Marlon Blanton says family matters most, especially when football is the only real family you have.
Blanton, hired Sunday as Jesuit High School's football coach, said he grew up amid chaos in Antioch. He hardly knew his father, and his mother was a heroin addict who wouldn't come home for days or weeks at a time. Blanton said his grandmother did her best to raise him, despite her own demons of addiction.
Blanton said his youth coach, Vic Galli, steered him toward De La Salle High in Concord in the late 1980s, never mind that Galli was coaching rival Pittsburg in Antioch.
"Galli knew I had to get out of Antioch," Blanton said. "De La Salle, that school, those teachers and coaches they saved me. I didn't even know my dad, and when I did get to finally know him, he died. My mom, my grandmother, love them to death, but it wasn't easy. I had every reason to fail, but I refused to fail.
"No question high school saved me, pointed me in the right direction. I wouldn't be here today without that school."
Where he is now is much different than where he came from.
At Jesuit, Blanton will have an army of motivated scholars eager to return the team to glory. He will install the run-heavy veer offense, a staple at De La Salle but used in this region only by Monterey Trail.
Though Blanton isn't a household name locally, he is in the Bay Area. He was a three-year starting tailback at De La Salle when the Spartans were building their nationally recognized dynasty and graduated in 1991. He blew out his knee in his senior season but returned strong enough to practice with Saint Mary's College, from which he graduated with multiple degrees.
Blanton coached the lower-level teams at De La Salle and was the head varsity coach the last 14 seasons at small-school St. Patrick-St. Vincent High in Vallejo, where he was a three-time Bay Shore Athletic League Coach of the Year with teams that went 8-3, 11-2 and 12-1. His 2010 team was 9-2.
"Marlon has a great reputation," said Cal Poly assistant coach Jamar Cain, a Valley High graduate. "He's honest with recruiters, makes the most of his players, always competes."
Blanton has been mentioned as a possible successor to Bob Ladouceur at De La Salle, but Blanton said his heart is with Jesuit now.
Plenty of challenges face Blanton. He is replacing longtime coach Dan Carmazzi, who had coached at Jesuit since 1981, the longest tenure in the Sac-Joaquin Section. Carmazzi left for a position at Christian Brothers, his alma mater.
Will the veer work at Jesuit, which for decades has used the pro set offense?
Can Blanton energize a student body that has become apathetic during Saturday home games?
Blanton has an engaging personality and talks about life more than touchdowns. He said he enjoys teaching in the classroom as much as on the field. At Jesuit, he will teach history and physical education.
"It's awesome, just awesome," Blanton said. "I hear such great things about Jesuit, and I love a good challenge. I got into coaching when I was a sophomore at De La Salle, coaching youth basketball. It started there for me. I just knew I'd be doing this for a career."
LSU wants Vanderdoes
Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, a national recruit from Placer High, can add Les Miles to the list of big-time college football coaches blowing up his phone. Sunday, the LSU coach offered the 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior a scholarship weeks after Nick Saban and Alabama did the same. Vanderdoes also has received offers from USC, Michigan, Penn State, Florida State, Oregon and Arkansas.
Blue Devils moving on
Davis High's baseball season ended a week earlier than the Blue Devils expected when they fell in the Division I playoffs to Franklin. But seniors Ben Eckels, Reinert Toft and George Hatamiya will take the mound at different levels in the coming months. The hard-throwing Eckels expects to be drafted next week. Toft, who beat Franklin in a playoff game, will pitch at the University of Redlands, and Hatamiya is off to Haverford College in Pennsylvania.