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Ex-Bucs coach Wyche finds voice again

The voice that once boomed across football fields is now a whisper.

Sam Wyche coached the Cincinnati Bengals to the 1989 Super Bowl. He also coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He went on to do football commentary on TV. Now, at 57, he is cut off from the NFL and broadcasting because of a paralyzed vocal chord.

He is, however, not entirely cut off from football. He is back in the game at Pickens High, where he will work with the team's quarterbacks this season.

"It's strictly volunteer, it's not much of anything," Wyche said Wednesday. "I wasn't looking for anything like this, but I'm glad I'm doing something I always wanted to in working with high school players."

Wyche wasn't sure he'd work anywhere again.

He became a CBS analyst in 1998. Two years later, he underwent a biopsy on lymph nodes in his chest. His left vocal chord was severed during the procedure, leaving his voice a whisper.

No longer could he shout instructions to the likes of Boomer Esiason or go three hours on TV calling games without tiring or yell to snowball-throwing Bengals fans: "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!"

But Wyche's vocal quality didn't matter to Pickens coach Andy Tweito, who saw an amazing resource. Tweito talked to people in town who knew Wyche before approaching him.

"They told me he was just a normal guy and I should ask him," Tweito said. "I didn't want to do anything that would be demeaning to him, but he hopped on it right away."

Wyche was known as a fiery, innovator in Cincinnati from 1984-91 and Tampa Bay from 1992-95. He loved pro football and was hurt he couldn't stay close to it in the broadcast booth.

But Wyche didn't network or call friends who might connect him with a team.

"I didn't think that was the right way to go," Wyche said. "But I still miss the game."

At Pickens, Wyche is not the coach. He won't call plays or install any high-tech, no-huddle formations.

"Those decisions are left to coach Tweito and his staff," Wyche said.

Tweito is happy to have Wyche nearby for questions and critiques.

"This is like painting a picture and having Michelangelo review it," Tweito said.

In two weeks on the job, Wyche's experience already has been a plus.

When Pickens' coaches discussed how their left-handed quarterback would deal with the center snap, Wyche told them how the Bengals did it with Esiason, a lefty.

In his time in the pros, Wyche was struck by how much players retained from their high school coaches.

The biggest adjustment, Tweito says, might be getting Wyche to talk high school football.

"It's like we're beginning Spanish, and he's Spanish 5," Tweito said. "That will come around."