Jim Tomsula, a former Charleston Southern University assistant coach who delivered newspapers for The Post and Courier to help make ends meet, will be named head coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, ESPN reported Wednesday. He replaces Jim Harbaugh, who left the 49ers to become the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
A Homestead, Pa., native and graduate of Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., the 46-year-old Tomsula spent the last eight seasons as the 49ers’ defensive line coach.
“Jim was a very hard-working coach and very ambitious,” former CSU head coach David Dowd said Wednesday. “He knew that he wanted football coaching to be his profession. I am not surprised at all by his success. He was one of those guys you just knew was going to be successful in life and as a coach.”
Tomsula was a married father of two young daughters while working at CSU from 1992-95. Along with delivering newspapers, he also cleaned Piggly Wiggly parking lots and photographed homes for an insurance company. And he cut firewood on the side.
“Whatever I could do to make a buck,” Tomsula told The Post and Courier last season.
Both of Jim and Julie Tomsula’s daughters, Britney and Brooke, were born in Charleston. The family lived in Summerville, near the YMCA. The couple also has a 7-year-old son, Bear.
It won’t be easy in San Francisco. After reaching the Super Bowl two seasons ago and the NFC Championship Game last year, the 49ers tumbled to 8-8 in 2014.
Fans were frustrated with the apparent regression of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In the rugged NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks are defending Super Bowl champions and the Arizona Cardinals made the playoffs this season. The St. Louis Rams are well stocked with good young players.
But 49ers management, led by owner Jed York, picked Tomsula — who has never been a coordinator — from a candidate pool in which some analysts considered Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase the favorite.
Tomsula reportedly interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings’ head coaching job a year ago.
To say he has worked hard to get this far is an understatement. After leaving CSU, Tomsula moved his family to Florida to live temporarily with relatives while he served as a volunteer assistant coach at Catawba. He slept in his car, an old red Cadillac, and moonlighted as a carpet salesman.
“He’s a hard-working, blue-collar guy and a lot of guys in the locker room can relate to him,” defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said of Tomsula last season. “He knows how to put football stuff in life terms that you can understand.”
He looks the part of the classic “player’s coach.” He prefers workout clothes, and has an intense glare.
Tomsula’s big break came when he was at Catawba and landed a 1998 summer job coaching in NFL Europe. He worked from 1999-2006 in NFL Europe and served for one season as head coach of the Rhein Fire, going 6-4.
He made many NFL contacts, leading to the 49ers’ job in 2007.
“He will make a great head coach,” 49ers defensive end Justin Smith said. “No. 1, he knows what the hell he’s talking about and, No. 2, he has the personality to go with it. A lot of times those don’t always match up.”
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff