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Colin Dunlap: Count Me As Rooting For Jim Tomsula

Walk past Jim Tomsula on East Carson Street and he looks like a guy headed into a bar for a fish "sammich" and a bottle of beer --- but not the fancy kind, just a regular beer.

Because of this, I'll root for him. Jim Tomsula is one of us.

Drive down 8th Avenue in Homestead on a summer morning and Jim Tomsula would fit perfectly among a group of guys leaning on the parking meters and griping about how the Pirates manager screwed up the night before.

Because of this, I'll root for him. Jim Tomsula is one of us.

He's the kind of guy who knows what galoshes and a babushka are, understands the Steelers' religion is only surpassed by the Roman Catholic one in these parts and comprehends that nothing comes without honest, hard work.

Because of this, I'll root for him. Jim Tomsula is one of us.

Even if --- because of that crest on his clothes and the hat he wears --- Jim Tomsula certainly isn't one of us. At least as defined by whom he works for.

You see, Tomsula, 46 and a native of Munhall and West Homestead, was named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday.

Quite a rise for a guy who has never been a coordinator in the NFL and has one year of head coaching experience at any level --- in 2006 with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe.

Nonetheless, the man who has been defensive line coach with the 49ers since 2007 (and served one game as interim head coach when Mike Singletary was canned) was named to replace Jim Harbaugh.

Certainly, the 49ers took a big chance on this guy when they tabbed him to take over. That said, from this vantage at least, not one portion of my fiber would bet against Jim Tomsula.

Why? Because you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who will outwork him.

Tomsula is a man so dedicated to coaching --- and wanting to make a career of it --- that he slept in his car for a time while getting started in the vocation at his alma mater, Catawba College in North Carolina. In 1997 when he first started to coach, all the school had was a volunteer coaching position.

He took it. He had to. It was what he wanted to do, a life's calling of sorts.

So Tomsula sold rugs and did various odd jobs in concert with coaching, but for a spell enough money didn't come together and he would bed down in his car.

Talk about devotion and perseverance. Would you expect anything else from a guy born in the shadows of a massive U.S. Steel works?

Back in 2007 I was working at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and gave Tomsula a ring.

No one picked up, so I left him a voicemail.

When he called back, he apologized up and down that he had missed my call. I distinctly remember him telling me that any time he got a chance to talk to another "Pittsburgh Guy" and missed it, he kicked himself about it.

Anyway, it had been a whirlwind that Feb. 2007 day when Tomsula phoned back, because he had just a few days prior started working in his first job in the NFL, as a defensive line coach for the 49ers.

We chatted for a bit; talked about the mutual friends we had and the common people we knew --- after all, we're both Pittsburghers, and in Pittsburgh everyone knows everyone else, so we had about 3,459 common friends.

The I hit Tomsula with a question about his motivation.

It is still one that strikes me to the bone, still to this day.

"Hey, I'm just a guy from West Homestead and Munhall, just a regular guy from Western Pennsylvania," Tomsula said. "I watched my dad wake up every day, go off to work and make a living for his family like Pittsburgh guys are supposed to do.

"With me, that living is a football coach. But I approach my job the same way anyone from Pittsburgh does. I show up every day, bust my ass and don't ask anyone to do something I wouldn't do.

"That's how I was raised, that is how everyone in my neighborhood was raised, and that is what I believe work should be."

Indeed, this is Steeler Country we all live in.

But even as his allegiance is with another team --- and a healthy paycheck comes from now leading the 49ers --- you will find me pulling for Jim Tomsula.

Why? Because he's one of us.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 "The Fan." You can e-mail him at Check out his bio here.

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