Coach leads on, off the field

The statistics speak for themselves — 244 wins, five National championships, seven NorCal titles, hundreds of graduates making it to Division I and still several more in the NFL — to validate CCSF’s George Rush’s rank among the greatest junior college football coaches ever.

But Rush’s true worth can’t be found in numbers. He is much more than a coach to his players — he is a mentor, a counselor, a friend and a father figure.

Unlike most sports programs at prominent universities, CCSF’s football teams don’t usually feature athletes who have been coddled and adored their entire lives. Many of the players on Rush’s squads are individuals, who, for various reasons, may have flown under the radar or fallen between the cracks at some point.

“I’ve always said our team is made up of the athletically-overlooked, the academically-underachieved, emotionally-unfulfilled, and economically- and socially-disadvantaged,” said Rush, who ranks third among active junior college coaches in wins. “That’s what makes it so special here, because you feel like you have the rare opportunity to make a true difference in people’s lives. Our mission is to get these guys to four-year schools and teach them about personal responsibility, and I like to think we succeed at that.”

This year has featured another vintage coaching effort from Rush, as he has guided his young squad to an appearance in the California Junior College Championship game against El Camino College (Torrance) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Chukchansi Park in Fresno.

The Rams (10-1) will be vying for their sixth state title during Rush’s head coaching tenure, which started 30 years ago.

Rush, a San Francisco native and graduate of St. Ignatius, played for the Rams from 1966-67 before moving on to play at San Fernando Valley State College (now Cal St. Northridge.) After a couple of one-year graduate-assistant stints at Wake Forest and College of the Canyons, Rush moved on as an assistant at CCSF and has been there ever since.

“I truly feel grateful to be where I am,” Rush said. “It would definitely take pretty amazing circumstances to get me to leave here.”

As appreciative as Rush is to be at CCSF, his players feel equally indebted to have him as their coach.

“Coach teaches us so much,” said Rams’ sophomore cornerback De’Shon Sanders, who will be graduating early in December in order to get a head start on his prospective Division I career. “He is someone you can always have a conversation with and come to talk to about everything that’s on your mind.”

Rams freshman defensive back Jesslin Robinson, who played at Antioch High School, has found Rush’s presence to be essential to his development, not only as a player, but also as a person.

“Without coach Rush, I probably would have made choices that weren’t right for me,” Robinson said. “My father wasn’t around at all times, so coach has been there for me when I needed him. I just have a lot of love and respect for him.”

GAME DAY

CCSF (10-1) vs. El Camino College (11-2)

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Chukchansi Park, Fresno

Coaches: CCSF—George Rush, 30th year. El Camino—John Featherstone (21st year).

Playoff Path: CCSF—Beat Fresno City College 26-10 (Hawaiian Punch Bowl). El Camino—Beat Moorpark 31-29, beat Saddleback 31-29, beat Bakersfield 23-20 (OT) (SoCal championship game).

Passing Leader: CCSF—Zac Lee 188-295, 2,788 yards, 27 TDs, 5 INTs. El Camino—Boo Jackson 139-228, 2,112 yards, 15 TDs, 5 INTs.

Rushing Leader: CCSF—Tyreece Jacks 187 carries, 1,103 yards, 10 TDs. El Camino—Jamicah Bass 157 carries, 911 yards, 10 TDs.

Receiving Leader: CCSF—Kenny O’Neal 48 catches, 707 yards, 4 TDs. El Camino—Kay Farquharson 44 catches, 807 yards, 8 TDs.

About El Camino: This will be the first meeting between two of California’s—and the nation’s—most successful junior college football programs. The 2006 season was supposed to be a rebuilding one for El Camino, which lost 17 players to Division I colleges after the 2005 season. However, the young Warriors (who start eight freshmen) have been the Cardiac Kids, winning six games by six points or less—including all three of theirplayoff games. Freshman quarterback Boo Jackson didn’t capture the starting position full time until the fifth game of the season, but he has been a mainstay since then, tossing 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions. Jamicah Bass leads a crowded backfield (six players have carried the ball at least 20 times) with more than 900 yards on the ground.

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