There’s no coincidence that the values Dick Vermeil instilled in his football teams – teamwork, discipline, and accountability – are the trademarks of his favorite charitable cause, the Boy Scouts of America.
The BSA Chester County Council was once again the beneficiary of Vermeil’s generosity, as the former Philadelphia Eagles coach hosted his Celebrity Golf Invitational for the 24th time on Tuesday and the first time at the Downingtown Country Club.
“All coaches preach the importance of caring about each other, surrounding yourself with good people, and working hard to create a good environment,” Vermeil said before his guests, many of whom played for the Birds during their run to Super Bowl XV, teed off.
“The principles kids learn by being boy scouts, things like growing your personality and building character, parallel what it takes to be successful not only in football, but in life. The Boy Scouts of America are a great reinforcement center in terms of family, school, and religion.”
Former Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who last year added the Downingtown Country Club to his burgeoning portfolio of golf courses, was more than happy to provide the setting for what amounted to a giant family reunion.
“This is a wonderful outing for a great cause,” said Jaworski. “We learned from Coach Vermeil that you have to give back. When we played for the Eagles, we were a part of the fabric of the community. Dick led by example back then, and he still does now.
“When Coach calls, we’re there for him. We’re all getting grayer and a little heavier, but the war stories are the same.”
Some of Jaworski’s former teammates in attendance were running back Wilbert Montgomery, wide receivers Harold Carmichael and Mike Quick, and linebackers Bill Bergey and John Bunting. All of them, including Vermeil who won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, proudly donned their 1980 NFC Championship rings.
“I wear this one more often,” said Vermeil. “It means just as much as my Super Bowl ring. Plus, it’s more comfortable.”
Charlie Rogers – the Scout Executive of the Chester County Council who oversees a staff of 19 full-timers, 2,700 volunteers, and 5,800 boy scouts – was at hand to represent his organization.
“A lot of nonprofits do golf tournaments, but with Dick and all of his friends here, it’s such a special day,” said Rogers, who was accompanied by a number of scouts from Troop 117 in Coatesville and Thorndale who, in turn, put a face to the cause. “All of this ultimately helps kids become better adults.”
To date, Vermeil has been instrumental in raising almost $5 million for the scouts.
Rogers hopes that, by the end of the year, ground will be broken for the upcoming PARC (Program Activity & Resource Campus), which has been in the works for four years and will serve as the home of the Chester County Council off Route 30 in Exton.
“It’s 28 acres, right in the heart of the county,” said Rogers. “Most of the property is on a 100-year flood plain, so it’s not commercially viable. But for our purposes, it’s great.
“Less and less families are outdoor-oriented, so this campus [which will include playing fields, a rope course, observation tower, and hiking trails] is what I like to call civilized wilderness.”
Several of the approximately 160 golfers scattered throughout the rolling fairways, manicured greens, and (at times) frustratingly shaped bunkers on Tuesday could have been a Who’s Who of football royalty in the Delaware Valley.
Former Birds defensive back Bill Bradley, whose 34 interceptions tie him with Eric Allen and Brian Dawkins for the most in franchise history. Legendary linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Former NFL tight end Fred Baxter, who played the bulk of his 11 seasons in the league with the New York Jets.
Even college coaches Matt Rhule (Temple), Andy Talley (Villanova), and David Brock (Delaware) made it out to Chester County.
“There’s no one who’s done more for me, personally, than Dick Vermeil,” said Rhule, now one of the hottest coaches in the country after his Owls went 10-4 last season and won their half of the American Athletic Conference.
“He’s been such a great mentor for me. When we were 0-5 [during my first season at Temple], I got a random call from him telling me to hang in there, and that things would turn around. To pair Coach Vermeil with the boy scouts, I’m not a great golfer, but I’ll come out here any day and hack away for those guys.”
Of course, new Eagles coach Doug Pederson was also in Downingtown to enjoy perhaps one of his last stress-free days on the calendar.
“This all speaks to the Eagles’ ties to the community here,” said Pederson. “They have a long-standing tradition in this region, and my family and I are glad to be part of it again.
“We got off to a good start and eagled the first hole,” he said of his group’s performance in the five-man scramble during a break in the action. “We had a few pars and a couple of bogeys, but the cars and the money are safe.”
Pederson was referring to the Lexus, Audi, and $10,000 being offered to anyone who could sink a hole-in-one on Holes 3, 12, and 17, respectively.
No one did.
Three hospitality tents – one sponsored by Jimmy’s BBQ in Malvern, one by Wawa, and another by Victory Brewing Company – were also stationed at different parts of the course. As such, the golfers had their fill of pulled pork, shorti hoagies, and Summer Love Ale.
“Wawa tries to be very involved in the community,” said Tom Savoy, Wawa’s Director of Petroleum Supply and Trading. “Whether it’s sponsorships, programs, or product donations, we try to get out there.
“We want to be there for the customer. These days are fun for me. The 16-year-old in high school who works our cash register has more of a say in the direction of our business than I do as part of senior management. They are the ones who interact with the customers. So this is good for me, to come out here and make connections with people.”