New Orleans Howard Schnellenberger's career in football has spanned generations, touching the lives of numerous successful coaches and players.
There were his days as an assistant coach at Alabama, winning championships under Paul "Bear" Bryant in the 1960s; his stint with the Miami Dolphins in the early 1970s, winning Super Bowls under Don Shula; his resurrection of college programs at Miami, where he won a national championship in 1983, and at Louisville; then his one-year stint at Oklahoma in 1995.
Apparently, the 73-year-old coach, the epitome of an old wise man with his distinctive white mustache and white head of hair, hasn't let the game pass him by yet.
He'll be on the sideline tonight when his Florida Atlantic Owls (7-5) play their first bowl game against Memphis (7-5) in the New Orleans Bowl.
"It's nice to be with a football team that's growing, winning games and qualifying" for the postseason, Schnellenberger said while a Florida Atlantic practice wound down this week. "The bowl game is a result of that. So I guess I'm a happy camper that we've done the right things to get us here. I'll be a doubly happy camper if we can win this game."
For a while, it appeared that Schnellenberger's one season at Oklahoma, when the Sooners went 5-5-1, might be his last as a Division I coach.
He spent a couple years in virtual retirement before Florida Atlantic, a state university in Boca Raton, called with an intriguing offer. They wanted him to build a new football program, starting in what was then known as Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) and eventually moving up to the I-A, now the Bowl Subdivision, in 2005.
Hired in 1998, he was given a couple years to recruit, with his first team beginning practices in 2000 and playing its first NCAA game in 2001. By 2003, FAU was in the semifinals of the I-AA playoffs.
FAU was 2-9 in its first season in the top division, followed by a 5-7 mark a season ago.
Despite his own background as a turnaround specialist, Schnellenberger said FAU's location in south Florida gave it a particular advantage in creating a competitive program.
"We're blessed that we sit right in the middle of a hotbed of high school football programs that allow us to have the opportunity to satisfy our goal," Schnellenberger said.
Schnellenberger knew he couldn't recruit head-to-head against Miami, Florida or Florida State, but thought he had a chance to keep out-of-state schools from luring away some of the local talent that remained.
Another question was how well a new generation of players would relate to a coach who's old enough to collect social security.