VACAVILLE — No candles, no planning. Just memories and lots of hugs.
Hundreds of people gathered at Vacaville High’s Tom Zunino Stadium Saturday to remember longtime Vaca High teacher and coach Steve Green, who died Friday after a battle with cancer.
A veritable who’s who of Solano County coaches, former Vacaville athletes as well as current students and staff members filled about three-quarters of the bleachers on the home side of the football stadium to show their support for a man who was always there to show his support for the school he loved, often with a cry of, “Who ya rootin’ for?”
From 1979 on, Green touched the lives of students, whether they were athletes or not.
“I’ve had better days. These are the most difficult ones,” said head football coach Mike Papadopoulos of his longtime colleague. “He’s been a great representation of what our school is about and in a larger sense our community. It’s so much more – transcends the athletic part of the thing that you may think he’s most known for, because (of him) being a dean of students, being an English teacher here as well.”
Papadopoulos said that Green’s influence stretched well beyond the borders of Vacaville, even onto the the international competition stage, as Green served as a judge for USA Track and Field at the Olympic trials, building or renewing relationships with athletes.
“He was working those events and whenever they’d have a chance to see him, so like I said the camaraderie, it’s just so family oriented here, but even the mention of the relationship he had with other athletes and people outside of our community, too, is really special,” Papadopoulos said.
Saturday’s event began with Vacaville High principal Ed Santopadre briefly addressing the crowd, thanking those in the stands for attending and then inviting them down to the football field to visit and share memories.
The school displayed a number of large photographs of Green, some taken when the Bulldogs won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football championship in 2011.
Green started in 1979, so really he hit five decades.
“I mean current kids and their parents and maybe a grandparent or two if they did it right, I mean he really has impacted this community in ways that’ll be felt for a long time,” Santopadre said. “The thing about him is whether it’s the track group or whether it’s football or whether it’s the classroom, he taught people how to do things right and that’s the thing I think I’ll miss the most.”
Green was also a kind-hearted individual, perhaps belying his sometimes intimidating stature.
“As I told them, he really is the nicest man I know, I’m struggling with this, this is hard,” Santopadre said.
Showing how respected Green and Vacaville High are, a number of coaches from other schools showed up Saturday.
Vanden head coach LeVon Haynes was among those.
“We’re all here for the same purpose,” Haynes said. “You look at a guy like coach Green and that’s what he was all about.”
Haynes said his Vikings will wear black and orange helmet decals with the initials “CG” for Coach Green, this season.
“I was honored that I got a chance to meet him,” Haynes said.
Clearly he wasn’t the only one.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.