VACAVILLE — Steve Green left no doubt who he was rooting for. He wanted to make sure others were as certain.
The beloved Vacaville High English teacher and football and track assistant coach, who led cheers by asking – in a very loud voice – “Who you rootin’ for?” is gone.
Green, who was a week shy of his 57th birthday, died on Friday at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Vacaville after a long illness.
“It’s a really tough day for all of us,” said Ed Santopadre, Vacaville High’s principal who had also coached with Green. “He really is the face of the Bulldogs. He’s the original ‘Who you rootin’ for?’ guy. Each year he’d welcome 500 freshmen and their parents. He’d give the Martin Luther King speech each year on the front lawn. He just finished his 32nd year at Vacaville High School. He said, ‘The only pay check I’ve gotten is from Vacaville High school.’”
A candlelight vigil for Green is scheduled for Saturday at Vacaville High’s Zunino Stadium at 5:30 p.m.
Green, a graduate of Lowell High in San Francisco and UC Davis, came to Vacaville in 1979. He jumped right in as junior varsity head coach that fall and had coached with the Bulldogs in various capacities through the 2012 campaign.
“He was really one of our spiritual leaders on the football team, a very inspirational leader of the football team,” said Fred Jones, who came to Vacaville High in 1973 and coached with Green from 1979 on. “One of his great contributions was to inspire the kids to do the right things, be mature, be respectful. One of his mantras was respect. He had a great believer in Bulldog football, what we teach and how we teach. He was a mentor to the kids. That’s probably his main effect.”
According to Santopadre, Green was versatile as a coach and was willing to take on any task on either side of the ball.
“He did a little bit of everything,” Santopadre said. “He did special teams a lot of years under (Tom Zunino). He was head JV coach awhile. He coached offensive line and defensive ends. He was a team guy. If we needed a tight ends coach, he’d coach tight ends. If we needed a linebackers coach, he’d coach linebackers.”
Green also had a love of the English language, an affection that also carried to the football field. And he didn’t hesitate to let the players know it.
“He was so awesome as an English teacher,” Santopadre said. “On the football field he was correcting grammar. You couldn’t cuss around him. It wouldn’t work. I remember him getting mad once and yelling, ‘Son of a biscuit eater!’”
“He was a great English teacher, a great friend, a great mentor to so many students,” Jones said. “He was just one of those people. He was loved by so many.”
According to Santopadre, Green enjoyed working with those students who might be having a tough time.
“I just loved watching him deal with freshmen having trouble,” sitting in his office and talking quietly,” Santopadre said. “He believed in kids some didn’t, he work with kids maybe some others wouldn’t. I couldn’t say anything bad about Steve Green.”
“Steve was really the spirit of the high school,” Jones added. “He was our spiritual leader, very charismatic, one that all the students loved. He was, you know, just one of those people who was bigger than life, one in a million.”
Teachers report back to work at Vacaville High on Monday with freshman orientation, a task handled in the past by Green, on Wednesday and classes resuming on Thursday.
“It’s going to be really hard,” Jones said. “He’s my brother. That’s the whole thing, it’s losing a family member. We’re that close.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.