WARRIOR LEGEND BOB BRONZAN
Former THS Grad Was A San Jose State
Player, Coach, AD, & Professor
Posted October 17, 2007, by thswarriors.com
If there ever was a mythical Warrior Hall of Fame --- then Bob Bronzan would certainly have been on the list of original inductees.
Bronzan, one of six children, was born Jan. 11, 1919, to Tehachapi pioneers Blaz and Lucy Bronzan. His parents lived in old town Tehachapi from 1903 until 1962 at their 124 West "F" Street home.
Bronzan was a teenager in the Great Depression attending Tehachapi High School from 1931 until 1935. His graduating class of 1935, the fifth graduating class in school history, had 17 students. Bronzan was an oustanding athlete for the Warriors --- playing football, basketball, and track.
Becasue of the depression, Bronzan decided that education, and the opportunity to play football, was his only opportunity to get ahead and decided to attend Modesto Junior College.
Bronzan was an outstanding football player at Modesto Junior College — good enough, in fact, to earn a spot in Modesto Junior College's inaugural Hall of Fame class.
Modesto Junior College
Bronzan came to Modesto Junior College in the fall of 1935, and the following year was a standout on the 1936 team that went 5-2-2 and won the Northern California Conference title under coach Fred Earle.
Former Modesto Junior College coach Dean Sensenbaugh played for Bronzan at San Jose State. "He was an excellent coach and a real disciplinary guy," said Sensenbaugh, "but even though he was tough, he had a persona about him that allowed him to really communicate with the athletes."
Bronzan played tackle on the 1937 through 1939 San Jose State football teams and was named an honorable mention All-American tackle in 1939 during San Jose State's perfect 13-0 season. The 1939 team remains the only unbeaten and untied squad in school history.
The San Jose State Years
After receiving his undergraduate degree at San Jose State, Bronzan earned masters and doctorate degrees at Stanford.
Following his service as an Air Force officer in World War II, Bronzan took his first teaching job at Livingston High School in 1945, where he coached both football and basketball. He returned to San Jose State and was an assistant coach on Bill Hubbard's highly successful teams of 1946 through 1949. In 1950, he was appointed head coach of the Spartans. At age 31, he was the youngest head coach in major college football. In his seven seasons (32-30-5), he was named the Northern California Sportswriters College "Coach of the Year" three times.
Bronzan was one of the first coaches on the West Coast to recruit African-American players. And he made a point to build and maintain close relationships that spanned decades. In his home office sits a book filled with the hand-scrawled names and addresses of virtually every person who played for or worked with him.
"He guided us to be prepared for life," said Joe Barrington, one of the 12 African-Americans recruited by Bronzan in 1955, breaking SJSU's color barrier. "He touched a whole lot of lives across all races and ages. He made people successful, and to him, that meant living a quality life and being responsible for your family."
It wasn't easy following the Bronzan plan. He set high expectations and standards for himself and everyone around him.
"Everybody has the same feeling for him out of respect and love for the opportunity," Barrington said. "He had a vision for what you could be in 10, 20 years, not just what you could do for four years and then you were gone."
It was also during this period that Bronzan earned the reputation as an offensive mastermind. Legendary Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy brought Bronzan to South Bend, Ind., for spring practices several times to help the Irish.
Bronzan holds the distinct honor of being the only coach who has two former players serve as head coaches of Super Bowl winning teams — Bill Walsh, an end at San Jose State in 1952 and 1953, and Dick Vermeil, a quarterback for the 1956 and 1957 Spartans. Bronzan guided 19 university, 29 community college and approximately 150 high school protégées into the coaching profession.
"He was a cornerstone of encouragement," said Dick Vermeil, who played for Bronzan in 1956. "He believed in you more than you believed in yourself."
"If it wasn't for Bob, I certainly wouldn't have achieved any success or had the professional opportunities I have had," said Walsh, who won three Super Bowls with the 49ers. "He made a huge difference in my life."
The ties between Bronzan and Walsh remained steadfast for another half century. "I predict Bill Walsh will become the outstanding football coach in the United States," Bronzan wrote in a work file in 1959.
Following his San Jose State coaching career, he served the university as the Athletic Director from 1960 through 1971, and as a professor in the human performance department (physical education) for 34 years until 1980.
His recognition and awards were numerous. He is a member of the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and San Jose State Hall of Fame. He is one of five recipients of the NACDA Merit Award. In 2005, NACDA honored him with the James J. Corbett Memorial Award.
Bob Bronzan arrived at San Jose State in 1937 determined to make a difference. Seven decades later, it's doubtful any Spartan's legacy looms larger.
Bronzan passed away on December 10, 2006, at the age of 87.
Former THS grad Bob Bronzan (right) sits alongside former 49er coach Bill Walsh (left) at Hall of Fame ceremonies at San Jose. Bronzan coached Bill Walsh when he was a player at San Jose State.
Sources: San Jose State Sports Information Office, The San Jose Mercury News, The Modesto Bee, and The Tehachapi News.