Senior defensive assistant coach Ray Rhodes recently talked about the importance of the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program, which has benefitted more than 1,300 minority coaches since it's inception in 1987.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Texans are celebrating Black History Month. In 1926, Negro History Week was launched by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an historian and educator. He chose the second week of February to celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In the 1960s, it became Black History Month.
The name Bill Walsh evokes a variety of images and thoughts. Like Super Bowl rings. The West Coast offense. Joe Montana-to-Jerry Rice. And for some, the ideas of inclusion and education.
In celebration of Black History Month, it's only fitting to remember what Walsh did in the late 1980's, establishing the minority internship program for coaches that now bears his name. Texans' senior defensive assistant Ray Rhodes was a defensive assistant under Walsh starting in 1981 with the 49ers, and was the defensive backs coach when Walsh began the program.
"I thought it was a great, great thing that Bill was doing, because that was one of the ways for black coaches to get involved with football," Rhodes said of Walsh's invitation to have the staff of Mississippi Valley State attend a 49ers training camp in 1987. "All the coaches that have gone through minority programs have to thank Coach Walsh for positioning themselves to do all those things for black coaches."
Rhodes said that Walsh chose the MVSU staff because they had coached Jerry Rice. The coaches came to California and saw how Walsh ran the training camp, and were able to take back the experiences and knowledge to their own camp that began later that summer.
Walsh and the 49ers were the first to do such a thing and now, every NFL club has minority participants every summer at training camps. The last few summers, around 90 minority coaches were in camps across the NFL, and they were in charge of planning and participating in the practice sessions with players. Plus, they got the chance to pick the brains of experienced NFL coaches.
The program is extra-special for Rhodes, because he played his final season in the league under Walsh in 1980 with the 49ers. He segued into a defensive assistant for the following two years in San Francisco, and then coached the defensive backs from 1983 to 1991 with the 49ers. In all, he picked up four Super Bowl rings in that span and added a fifth when he returned as the team's defensive coordinator for the 1994 campaign.
"Bill's been a guy that's been huge in my career," Rhodes said. "He's been basically my mentor as far as talking to me and giving me advice on a lot of things involved in this game."
On the Texans staff, Perry Carter was promoted Monday to the assistant defensive backs coach. Carter originally joined the Texans staff during training camp in 2006 as part of the NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship program and was hired in a full-time capacity that season. That the recent promotion came during Black History Month, with a former Walsh disciple also on the staff, made it all the more special for Carter.
"It's a great feeling," Carter said, and added that he feels fortunate to be able to learn under defensive backs coach David Gibbs as well.
Rhodes is confident in Carter, too, and wasn't shy about saying so.
"I'm proud of Perry. This is great for Perry to be a part of this organization to be involved with a lot of things. Perry's a damn good coach and I'm happy he has this opportunity to do some things," Rhodes said.
Upon hearing that affirmation from Rhodes, Carter acknowledged that the praise was significant.
"He's a living legend," Carter said of Rhodes. "Everybody loves this guy, in the league and out of the league. He's kind of like a godfather. To have a guy like that say those words about you, makes me feel good. I'm just trying to pattern myself after him."