When Warren Powers was filling his first college coaching staff, Monte Kiffin told him he had to get John Faiman.
Powers hesitated because the then-Omaha South football coach hadn't been a college assistant, Kiffin said Wednesday at a memorial service for Faiman. Kiffin told him it shouldn't matter.
The hire was fortuitous. Faiman was offensive line coach when Powers' only season at Washington State opened with a 19-10 win at Nebraska in 1977 and was offensive coordinator under Powers at Missouri the next year when the Tigers ended Nebraska's national championship hopes with a 35-31 win, again in Lincoln.
“John called every play that day,” Kiffin recounted.
“He was one of the very best play-callers,” putting Faiman in a group that included Tom Osborne and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, “bounty or not.”
That remark, and others, drew laughs as Kiffin, the assistant head coach at Southern California, was one of four friends to eulogize Faiman, the longtime Bellevue West coach who died Saturday of an apparent heart attack. Faiman would have been 71 this Sunday.
Also sharing their memories before a packed sanctuary — including many Omaha-area football coaches past and present — at Thanksgiving Lutheran Church in Bellevue were athletic director Kevin Broderick and principal Kevin Rohlfs of Bellevue West and Faiman's first All-Nebraska quarterback at West, Clester Johnson.
Faiman left college coaching, because he wanted to be around his family more, with his hiring in 1986 at Bellevue West.
Johnson recalled meeting Faiman for the first time, when he was a teenager from Memphis on a summerlong visit to Bellevue to see his cousin, standout West running back Tojo Biggs.
“Faiman was the first male, other than my uncle, to take an interest in me,” Johnson said. “He was a father to me.”
Without Faiman, Johnson said, he could have met the same fate as those he grew up with in Memphis — jail, an early death or drug dealing.
Kiffin said he met Faiman when they were assigned to live in NU's Selleck Quadrangle when Faiman came to Lincoln in 1959. Kiffin spent weekends with Faiman and his wife of almost 50 years, Sherry, when Faiman took his first high school coaching job in David City in 1964.
“We'd be in his backyard, Sherry cooking up potato salad and John flipping burgers, and we'd end up in a stance” discussing football strategy, Kiffin said. They'd get that way, too, he said, when fishing together with Faiman's sons, Scott and Kelly, standing up in the boat and making the boys grab for their life jackets.
Broderick and Rohlfs made light of Faiman's disdain for technology — one of them said Faiman regarded email as a passing fad — and Rohlfs said he always worried that Faiman was going to use his new iPad to shore up a leg on a wobbly desk.
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