Mike Morris said he didn't just lose a coaching friend, a teaching peer and a genuine personality in Marion Adams, a man sure to cause laughter with one-liners who had a penchant for wearing bright colors and Mickey Mouse ears.
Morris, Rio Linda High School's athletic director, swallowed hard in trying to comprehend the early Tuesday morning death of Adams, the school's track and field coach and multimedia teacher. Adams was 59.
Adams was riding his bicycle after Monday's track practice at Rio Linda, his alma mater, looked over his shoulder to say goodbye to a student and didn't see the partially open metal swing gate in the school parking lot. At his rate of speed, Adams was impaled by the gate arm.
He was rushed to Mercy San Juan Hospital and initially survived two surgeries to treat internal injuries, with the hallway and waiting room filled with well-wishers.
"Marion was the most popular and nicest man on campus; just a great guy," said Morris, who also coaches the varsity football team. "It's a huge loss, devastating to our community. He's an example of how great Rio Linda is as a school and community. He couldn't wait to come back here. This place meant everything to him."
Adams played sports and enjoyed his classes and social life while a student at Rio Linda, family members said. He graduated in 1972 and vowed to return to teach and coach. After several years in banking management, Adams made good on his word. He started teaching at Rio Linda in 2004, finding more reward in helping teens achieve than in his paycheck.
For decades, Adams coached youth football and Little League in Rio Linda, sometimes digging into his own pocket to help at-risk kids buy equipment, anything to keep them on a positive path.
"Marion loved kids, loved seeing them do well," said Adams' brother, David Adams. "He absolutely loved Rio Linda. He gave up a job that paid really well to teach and coach at his favorite school."
David Adams said he saw the effect his brother had at the hospital Monday night when he met scores of Rio Linda faculty, teachers, parents and athletes who played for him.
"I was so impressed, so touched by the outpouring of support," David Morris said. "So many people hung out for the night in the hospital. I knew what kind of man he was – he's my brother – but to see all that love and support really moved us. We're all feeling this."
David Adams said his brother amazed surgeons with his fight to survive.
"Doctors told us that most people would die right away from an injury like that," David Adams said. "But Marion was a fighter, and they twice resuscitated him. They opened his chest to massage his heart, and thought he had a chance. But they could never stop the bleeding. It was too much."
Adams, known for his roundish face and broad grins, was a fan of the 49ers and Giants. Adams regularly wore jerseys of those teams to sporting events, and decorated the house he shared with wife, Kathy, with those teams' colors. For all his affection for the San Francisco teams, he most embraced the teams of Rio Linda High.
Morris said Adams had the "perfect temperament" to be a teacher and coach, particularly for the freshman football team.
"He worked with freshman kids who are just learning how to go to class, and some still learning how to put the gear on, learning their bodies," Morris said. "He was strict and demanding, but they loved him. We all did."
Rio Linda students and teachers, current and past, comforted each other on campus Tuesday. Grief counselors also were on hand.
"Still in shock," said Terry Ray, the Rio Linda High boys basketball coach and Adams' longtime friend. "I know people say this a lot about people, that they're great when we lose them, but Marion Adams was a wonderful man and teacher."
Adams is survived by wife Kathy, son Joe and daughter Sarah, two grandchildren, his mother, Edith, and seven siblings: David, Steve, Janice, Caroline, Betty, Lorraine and Mark. Memorial services are pending.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.