Coach Jim Tomsula is well known in the NFL for his tough defensive schemes on the football field and his passion for the game. Off the field, throughout his daily life, the Washington Redskins defensive line coach is even more dedicated and enthusiastic about his Catholic faith, and he’s not afraid to share it with others.

“I can’t separate the two (my faith and my work). It’s a part of my everyday life. I don’t preach (to my players), but I also don’t shy away,” Coach Tomsula told the Catholic Standard, during a Jan. 31 visit to St. Andrew Apostle School in Silver Spring, Maryland, to commemorate Catholic Schools Week. That week, he also spoke to students at St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Rockville, Maryland.

In two separate talks to the St. Andrew’s students, the coach offered practical advice on several topics – from faith and friendship to using smart phones for good.  First, he spoke to the younger students, reminding them how blessed they are to attend a Catholic school with such dedicated teachers.

“How awesome is it that you go to a Catholic school? You have the Mass, a great choir. You have a priest (Father Dan Leary, pastor of St. Andrew Apostle Parish) who even calls me sometimes just to check on me,” said Coach Tomsula, referring to Father Leary’s longtime ministry as the Redskins’ team Catholic chaplain.

“You are in this environment where you get to study your faith, you get a good education and you have someone at home who is making sacrifices for you to be here,” he said.

The coach also told the kids in the lower grades about the importance of attending Sunday Mass, praying the rosary daily, reading the Bible and being kind to others.

“What if we went the whole day and said, ‘Hello’ to everyone you see?” he told the youngsters. “If you are being nice, you are being like Jesus, who was nice even to the mean people.”

Coach Tomsula, a 52-year-old native of Pittsburgh, said he attended Catholic school from first through eighth grade. He began his football-coaching career 30 years ago after college, eventually going on to coach NFL football in Europe for several years. In 2006, he returned to the U.S. to become a defensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers. For one season, in 2015, he was the head coach of the 49ers. Since 2017, Coach Tomsula has been the Washington Redskins defensive line coach, and he recently renewed his contract to continue in that role. He is married and has three children.

Father Leary said he knows Coach Tomsula to be a man of great faith whose career and life are entirely guided by his Catholicism. In the fast-paced and high-pressured world of professional sports where religious faith is not always first and foremost, Father Leary describes Coach Tomsula, who attends daily Mass and prays the rosary, as an exemplary man who loves the Lord and has set his priorities accordingly.  

To the older students, the coach also stressed the importance of attending Mass, reminding the kids to persist in the practice of their faith. Everyone wants a life-changing miracle, and sometimes there are distractions during Mass, but he said a priest once told him, “Just keep going! And all of a sudden what happened was if I don’t go every day, something’s not right,” Coach Tomsula said.

On the use of smart phones, the coach said technology can be beneficial, but he strongly cautioned the students to be careful on the Internet and social media. “There are bad things, too,” he said, while holding up the iPhone and pointing to the Apple’s logo of the apple with a bite out of it.

He reminded the kids of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “There was a peaceful, perfect place where everyone gets along. God says don’t eat these apples. The snake tells them, ‘Go ahead and eat. Don’t you want to know everything God knows?’...When you look at your phone, do you really need to know everything?...Everything you do on that doesn’t go away,” said Coach Tomsula.

Students from St. Andrew Apostle School present a thank-you message to Jim Tomsula, the defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins, during his Jan. 31 visit to the Silver Spring parish. (CS photo/Michael Hoyt)

When asked by a student who he picked to win the Super Bowl, the coach said he didn’t have a preference. But when asked who his favorite player was, he said he’s coached many great players. One who stands out though, he said, is Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, whom he described as a faith-filled man and can always be seen at team Masses “sitting in the front row.”

He said a vast majority of NFL players are good people in every aspect of their lives, and only a very small percentage get the most media attention for controversies in their personal or professional lives.

Father Leary then led the students in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for Coach Tomsula and his family. “We are grateful for his presence here today,” said Father Leary. “We ask the Lord to help them be people for Jesus and we pray for the coach and all those who listen to him.”

Students from St. Andrew Apostle School pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for Jim Tomsula, the defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins, during his Jan. 31 visit to the Silver Spring parish. (CS photo/Michael Hoyt)