how he’d described it, in being my friend. I was too persistent.

“He extended courtesies to me like he does to a lot of young guys like myself in the profession and that’s why we talked about him the way we do. He sent me drill tape and things of that nature. We developed a rapport and things went from there.

“Coaching was Coach Drake’s platform for ministry. He wore many hats. Coaching was his vocation, but he was a father, a mentor, a brother, an advisor, like we all are in a lot of ways, to the men that he worked with, not only now, but over the course of his career, which spanned decades.”

In order to help the team move forward from the loss of Drake, the team brought in grief counselors.

“We realize that we don’t have all the answers and with that being said, we brought some professional grief counselors in to assist us through this tough time,” Tomlin said. “It’s been said that counseling is not for the weak, but the wise, so we seek people who have expertise in dealing such circumstances.”

Tomlin also said that he has a plan in place for who will succeed Drake, but declined to elaborate on details.

“We’re in the process of developing a plan there,” he said. “It’s in place. I just don’t wish to discuss the intimate details. I just don’t believe that’s appropriate at this time.

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