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CEDAR RAPIDS — Marv Levy was honest. When he first found out he was receiving Coe College’s highest honor, the Founders’ Medal, he had to do a little research to find out about it.
“I think I would be lying if I said I’d heard of the Founders’ Medal,” Levy said. “I’ve probably read about some of the ... names. But when I heard I was going to be a recipient, I really delved into (research of) it. Boy, my eyes widened when I saw some of the people who had received it.”
Levy, the hall of fame football coach, is just the eighth recipient of the medal, which goes to those “exemplifying in extraordinary degree the qualities of a liberally educated person.” He graduated from Coe in 1950 en route to a career that included coaching the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990 to 1993.
Despite the long and winding road he took, criss-crossing the United States and Canada to teach others about the game he loved, Coe always felt like home to the 91-year-old Chicago native.
“All the time, Coe had remained close to my heart,” he said. “Coe had a tremendous impact in helping me. And the people I had gotten to know at Coe had a tremendous impact on me.
“I have just always stayed close. Came back whenever I had the opportunity to come back. I savored my time in Cedar Rapids, which was the proper place for a big-city guy from Chicago to get away from it all. I have always looked forward to coming back.”
Levy was honored in a Saturday morning ceremony that included remarks from Coe President Dave McInally and former NFL running back Fred Jackson. It was Levy who gave Coe grad Jackson the opportunity to prove himself and eventually make the Bills in an incredible Cinderella story.
The school also dedicated Marv Levy Way at the corner of College Drive and D Avenue NE.
“It was a long time, of course, that I graduated from here,” Levy said. “I believe it was 67 years ago. I went to Harvard and got a graduate degree, then began as an assistant coach at a boys’ prep school in St. Louis. After a couple of years, Dick Clausen, a great football coach here my last year or two, offered me a job on his staff. That had tremendous impact on me, to come back and coach here.
“From there, we were able to move forward.”
Levy was head coach at the University of New Mexico, California and William & Mary, as well as being an assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. He coached the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes to two Grey Cup championships, then coached the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978 to 1982.
In his later years, he has become an author of several books.
“I’d be out on the field listening to the National Anthem before one of those Super Bowls, and I’d think to myself ‘Am I really here? Is this really happening?’” Levy said. “I felt ultra greatful and blessed.”
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