Former Washington Athletes React to Lombardi’s Resignation
By KJ Pilcher, Reporter
Former Cedar Rapids Washington athletes have been outspoken, while assistant coaches had little to say about the resignation of Warriors football coach Tony Lombardi.
The reaction varied when Lombardi’s decision became public in a news release distributed by the school Thursday morning, announcing he will be stepping down as head varsity football coach and baseball coach at the end of the season.
Lombardi was a polarizing figure, and has been accused of bullying athletes, students and other staff members. He was respected by some former players.
“For me, he was great,” former Warrior all-stater and University of Iowa wide receiver Keenan Davis said. “He’s tough on you, but he cared about every one of the players. As he’s said, football is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard and it’s tough, but that’s what you should expect. He just wanted to try to make players better. He helped me become a Division I (college) player.”
Shay Gutman, who was a senior on the 2009 Washington squad, played quarterback for Lombardi. He said they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he was able to handle Lombardi’s coaching approach.
“We’ve had our arguments with each other when I disagreed with him,” said Gutman, a red-shirt sophomore wide receiver for Upper Iowa University. “We had the relationship that I knew where he was coming from and he could be hard on me.”
The methods deterred some players from participating in football at Washington. Gutman said Lombardi pushed players to improve on the field and in the classroom.
“A lot of people decided not to play football, because of his coaching style, but I think the people that played for him understood he was just trying to get the best out of you,” Gutman said. “Both as a player and a person.”
Gutman added that Lombardi regularly went “downtown” to pick up players for morning lifting sessions, trying to help everyone succeed.
Social was blitzed with messages about Thursday’s developments, including a remark from former Warrior football standout Adam Sailor, who was a senior in 2010.
“Lombardi’s verbal criticism did not make me go home and cry to my parents,” Sailor posted on Twitter, “it made me work harder the next day, it was icing on the cake.”
Gutman said Lombardi was probably tougher on quarterbacks than any other players. Lombardi has been accused of using “harsh” language during practices and games, but neither Gutman or Davis said they witnessed anything out of line.
“There is not one coach in America that doesn’t use (harsh) language. None,” Davis said. “There is no way he’s any different than any other (football) coach.”
Lombardi coached more than 40 players who went on to college football, leading Washington to a 51-25 mark since taking over the job in 2006. He has also coached at the college and professional levels. Area coaches said Lombardi had great knowledge of the game, noting the Warriors were well prepared and were solid schematically.
Assistant coach Charlie Faulkner said Lombardi’s knowledge was helpful in competition.
“There were situations where his knowledge of the game has been beneficial from an (offensive) line standpoint,” Faulkner said. “There were situations where we needed to fix game-time scenarios.”
Faulkner declined to comment further, and assistant coach Matt Hatcher, who was attending the U.S. Open wrestling tournament when the resignation was announced, also declined comment. Multiple other current and former Washington football assistant coaches under Lombardi did not return phone messages Thursday.
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