Some Ripon Christian players initially didn’t realize Randy Fasani had this sort of high school pedigree. Or that he was a Stanford guy who played in the NFL.
Fasani grinned from afar when he overheard curious Knights debating his merits before an early season practice.
“‘Hey, did you know he was the No. 1 football recruit in the country?’” Fasani said one player asked. Another countered, “‘No way! Seriously? He’s just our coach. He’s old with four kids.’”
Yes, Fasani, the first-year Knights coach after three years as an assistant , is 35 and has four kids. And, yes, he was the No. 1 recruit in the country in 1995 as a Del Oro quarterback. He went 11-5 as a starter at Stanford and briefly played in the NFL.
Fasani has upstart Ripon in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game Saturday at 1 p.m. against Bradshaw Christian at the Grape Bowl in Lodi.
“We did Google Fasani, and it was awesome to see what Coach had done,” Ripon Christian junior quarterback Billy Marr said Friday. “The chance to play for him is awesome. He’s just about perfect in every way. Then you see him throw a ball 70 yards and you, you ... ”
We’ll finish the sentence – you just go, “Wow.”
Fasani made those throws and elicited that reaction as a three-year starter with Del Oro. He won a D-II section title as a sophomore, blew out his knee in the title game as a junior and just missed the championship game as a senior.
When Fasani awoke from knee surgery, he didn’t see his parents. He saw four Stanford coaches. How’s that for a lasting recruiting pitch?
He played linebacker and tight end and on special teams at Stanford – he asked to play anything – before starting his final two seasons at quarterback.
Fasani was selected in the fifth round by Carolina in 2002, and he lasted one season and parts of two others on practice squads. He walked away from the game in 2006 at 26, ready for more family time with wife Monica and a growing family. He considered returning when the Raiders called but instead worked in law enforcement. He’s now an agricultural sales representative for Sierra Gold Nurseries, touring the Valley talking trees.
Fasani said he’s content with what football provided him and where it has taken him. He embraces the chance to build a champion and share his life lessons. He tells his players to embrace one another like family, because he knows close teams make the fewest mistakes and win the biggest games. Sometimes, his children – Haven, 11; Trey, 9; Faith, 5, and Hope, 18 months – attend practice with Monica.
“I’m having so much fun,” Fasani said. “I think the players enjoy seeing not just a coach yelling at them but a real person, a family man. And I love a challenge. We’re building a program. The school is old, but the football program is newer.
“I can honestly say I don’t know anyone who had a more wonderful high school experience than I did. I was extremely fortunate to play, number one, but the single biggest regret is that I walked away too soon.”
Fasani said there’s a lesson in that.
“Nowadays, I tell kids to play sports as long as possible because playing games is fun; life is reality,” he said.
Fasani joked that he’d give anything to test his weary knees for one drive in today’s spread-option offenses. He passed for 5,299 yards and 53 touchdowns over three seasons at Del Oro when the style of play was far more conservative.
“I would’ve absolutely loved to play now, to run all over the place and throw bombs,” Fasani said. “My arm is a little sore, so I’ve got to warm up a little, but I’ll still let it rock once in a while.”
Though Fasani is a quarterback to the core, he recognizes a great runner when he has one. Ripon senior tailback Andrew Brown has rushed for 2,626 yards and 45 touchdowns this season.
“The X’s and O’s I understand extremely well,” Fasani said. “The aspect of leading young men, I’m learning more day by day. Every athlete is different. You need to deal with parents, other coaches, the youth program, the administration. I embrace the challenge, and hopefully I’m doing a good job.”
On Wednesday, Fasani pulled out his section title ring from Del Oro. Players studied it, touched it; they all want to win one today. .
“Coach is very, very attached to our team,” Marr said. “He’s got a very light mood about him. He tells us that the high school memories are what you’ll remember the rest of your life. And we know he’d like to get back in pads and play, too.”