Tomsula loves seeing the streets of Croydon, says Okoye is “great role model”

Jim Tomsula


by Andrew McSteen

San Francisco 49ers Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula talked to A Head For The Game in the locker room following his sides’ 42-10 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars this evening at Wembley.

A Head for the Game: What’s it like being back in London?
It’s wonderful – I love being over here obviously. We were actually in Croydon on Friday evening and we got to go over and see Coach Allen and Gerry over with the London Warriors so that was a big deal so we then went down and had dinner down on the main road, so it was a great time just to get back and see the streets.

Tony Allen is a personal friend, a dear friend. He’s a man I trust, a man of integrity who cares about the kids. I admire the way he looks at the game; through the kids’ eyes – he wants to get the kids involved.

The link with Europe and football – my dream is to someday come back to Europe and coach football. It’s here, the people are here to play the game and I just think it’s an awesome game and that there’s a place for everybody in the game.

So to come back, get it going and to have the kids involved – it’s a dream for me.

A Head for the Game: What are your initial thoughts on Brit-prospect Lawrence Okoye?
I do know that people are watching him closely and I hope kids are looking up to him because I think he’s the full package.

He’s a gentleman. He’s a courageous person.

He’s obviously brilliant with the smarts and the academics but he’s the right kind of guy. He’s the kind of guy you pull for. You want him to make it. You want this to work.

I am very optimistic and if it didn’t work out it wouldn’t be because of him; he’s working at it. He is the guy who you want…he’s a great role model for kids and at the end of the day, we are our youth.

A Head for the Game: How has Lawrence been involved this season?
He’s there on the sidelines, but he’s involved. He has specific things every game he has to watch. He’s doing a lot of learning. He’s there while we make adjustments, so he’s learning that; that experience you can’t get unless you’re down there on the side of the field – that’s why he’s here.

Lawrence is on our injured reserve and for a lot of teams the injured reserved player wouldn’t come to the matches but he’s here and it’s important for him to be a part of it as he goes along.

Our ownership and organisation are committed and are giving him a fair chance to do this.

A Head for the Game: Tell us about your experience over in England and mainland Europe with NFL Europe..
That was an unbelievable time in my family’s life. My children grew up here – half a year in Europe, Scotland, half a year but they were too young to experience it at 3 and 1. They went to school in Glasgow, then in Germany.

The biggest thing you take away from [the Europe experience] it is that different isn’t wrong. It’s just different.

In the States it is such a vast place you don’t venture to other countries and other cultures, so when you do that through football you get to experience all of these people, great people, wonderful people and you walk away from it with a good, solid feeling about mankind.

A Head for the Game: You work a lot in the community and with young people both whilst the season is on and in pre-season, why is that important for you?
In the NFL, the one thing you are proud of, specifically our organisation – the 49ers, is that everyone is so committed to the youth. They are so committed to the kids.

Our ownership has a saying ‘keeping kids safe, on track and in school’, and they do so much that way and we are able to be part of it through the clinics that we do, which my wife handles – I just show up and do them.

It’s great being around kids. I get to go and just be around kids and I happen to like kids. I think kids are awesome.

A Head for the Game: Europe and London is obviously very close to your heart, do you get chance to visit often?
We’ve had plans every year to come back to England – the whole family. This year what we’re trying to do, as our daughter goes to school in Switzerland, is planning on putting something together with the first stop London and then we might venture up to Glasgow and see some old friends.

A Head for the Game: What were you main memories of your time in London?
I was working, so I didn’t see as much as my wife and kids. My wife jumped on the tube and went anywhere she needed to go.

They went everywhere on the tube – they would wake up in the morning, have breakfast and take a bus down to the tube and get going.

My overriding memory – all my memories – always revolve around people. Just the people in Croydon – the people at the Hilton Hotel, across from the airport; the ladies that worked downstairs.

I’d come in from a late night and they’d have the kids behind the desk, acting like they were working. We met so many wonderful people.  Being down at the pool on a Friday ahead of a home game I’d have some time and the people would come in and you’d chat it up and have a swim – we were just surrounded by good people.

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