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December 3, 2013 > An amazing personality

An amazing personality

By William Marshak

Candles burned brightly, their light revealing somber reflections amidst the darkness on the evening of November 26, 2013. Throughout the Tri-Cities, word had quickly spread that John Webb, beloved coach, teacher and mentor whose influence extended far beyond football fields, died in an unfortunate series of events on I-680 the previous weekend. Hundreds attended an impromptu memorial organized by students and admirers at John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont, his home school for over 25 years.

During his life, Coach Webb not only ignited bright memories and a passion for learning and life among students, teachers, fellow coaches and many others he knew, but radiated a caring demeanor that touched, influenced and supported them. The school mascot, Titans, was appropriate for Webb. He was a giant man in a small package with roots in professional sports; his father played baseball for the St. Louis Browns. Former JFK High School Football Coach and close friend, Peter Michaelitos Ð ÒCoach MikeÓ Ð recalled reminiscing with Webb about his days on the gridiron as a defensive back for San Jose State, sharing the field with many well-known sports personalities such as Dick Vermeil and Paul Wiggin. Coach Webb would chuckle when he spoke about his small build and 135-140 lbs. that didnÕt fill out the football jersey he wore. His number was 22 but when the jersey was tucked in, the bottom portion wasnÕt visible and Webb said he became a double question mark.

Coach Mike calls Webb a Òfootball encyclopediaÓ who forgot more than most people would ever know about the game. The connection between the two spanned decades from when they met in 1963; Webb was then an assistant football coach at San Jose State. Previously he spent a little over a week as football coach at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont before San Jose State expanded their coaching staff and offered him a position. Webb could boast that while at Mission San Jose High School, he was never beaten!

Over the years, Webb briefly left coaching for a short career in the radio business, but was never far from coaching and kids. Webb was even asked Ð and declined Ð at one time to join the coaching staff of professional football with his friend Bill Walsh, who he worked for as an assistant coach at Washington High School (Fremont).

In the 1980s, a counselor at the Kennedy High School required surgery and to fill his position during his absence, others were shuffled including Coach Mike from Physical Education to Student Activities Director. This left an opening for a temporary substituteÉ John Webb. Without any long term commitment, saying, ÒI only plan on being here a year or two,Ó Coach Webb became a big part of a championship season in 1988 and as Coach Mike says, ÒThe two years turned into nearly 30 years we worked together!Ó He adds, ÒHe was the type of guy you just want to be around all the time.Ó

Great coaching is applicable to all walks of life and Coach Webb was a master at the winning formula of, as Coach Mike says, Òmatching kids to their abilities.Ó Both of these iconic coaches knew that the key component for success is Òcompassion for kidsÓ and the desire to Òget the best out of them, by letting them know that they are important to you.Ó

Although other coaching career paths were open to Webb, he would offer a modest response, ÒI am happy with what I am doing,Ó remaining as an integral and beloved part of the John F. Kennedy High School coaching and teaching team. A veritable Renaissance Man, Coach Webb not only excelled in coaxing the best from football players, his talent extended to classrooms where he taught Geometry, Algebra, World History, U.S. History, English and Woodshop. According to Coach Mike, ÒHe could teach almost anything; he was a very well-read person, always looking for the next adventure.Ó

JFK Principal Eddie Velez spoke about WebbÕs versatility as a teacher and his innovative approach to teaching and support of students. ÒHe would never give up on kids and support them through any problems they had no matter if it took a while to get there. I believe that is why the kids liked him so much. He was someone who let you think on your own.Ó Always innovative, Webb worked with other teachers to create a program that allowed students to study mathematic disciplines such as algebra and geometry then apply that knowledge for practical purposes in woodshop construction projects.

The impromptu memorial gathering was filled with comments about how Coach Webb was a major factor in many lives. Coach Mike summed up his feelings and those of many others when he said, ÒThe moment I met John, I knew something very good had to happen at Kennedy; His life was to be with kids. He was a great guy!Ó

A permanent memorial to Coach Webb is planned for the future. Right now, Principal Velez says the school is just trying to come to terms with the sudden departure of a highly respected, loved and innovative person who was a pivotal part of their lives. All of this will take time since, as Velez says, ÒYou donÕt just replace a John Webb.Ó

Funeral services are scheduled for December 11, 2013 in Brentwood.

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