Dade legend was `a man's man'
Joe Brodsky might have been the only coach to win a state high school title, an NCAA championship game and a Super Bowl.
BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
The last time Don Soldinger saw Miami-Dade football legend Joe Brodsky was when Brodsky was roasted by his former peers and players at a Touchdown Club of Miami banquet three years ago.
''Nobody really saw him much recently,'' Soldinger, UM's former longtime running backs coach, said Sunday.
News of Brodsky's death Thursday at age 71 from prostate cancer is still spreading throughout the nation, but Soldinger and Florida Atlantic University coach Howard Schnellenberger said they heard Brodsky requested to keep matters in the aftermath private.
His wife, Joyce, who lives in Weston, could not be reached Sunday night. But both Soldinger and Schnellenberger reflected about Brodsky, who starred in sports at Miami Jackson High and won titles while coaching football on the high school, college and NFL levels.
''He was a super competitive guy and a funny guy -- great to be around,'' Soldinger said. ``He was a man's man, and when you were around him, he made you better. You had to be better, because that's how he set the bar.
``He's the only guy I know of that won a high school state championship with his son [Joe Jr.] playing quarterback, then won two national championships in college -- one with Howard and one with Jimmy [Johnson] -- and three Super Bowls. Who else has done that?''
Brodsky starred at Miami Jackson High in football, baseball, basketball and track and field. He played fullback and linebacker for the University of Florida, was the head coach at Jackson and Hialeah-Miami Lakes High, then joined the UM coaching staff as a running backs coach in 1978 under Lou Saban. In 1979, first-year UM coach Schnellenberger retained Brodsky, who won titles at UM in 1983 and '87.
Brodsky's son, Larry, was a receiver at UM.
''Joe was an outstanding football man from the very beginning,'' said Schnellenberger, who said he last saw Brodsky at one of Schnellenberger's steakhouses for dinner last year. ``He and the others started the mass recruiting of South Florida players to Miami and helped make the program what it is today. He was very loud and very tough, and he coached with passion. He was an emotional, honest, straightforward guy.''
UM athletic director Paul Dee interviewed Brodsky for the Miami head coaching job when he was a Cowboys assistant coach in 1995.
''Joe Brodsky was a terrific member of the Hurricanes football family for many years,'' said Dee, who ended up hiring Brodsky's fellow Dallas assistant, Butch Davis. ``He was a superb coach and an integral part of the offense. He had a positive effect on the entire team and department.''
ESPN commentator Lee Corso was Brodsky's quarterback at Miami Jackson, where Brodsky played fullback. They helped Jackson become the first South Florida team to beat Miami High in 1951.
''I've never met a more humble, loyal, dedicated person,'' Corso said of Brodsky during the roast in 2003.
Added Johnson, who brought Brodsky with him to help coach the Dallas Cowboys, during the roast: ``I took him to Dallas for one reason: The man has a passion for living. The guy is special.''
Soldinger recalled Sunday the phone call he got from Brodsky in the fall of 1977 -- the first season Soldinger coached at Southridge High.
''He was the head coach at Miami Lakes and he says, `Hey, I'm coming to watch your fall scrimmage. I don't know what you're running, but I'm coming, and there's nothing you can do about it,''' Soldinger said, laughing. ``Within a couple of weeks, he was there, and his team killed us in my first game 42-21. I kind of modeled myself after Joe. He was legendary.''