Longtime coach Gary Sharpe to be inducted into Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame
Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a 17-part series chronicling the 2018 Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame inductees. Check back to The Union sports pages each day for a new profile on a Nevada Union legend.
His ability to lead is unquestioned.
His level of success is unparalleled.
His impact on the young men he mentored and the relationships forged on the gridiron are everlasting.
For 36 years Gary Sharpe coached football at Nevada Union, leading junior varsity and freshmen teams to unprecedented success and setting the foundation for what was one of the best football programs in the state.
In all, Sharpe collected an overall record of 311-37, won 24 league championships, had 13 perfect seasons and put together a 14-year, 97-game winning streak against league opponents. From 1984-2000, Sharpe-led teams were 105-1.
For those efforts as a coach and mentor, Sharpe will be inducted into the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame April 28.
“It was a combination of good kids, a good coaching staff and a great program that just kind of rolled and just kept going,” Sharpe said.
Born and raised in Nevada City, Sharpe played football and baseball at Nevada Union before graduating in 1967. He went on to study at Chico State, where he began to get interested in coaching. After graduating from Chico he coached for a bit at Oroville High School, but then made his way back to Nevada Union in 1974 where he began teaching classes and coaching the freshman team.
He went on to lead the 1974 freshmen Miners to the first football league championship, at any level, in NU football history.
A couple coaches and a decade later Randy Blankenship, Dave Humphers and the wing-T offense made its way to Nevada Union and the golden era of NU football began with Sharpe right in the middle of it.
“That’s when NU football went from good to great,” Sharpe said. “I learned the wing-T fast and that started the win streak we, Bruce Kinseth and I, had. We had 97 consecutive victories. Fourteen seasons in a row we didn’t lose a league game.”
The wins and league titles continued to pile up for Sharpe, adding victories over state powerhouse teams like St. Francis, Grant and De La Salle along the way. And, while those victories are looked back on fondly, Sharpe said the most rewarding part of his job was watching his players find success at the next level.
“That was the best part, is watching those kids go on and continue to have success,” he said. “What was amazing was seeing the kids and how much they change. Maybe as freshmen and sophomores they were starters, maybe they weren’t, but then they go to varsity and continue to work and they continue to grow and some of them go on to become scholarship players. I can name tons of kids that got their education paid for that weren’t that good as freshmen and sophomores.”
Former NU varsity head coach Dave Humphers, who reaped the benefits of Sharpe’s well coached JV teams, said Sharpe taught his players how to be successful on and off the field.
“Gary was a tremendous head coach,” Humphers said. “His ability to work with young men and his ability to get the best out of them, inspire them to work hard and teach them the assignments and skills of the wing-T was remarkable. That winning streak was a big part of the success of our varsity team. Kids coming up not only knew the wing-T, they knew they had the ability to win.
“If young men believe they can win, and play with confidence, and work really hard for those goals, the byproduct is winning and that carries over to everything else in their lives. If you work hard, are confident and believe you will succeed, you can achieve that success. It was a great winning streak, but also a great lesson for those young men to take through the rest of their lives.”
While Sharpe is often pointed to as the foundation builder for the Miner football program during the 80s and 90s, he is quick to give credit for his success to his colleagues: Kinseth, Greg Brown, Blankenship and Humphers.
“Without those guys, those 300-plus wins, all those championships and stuff wouldn’t be there,” Sharpe said. “You can’t do it alone. They are some great guys.”
Sharpe’s skill and ability to coach wasn’t confined to the football field, though. He also coached baseball for 10 years at Nevada Union and led his team to a league title in 1982.
Sharpe is now retired after 37 years as an educator and coach at Nevada Union, the last 10 he spent as the chairman of the physical education department. He watched as his children Matt and Melissa came through Nevada Union, both all-league athletes in their own right.
He is still happily married to Susan, his wife for nearly four decades.
And, despite being retired for more than five years, Sharpe still finds time to help out with NU athletics. Whether it’s being a member of the NU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee, timing a track event, keeping the book for a basketball game or subbing in for a physical education class, Sharpe can still be found roaming the playing fields around campus — like he always has.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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