FORT WORTH - Football players are violent and aggressive on the field and coaches must teach them to keep those behaviors out of their personal lives, a panel of coaches that included TCU's Gary Patterson agreed Monday.
"It's a violent game and we talk about flipping the switch," Patterson said. "You can't take it home with you."
Patterson, Dallas Cowboys legend Bob Lilly and Aledo High School football coach Tim Buchanan spoke at SafeHaven of Tarrant County's Legacy of Men breakfast at the Omni Hotel. The event is designed to raise awareness of the role men have in ending domestic violence.
The coaches were selected for the panel because of the "great influence" they have over young men, said Sarah McClellan-Brandt, SafeHaven community relations coordinator.
SafeHaven officials played a video that included interviews with children and teenagers from homes marked by violence. Patterson said he found the video difficult to watch because football coaches recruit some players from broken, unstable homes.
Patterson acknowledged his fiery persona as a coach, saying "sometimes I wish I was softer." But he said that he and his coaches work "every day" to set good examples for players.
"It's not the sound of the voice, it's what is being said," Patterson said.
Buchanan said Aledo coaches talk to players about off-field behavior, including respecting teachers and classmates. He said that during the football season, some players see their coaches more than their parents, so it is critical that coaches realize they are role models.
"We talk about respecting elders, saying, 'Yes, ma'am and No, ma'am,'" he said.
Lilly, a TCU graduate, said one need only look at former Cowboys coach Tom Landry to understand the impact of a high-character coach. Landry, who coached Lilly, treated the players with respect even as "he chewed us out."
Lilly estimated that he played more than three years with 250 to 300 players during his 14-year career with the Cowboys.
"Almost every one of them turned out wonderfully," he said. "And some were bad characters when they started."
Also Monday, SafeHaven gave its Legacy of Men Award to David Russell, a regional vice president for Verizon. In 2010, he secured $300,000 to fund agencies working to end domestic violence from the Verizon Foundation.
He also travels the state promoting "Telling Amy's Story," a documentary produced by Verizon that chronicles the death of a company employee who was killed by her abusive ex-husband.
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689