BILL WALSH / 1931-2007
Coach made an impact
He left a lasting impression on the Hawaii football community
Bill Walsh's impact on football was undeniably universal. But it was also unique in Hawaii.
Walsh, who died yesterday, leaves behind many mourning San Francisco 49ers fans here who never met him. He also touched many personally in the islands as it was one of his favorite places to visit.
Former University of Hawaii quarterback Elroy Chong, one of Walsh's best friends here, fondly recalls golf outings with Walsh and UH coach June Jones at Waialae Country Club.
"The most priceless moments to me were afterward in the men's grill room. Bill would draw plays on napkins and discuss them with June, and I'd think, 'Wow, I'm witnessing historic moments.'
"Whenever he was asked to recommend someone for a job, he'd say June," Chong added.
Jones said he and Walsh became good friends, and not just because of their similar pass-first football philosophies.
"He did a lot to change the game," Jones said. "And he had a real unique group of guys who cared about him a lot and played hard for him. He was committed to them not just as football players but as people, helping many of them get set up in things after they were done playing."
Walsh waived his $25,000 speaking fee several times for engagements in Hawaii. Most recently, he was the keynote speaker at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's annual banquet in 2006.
He also conducted a well-attended workshop for Hawaii high school football coaches in 2005.
"He had a huge impact on Hawaii high school football," HHSAA executive director Keith Amemiya said. "The workshop here was a great success, and many of our coaches also attended his events on the mainland.
"He was hard-working, organized and very detail oriented," Amemiya said. "But at the same time he had a very down-to-earth and humble way that made everyone feel comfortable. You didn't have to be a 49ers fan to be a Bill Walsh fan."