TEMPE, Ariz. – Jim Caldwell grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin, listening to stories about a football coach.
No, it wasn’t Vince Lombardi.
It was Tom Pratt.
At 60, Caldwell, the Detroit Lions head coach, is 20 years younger than Pratt, who’s been the Arizona Cardinals pass-rush specialist since 2013, but the two grew up in the same small town on the Wisconsin-Illinois border.
“I knew of him, because I think he graduated in 1958 from Beloit Memorial,” Caldwell said on a conference call with Arizona media on Wednesday. “I knew he was the first one, I believe, in our hometown to actually win a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl ring.
“He was in a class with a couple people, actually my wife’s first cousin. So we heard about him quite often and knew who he was, obviously.”
On Sunday in Detroit, Caldwell’s offensive line will be charged with slowing down Pratt’s pass rush. The Lions have given up six sacks of their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, while the Cardinals have seven sacks this year – 4.5 of which have come from outside linebackers.
Just two cheese-heads trying to outmatch the other.
Pratt was an all-state guard at Beloit High School, according to the Beloit Daily News. He was an all-state guard for the 1952 team that went undefeated.
Like Pratt, Caldwell led a football team to an undefeated record, but it was Beloit Memorial. He also was a guard on Beloit Memorial’s 1973 state championship basketball team.
But the two share one other, maybe the most important, thing in common: They’re both world champions. Pratt won the title with Kansas City in 1969, and that’s after coaching in Super Bowl I, and Caldwell has won two, one with Indianapolis and another with Baltimore.
“He’s one of the guys that set a great standard of excellence in our hometown and then certainly in the professional ranks,” Caldwell said. “I certainly got to know who he was after I got in the league. I know he retired for a little bit and then came back and is still doing well.”