Former THS Grad Was A San Jose State Star

Posted December 18, 2006, by The Tehachapi News

Robert T. (Bob) Bronzan, star San Jose State football player who later served the Spartans as an assistant football coach, head coach and athletics director, died on Dec. 10, at age 87.

Bronzan was born Jan. 11, 1919, to Tehachapi pioneers (1903-1962) Blaz and Lucy Bronzan at their home, 124 West F St., and graduated from Tehachapi High School in 1935.

Bronzan played 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.

Following his service as an Air Force officer in World War II, 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, he was named the Northern California Sportswriters College "Coach of the Year" three times.

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.

Following his San Jose State coaching career, he served the university as the athletics director from 1960 through 1971, and as a professor in the human performance department 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.

Bronzan was pre-deceased by his first wife, Grace Olson, who died in 1971, parents, brothers Blasito and George and sisters Louise Vasilj and Helen Hall.

He is survived by Jo Ann Bronzan, his wife of 35 years; son Robert A. Bronzan of Vancouver, Wash.; daughter Sharon Bronzan of Portland, Ore.; stepson Joseph Dobie; grandchildren Nicholas Bronzan, Emily Dobie, Gretta Dobie, Ellie Dobie and Rebecca Kiser; and, brother Nick Bronzan and his wife, Alta Bronzan, of Mesa, Ariz.

A memorial service is scheduled for Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church on Sunrise Avenue in Roseville, Calif.


Posted by Laurence Miedema, December 17, 2006, The San Jose Mercury News

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, a former SJSU football player, coach, athletic director and professor, died Sunday night at his home in Lincoln of congestive heart and kidney failure. He was 87.

``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.''

Former Spartan Al Saunders, the assistant head coach of the Washington Redskins, said, ``He had such a hold on all of our lives. We were all fortunate to have known him and loved him. To me, he was San Jose State.''

Hundreds of current and former coaches at every level of football trace their roots to Bronzan, but he's best known for mentoring Super Bowl-winning coaches Bill Walsh and Vermeil.

``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.''

But his vision and influence went far deeper than Xs and Os.

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.

``He was tough as a pine knot,'' said his wife of 35 years, Jo Ann. ``But he was fair. He never would ask someone to do something he wouldn't do himself.''

Vermeil said, ``He kept the pressure on you. He had the ability to recognize talent in people and then helped you take advantage of it, but you had to work.''

One of six children of Croatian immigrants, Bronzan grew up in Tehachapi, a working-class town near Bakersfield. He was a teenager during the Great Depression and decided that education was his only opportunity to get ahead. After receiving his undergraduate degree at San Jose State, Bronzan earned masters and doctorate degrees at Stanford.

``He had a great desire to learn,'' Jo Ann said.

Bronzan also was a terrific athlete. He played tackle at SJSU in 1937-39 and was named an honorable mention All-American on the 1939 team that went 13-0 and remains the only unbeaten and untied squad in school history.

After a stint as a U.S. Air Force officer during World War II, Bronzan returned to SJSU in 1946 as an assistant professor and assistant coach on Bill Hubbard's staff. Four years later, at 31, Bronzan became the youngest coach in Division I football.

Bronzan's teams went 32-30-5 in seven seasons, but his biggest impact came in 1955, when he recruited African-American players. It was not a popular decision at the time, but one that friends say Bronzan was driven to because he knew it was right. Bronzan overcame many obstacles in his life, and one of his deepest passions was to provide opportunities to young men who otherwise might have none.

``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 ventured to the NFL in 1958, following Buck Shaw to the Philadelphia Eagles. But after one season, Bronzan returned to San Jose State to resume teaching. In 1960, he was named athletic director, a position he held until 1972. He remained a professor in the school's department of human performance (an early form of exercise leadership and physical education) until his retirement in 1980.

``He said he never wanted to be a transient coach in the NFL,'' Saunders recalled. ``He wanted to impact and influence student life, and he wanted to do that at a place he loved, and that was San Jose State.''

Bronzan never lost the zeal for coaching and always had an ear -- and an idea -- for his protégés, whether it was a coach of a high school squad or someone preparing for a Super Bowl.

Vermeil said that during his last head-coaching stint, in 2001-05 with the Kansas City Chiefs, every week he received from Bronzan a two-page, single-spaced typed critique of the team's performance. Vermeil would take the notes to Saunders (his assistant head coach) and implement some of Bronzan's ideas.

``He loved to do that,'' Vermeil said of Bronzan.

Jo Ann said her husband's health had been deteriorating since he developed lymphoma in his kidney five years ago, which he beat. But that didn't keep him from being an active San Jose State supporter. When his health allowed it, he attended as many events as possible. Coach Dick Tomey said he ``appreciated his enthusiasm.''

The last SJSU football function Bronzan attended was the spring game in April, but Jo Ann said he watched on TV or listened to the radio broadcast of every game this season.

"His heart was at San Jose State," she said.

Modesto Junior College
Hall of Famer Bob Bronzan Dies

Posted by Brian Vanderbeek, December 17, 2006, The Modesto bee

Former THS grad Bob Branzan (right) sits alongside former 49er coach Bill Walsh (left) at Hall of Fame ceremonies at San Jose. Branzan coached Bill Walsh when he was a player at San Jose State.

Before Bob Bronzan found success as a player, coach and athletic director at San Jose State, he was an outstanding football player at Modesto Junior College — good enough, in fact, to earn a spot in MJC's inaugural Hall of Fame class.

Bronzan, whose first coaching job was at Livingston High School, died Sunday night at his home in Lincoln. He was 87.

"He was an excellent coach and a real discipline guy," said former MJC coach Dean Sensenbaugh, who was one of many Pirates to play for Bronzan at San Jose. "But even though he was tough, he had a persona about him that allowed him to really communicate with the athletes."

Bronzan came to MJC in 1935 from Tehachapi, and was a standout on the 1936 team that went 5-2-2 and won the Northern California Conference title under coach Fred Earle.

He was a tackle at San Jose State from 1937-39 and was named honorable mention All-American following the Spartans' 13-0 season in 1939.

Following a stint as an Air Force officer in World War II, Bronzan took his first teaching job at Livingston High in 1945, where he coached both football and basketball.

He joined the coaching staff at San Jose in 1946. In 1950, at 31, he was named the Spartans' head coach, a post he held for seven seasons.

Bronzan holds the distinction of being the only college coach to have two former players (Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil) go on to become head coaches of Super Bowl champions.

Following his coaching career, he was San Jose's athletic director from 1960-71 and was a professor of human performance until his retirement in 1980.