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PETALUMA

In searching Monday for the right response, John Walker, principal of St. Vincent High School, went historical and found the answer in South Dakota.

"If we had a Mount Rushmore on campus," Walker said, "Gary's face would be on it."

Gary Galloway's mug in granite, now there's an image. Strong and solid, chiseled and eternal, a face that's been around here so long, the man behind it is a backstory known to both the young and to the old. Nine kids who are playing football for him this season, their fathers played for Galloway.

"I understand there's a fifth-grader coming up that ..." Galloway paused for the notion to sink in, "will be a grandkid of someone I coached."

Yes, a backstory, that's Galloway, 61. His is a backstory that serves this sentence well: Everyone would like to leave an imprint before their time is done. No one wants to be a vapor in the mist, a fleeting presence gone while still around. To be known, to be remembered, to be a face on Mt. St. Vincent, that takes some effort.

It takes this kind of effort.

The kind of effort you might find hard to believe. I know I did.

Galloway is in his 30th year as St. Vincent's football coach. OK. Fine.

Last Saturday he won his 200th game. OK. Great. Not everyone does that. Now for the punch line.

"The vast majority of kids who play football at St. Vincent's never played before they got here," Galloway said.

You mean, it's like Football 101 when they arrive as freshman? Like, here kids, here's the laces. Here's how you hold the football. Here's how you throw the football. Stuff like that, stuff that basic?

"Yep," Galloway said.

You show them how to put on the pads? Dress them?

"Yep," he said again.

What begins as remedial football turns into this: A 200-117-1 career record, four NCS championships, and 10 league championships (shared or solo).

Galloway takes players who are raw as raw can be and seasons them in less than four years, marinating them in the correct fundamentals, appropriate compliments and resulting success.

"The one advantage you have about coaching a kid who has never played football before," Galloway said, "is that you don't have any bad habits to break. Now don't go and make it a big deal about me."

Sorry, dude. I cannot comply. Players, coaches, parents, they have come and gone. You're the one constant. You're the one who stayed so long that you had to adjust, that you couldn't apply the same approach in 2013 that you employed in 1984.

"In 1984," Galloway said, "we had dairy kids, ranch kids. They didn't have a lot of distractions. Today, it's asking a kid a lot to give up three hours a day to play football. Today's kid is much busier. There are more things for him to do."

Galloway didn't mention the curse of technology applied to adolescents, where the playing of video games somehow feels like an involved and fruitful activity to a 15-year-old.

A 15-year old, by the way, who never played football. Coming to a high school, also by the way, that doesn't have a feeder system like some schools. A school that's known for academics.

That's the challenge which faces Galloway every year.

He overcomes all those obstacles without deception. He won't dangle the hint of a NFL career or a scholarship to USC. He relies on what's real as opposed to what's fanciful.

"No other sport is more rewarding in teaching life lessons than football," said Galloway, who has coached baseball, basketball and football at the school to a combined total of more than 1,000 victories (basketball records are incomplete). "Discipline. Teamwork. Self-control."

Football is sweat and collisions and aches and pain. That Galloway can make hard work attractive, it's his greatest gift. By the time a freshman gets to St. Vincent, they know of Galloway. They know he walks his talk. They know, even at 61, how much he loves hard work.

That would be the totally unmitigated joy the man has for cutting and burning wood.

Galloway is a nature boy in the purest sense of the expression. The outdoors are a comfort for him, a place to release the stresses of coaching — especially when he coached three sports at the same time for 23 years. "I have two fireplaces inside my house and one outside," Galloway said. "I'd love to have a fireplace in every room. If I did, my wife said she'd never see me. People know me. If they need some wood, just call me. I'll cut it for them."

And if something should go awry, man up. Take responsibility. And move forward. Like weekend before last. When he injured his left foot while cutting firewood. All five toes were broken. He was ordered to take weight off the foot.

So how did Galloway coach last Saturday against Upper Lake when he was told not to stand? No problem.

Galloway was on the sideline sitting in a chair. Officials knew where to find him all right. And Gary Galloway is so good he coached St. Vincent to a 68-0 victory from a chair!

OK, OK, the man wouldn't approve of that. Sorry, Gary. It was a sentence that screamed to be written.

Coaching from a chair was not a hardship for Galloway.

Truth to tell, after coaching one sport or another at St. Vincent for 34 years, Galloway has known hardship. Broken toes are just inconvenience.

In 1979, five years before he was to become head coach at St. Vincent's, Galloway was the team's defensive coordinator.

The year before, Galloway was the wide receivers coach at SRJC for Marv Mays. SRJC won state that year. Galloway said he had 25 wide receivers to coach.

"On the day of my first practice at St. Vincent's," Galloway said, "I walk onto the field. There are 11 players. I ask someone where the linemen are practicing. I was told that's everybody out there, that's the entire varsity team, those 11 players."

Now that gave Galloway a start. He paused. He made an adjustment. He moved on. It's what coaches do, the good coaches that is. Now it's 34 years of adjustments and counting.

That he can't remember every score and every record doesn't bother him in the slightest. Galloway didn't start this trek to fill a stat sheet.

"To know that there were kids I coached," he said, "who grew up, got married and then gave me their kid, their most prized possession, to mold, that's the best of all feelings."

Even though 200 victories is no small sneeze, it doesn't smile and say thank you. That's for the people to do and if they want to sit around one of his fireplaces to do it, well, Gary Galloway is OK with that, too.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.