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D.B.

Literally, it stands for Dan Bribiescas.

Figuratively, it stands for much more.

Honor. Friendship. Pride.

Work. Love. Determination. Loyalty.

Ask Bribiescas’ friends about him and those are the words you hear. Ask the guys who played soccer for him as boys at Santa Rosa High School and grew into men with Bribiescas’ guidance, and you hear much the same.

So when Bribiescas died suddenly in September at the age of 56 — training for and still playing the game he loved — the void his death left was immediate and widespread. And although Bribiescas’ reach was largely through the game of soccer, the game — technique, fundamentals, tactics — were not all that he taught. Soccer was the medium for life lessons.

“It was the way he approached teaching young men how to become men,” said Mike Carlson, a 1988 Santa Rosa High graduate who went on to play Division I soccer at Southern Methodist University. “It was more than just soccer.”

Bribiescas was a gifted athlete who it could be argued found a greater gift in coaching than he did in playing. After winning the North Bay League title and league MVP honors as a senior, Bribiescas played Division II soccer at Chico State.

But he returned to the school that he loved and became coach of the game that he loved. He coached the Panthers from the late 1980s until 2001. But he stayed connected with the program and in recent years spent time with current coach Antonio Garcia and showed up for key games and sometimes delivered pep talks.

Bribiescas was the best there ever was in the Santa Rosa High boys soccer program. He began briefly as an assistant coach and then moved to head coach. His teams won nine North Bay League titles and four North Coast Section championships. There were also two Tournament of Champions titles thrown in there before the NCS tourney came along.

He was a winner who didn’t emphasize winning but rather giving everything you have.

His web of friends stretched far and wide not because he coached hundreds of boys for more than a decade, but because of what he taught those boys and how he treated them.

“He always made you feel like you were the most important person at that moment,” Carlson said. “You know the people who look through you or over your shoulder when you are talking to them? That wasn’t Dan.”

“He is everything,” Garcia said. Putting “DB” on the backs of their jerseys this season was a no-brainer, he said.

“I have had like five people say ‘Dan was my best friend.’ That was how he made people feel,” he said.

Bribiescas stayed connected with his former players. In fact, he was still playing on a team with some former players when he died.

“He was the kind of guy that mentored an entire generation of young men,” Carlson said. “He wasn’t friends with everybody, but he sure had a lot of them.”

Junior Gavin Weitzenberg, the Panthers’ center midfielder this season, understands the longevity of a Bribiescas friendship. His dad, Todd, played for Dan and continued their friendship into adulthood. Gavin Weitzenberg called Bribiescas a mentor.

Although Bribiescas knew how to win, it was more about appreciating the moment, honoring teammates, and playing for the program and for your school.

He talked a lot about how the name on the back of the jersey paled in importance to the name on the front.

“He would make it clear how lucky we were so we wouldn’t blow the opportunity,” Weitzenberg said. “He definitely cared about winning but it was more about leaving everything on the field. To have blown your opportunity doesn’t mean losing, it means not giving it your all.”

“When you have this ‘DB’ on your back, you are playing with a purpose,” he said. “There is no excuse not to give it your all.”

Players who never knew Bribiescas in his coaching days say he still lit a fire under them when he’d come back to practice to talk to the players before a big game.

But something else shone through, too.

“I noticed his smile,” said senior goalkeeper Jairo Villalobos. Bribiescas loved the game and always focused on the positive.

Carlson’s relationship with Bribiescas is especially poignant.

“I lost my dad my senior year and he stepped in and became not only the coach, but the father figure. He guided me through the next phase of my life,” he said.

Carlson’s dad died in the spring, on the cusp of high school graduation. When something like that happens, a young man is faced with not only grief, but decisions you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Bribiescas helped see him through.

“He kept me focused on going to college and beyond and doing something with my life,” he said. “He never tried to become the dad I lost, but gave me the advice and sort of strength along the way that I needed.”

“I wasn’t the only one,” he said. “He made this connection with a lot of people.”

Some of those people — the youngest ones — will wear Bribiescas’s initials on their backs this season. So along with team and school and community, it’s something else to honor: Coach.

Senior Andres Garcia said Bribiescas talked about team in terms of togetherness, in terms of representing something bigger than oneself. It’s a greater responsibility, but the reward is a deeper kinship.

“Every time you are on the field, you are not alone,” Garcia said.

“When we are playing, we are not playing for ourselves, we are playing for the whole school. What it means is beyond words.”

Garcia is right. Sometimes meaning is beyond words. Sometimes meaning can be found in just two letters: D.B.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”