Brian Hamilton: It all comes down to community, Nevada Union hall of famers say |

Brian Hamilton: It all comes down to community, Nevada Union hall of famers say

On more than one occasion, Dave Humphers likely caught a full eye-roll from a young journo in a new job, as Nevada Union’s famed football coach sat down for pre-game interview.

So what is it, Coach, that sets this program — this “Miner Magic” thing — apart from others?

How about this Jefferson Heidelberger kid and his 448 rushing yards on 23 totes (19.5 per carry)? What about Spencer Havner, who’s apparently heading to play linebacker at UCLA? And this Josh Roenicke? He’s the son of former Major Leaguer Gary Roenicke? I might still have his baseball card.

All true, Humphers said, before singing the praises of an undersized offensive line that thrived in his Wing-T offense and a downright stingy defense, the sort that had helped the Miners to league and section championships throughout his first decade atop the program.

But really, the coach said more than once, it all comes down to community.

The community? Really?

Was it “the community” who ran for 312 yards and five touchdowns last week? Here I thought the guy’s name was Heidelberger. The “coach-speak” reminded me of the Bull Durham scene when veteran catcher Crash Davis tells rookie pitcher Nuke Laloosh to “Write this down.”

Yet, then you see the coach actually believes what he’s saying. Really.

And you see dozens, and then hundreds, even thousands of young men over 20-some years who buy into something bigger than themselves, which among them is called a “brotherhood.”

But, as the coach said, it really comes down to community.

That was the central theme at Saturday’s induction of the 2019 Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame Class, as superstar Miners of several sports stepped forward to be honored and also acknowledge those who helped lead them there. One by one, they thanked their parents, their family, their teammates — their teammates’ families — and, of course the coaches who saw something in them so many years ago.

But time and time again, they thanked “the community.”

Sure Ali (Daley) McColloch had an incredible volleyball career at NU, at UCLA and on the beach volleyball tour. But she also drew rave reviews Saturday for her Nevada City Little League baseball days, when she was taking the field with, and against, the boys. Years later, she and her Nevada Union teammates set the stage for an inspired community of young girls by winning the school’s first three, of what would become a record seven-straight, section championships.

Erik Flores, an All-Pac 10 golfer who also went on to play professionally, talked about how former Nevada Union coach Hank Davidson had allowed him to play with the team on practice rounds at Alta Sierra Country Club, when he was all of 9 or 10 years old. He looked up to those Miners, he said.

Wade Sauer, former California heavyweight wrestling champion, couldn’t make it to Saturday’s shindig, but his mother made a point to come and share her family’s gratitude for the people who helped lift her “big boy” to such heights, including likely future NU Hall of Famer Andrew Jackson, who despite being a Division-I football recruit kept coming to practice so that Sauer would have someone his size as a training partner.

Someone else who gets “the community” thing is The Union Sports Editor Walter Ford, a former Miner himself. Over the past four years, Walter’s institutional knowledge and understanding of our community has served us and the committee well, with his profile feature stories of each of the nearly 70 Hall of Fame inductees.

Nevada Union’s Hall of Fame committee so values this sense of community that it even has inducted “Community Contributors,” such as “Voice of the Miners” Fred Anderson, team statistician Andy Owens and The Union’s own longtime photographer John Hart with the Class of 2019. State Farm’s Mike Bratton, along with local businesses like Caseywood, Hansen Brothers and SPD Market have also been honored.

It was Bratton, as I was reminded just this week, who sought a pledge of allegiance to “Miner Magic” from that same young sportswriter when Nevada Union’s 2000 football team took the field at Sac City College’s Hughes Stadium for the city championship game.

“Are you a fan yet?” he asked. Despite being told several times there’s no cheering from the press box, it didn’t stop him from sneaking a blue-and-gold pom pom onto the back of my bag, where it unknowingly shimmied and swayed on the sidelines for the better part of the first half. Really?

Yeah, really. Nevada Union’s “Miner Magic” really is all about community.

That’s why when Dave Humphers closed out Saturday’s ceremony — along with sharing memories of his favorite plays from each of his players inducted and how back-to-back section titles had people swelling with pride — he talked about how the community rallied in the tough times of tragedy, how it raised enough money to install a turf field at Hooper Stadium, and how many young people had gone on to college largely through Nevada Union’s community-supported program.

One of those Miners, Brennan McFadden, got right to the heart of it, expressing his love for his family, teammates and coaches, saying how much he loved growing up in western Nevada County and that among the many other things his mother, Louise, told him long ago, indeed “it does take a village.”

I assure you, there were no eyes rolling at that moment.

Brian Hamilton is editor at The Union. He was once a young journo in a new job covering sports in Nevada County. Contact him at or 530-477-4249.

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