Brad Childress did a lot of good things for Vikings coaches and players, and one of the biggest contributions the former NFL coach made was to give Mike Tomlin, at the young age of 33, an opportunity to become the team's defensive coordinator.

This appointment made Tomlin the youngest coordinator in NFL history and, after making the Vikings the eighth-ranked defense in the NFL in 2006, led to his being named head coach of the Steelers after only one year with the Vikings. Now Tomlin is taking Pittsburgh to its second Super Bowl in four years and facing Green Bay for the title Sunday in Dallas.

Childress was taking a chance in his first year as Vikings coach to hire a coach whose only NFL experience had been as a defensive backs coach for five years with Tony Dungy at Tampa Bay. It also meant Tomlin would coach Darren Sharper, the Vikings safety with whom Tomlin had played in college at William & Mary.

Childress said one thing that impressed him about Tomlin was his great preparedness in working out college players. Childress also said he liked Tomlin's work with the Bucs and how he handled and communicated with players.

"He had coached at [the University of] Cincinnati and had coached some pretty good [pro] players already, like Ronde Barber at Tampa Bay, who had tremendous respect for him," Childress said. "Then we played Tampa more than anybody when I was with the Eagles, and played against them in the championship game [for the NFC title following the 2002 season]. ... So you know you obviously got a feel for how he coached the back end and the secondary, and he was a great teacher."

Childress said Tomlin was one of the first coaches he hired after he met with Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and was hired as head coach.

"When I got done with my job interview and flew back to Philadelphia and I was preparing my staff ... I had my [first Vikings] press conference on Friday and flew [Tomlin in] on Thursday," Childress said.

Childress said he wasn't surprised Tomlin became the youngest NFL coach to win a Super Bowl when the Steelers beat Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII, and that he's taking Pittsburgh to the big game again.

In addition to recently interviewing with the Dolphins for their offensive coordinator job, Childress said he also spoke with the Bengals.

"I went and talked to [Bengals owner] Mike Brown and [coach] Marvin Lewis, and I just didn't feel like it was a good fit," he said. "I talked to Miami and it wasn't going to be a good fit."

Help for Gophers

One plus for the Gophers' 2011 football team is that three outstanding defensive players who weren't available at times last year will all be healthy and ready to play.

Safety Kim Royston, who was a starter at Wisconsin and at Minnesota until he broke his leg in spring practice last season, recently was given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and is a cinch to be a starter and give the Gophers help at that position.

Edina native Mike Rallis was the best linebacker on the team last year as a sophomore until he suffered an abdominal strain. He missed three games and played hurt most of the season.

And last but not least was Brendan Beal, a 6-3, 250-pound linebacker who transferred from Florida and had to sit out last year. He will provide the Gophers with a superstar at the position.


While Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson recently signed a five-year contract, men's basketball coach Tubby Smith and baseball coach John Anderson continue to operate under their present contracts. ... Sonny Yohn, an All-America for the Gophers wrestling team, is expected back in the lineup this weekend for the dual at Ohio State. The 197-pounder has been out of the lineup since injuring his knee Dec. 29.

Glen Sonmor, the former Gophers and North Stars coach who has been doing color commentary on WCCO radio of Gophers hockey games, announced he will retire as a broadcaster after this season. He has been broadcasting with Wally Shaver since the 2001-2002 season, after working with Dan Terhaar for three seasons and Al Shaver for two.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the NHLPA recently conducted a survey of NHL players, and former Wild star Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers was voted the league's best skater with 26 percent of the vote and the league's fastest skater at 37 percent. Gaborik, who signed with the Rangers on July 1, 2009, for $37.5 million over five years, played in 76 games last season and scored a career-high 86 points. This season he has played in 39 games and has 32 points on 16 goals and 16 assists.

Martin Havlat's three assists Sunday were the most by any member of the Wild in an All-Star Game. ... The Wild will have a chance to move up in the standings when it plays eight home games in February compared to only four in January. ... The Wild's Houston Aeros farm club has gone 8-1-1 in the past 10 games and now are tied for the lead in the American Hockey League West Division with Milwaukee and San Antonio at 60 points.

Travis Morin, the former Osseo standout and Star Tribune Metro Hockey Player of the Year in 2002, is back playing with the Dallas Stars after being called up from the AHL. But Morin had to be taken to the hospital Wednesday after passing out while waiting for the team plane to leave Dallas for Boston, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Stars coach Marc Crawford said Morin tested fine at the hospital and hopes he can rejoin the team in the next few days.

South St. Paul native Alex Stalock, a former Minnesota Duluth standout goalie, earned his first NHL victory for San Jose on Tuesday night. Stalock replaced starter Antti Niemi halfway through the game and saved all nine shots he faced, helping the Sharks turn a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 victory.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. •