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Players, coaches recall Marty Schottenheimer's passion throughout prominent coaching legacy

Schottenheimer, a former Browns coach, passed away Monday and left behind a legacy that impacted several NFL legends

Marty Schottenheimer didn't need much time to forge special relationships with the players he coached.

He didn't need much time to establish himself as one of the best coaches in Browns franchise history, either. Schottenheimer knew how to win football games and quickly earn the trust of his players, which he did with the Browns as a head coach from 1984-1988.

Those bonds haven't been forgotten by his former players, coaching colleagues and countless other people around the NFL who are all mourning the passing of Schottenheimer, 77, on Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"Marty was a father figure to me," former Browns running back Earnest Byner said in an interview a few years back. "He gave me my first opportunity. He believed in me. He knew what he was going to get from me, day in and day out. He gave me the support that I needed. He was a teacher."

Schottenheimer excelled in earning respect from his players for his knack of finding ways to make the most of their talents. He knew when to be aggressive, and he knew when to use an easy, passive voice to instill patience or prove to someone that he had their back.

His coaching style, which featured run-heavy schemes and revolved around stout defensive play, became known as "Martyball" throughout NFL circles, and it worked. Schottenheimer is eighth all-time among NFL coaches with a 200-126-1 regular-season record. Forty-four of those wins came with the Browns, who made the playoffs four times — including two conference championship appearances — in his five seasons with the franchise.

"I just think Marty saw in me more ability than what I was showing when I first got to Cleveland," said former running back Kevin Mack, who teamed up with Byner to produce one of the best rushing duos in NFL history under Schottenheimer's tutelage.

"Those first couple years he rode me — I'm not going to say real hard — but he let me know when he thought I could do better."

Schottenheimer, whose large glasses gave him an unforgettable look that paired well with an 80s-style ball cap and heavy coat in cold weather, was never afraid to show his emotions when he coached. 

He has always been remembered for giving fiery pregame pep-talks, many of which included a few tears streaming down his cheek. Schottenheimer loved his teams just as much as he loved his own family. Of all the attributes that made him shine to his players, his heart was perhaps the biggest.

"He loved to cry," former Browns receiver Reggie Langhorne said. "A head coach crying just makes you love him even more."

Schottenheimer's coaching philosophies and careful methods of supporting his players rubbed off on several prominent assistants who worked alongside him before their careers ascended. Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards, among many others, top the list of those under Schottenheimer's coaching tree.

"You're going to be physical, you're going to have a good defense, you're going to run the ball, you're not going to beat yourself with penalties," said Edwards, a defensive backs coach under Schottenheimer, in a 2006 Topeka Capital-Journal article. "All he did was win games and put people in the stands where they used to be empty, and kept going to the playoffs. He's a heck of a coach. I learned a lot from Marty Schottenheimer. I was fortunate to have been around him. I'm lucky he hired me."

Schottenheimer's influence on football — and overall impact to the lives of countless people he coached — will never be forgotten. His legacy has always been cherished within the Browns organization and across all of football for decades, and as people reflect on the impact he made on their lives, there's always one common theme: respect.

"He made me feel like I was a part of the organization," Langhorne said. "He made us believe in what he said was real."