Legendary FC football coach Hal Sherbeck was immortalized with the unveiling of his sculpture at Sherbeck field before a crowd of nearly 600 former players, colleagues and admirers on Saturday.
The event was an all day affair that began with a Celebration of Life at the Fullerton College Campus Theatre, capped off with the unveiling ceremony later in the day at Sherbeck Field. Throughout the day many former players and colleagues spoke about Sherbeck’s impact on their lives, both on and off the field.
The celebration also acted as reunion of sorts, bringing over 30 years of Fullerton College alumni together to honor and share memories of their beloved coach.
The pedigree of Sherbeck’s mentoring reached all the way to the pinnacle of the sport. One of the keynote speakers at the Celebration of Life segment of the event held inside the Campus Theatre was former Hornet quarterback and assistant coach Jim Fassel. Several years after leaving Fullerton, Fassel became the head coach of the New York Giants.
Fassel made it crystal clear just how influential Sherbeck was to his young men as he fondly remembered his first phone call after winning the NFC Championship game.
“Coach, pack your bags because you are coming with me to the Superbowl,” Fassel said.
Sherbeck’s on the field accomplishments are as impressive as any coach in college football history, including a 47 game winning streak that spanned five seasons, three national titles, 16 conference titles and a 247-70-8 career record.
The Sherbeck Legacy
- 241-70-8 career record (.768)
- Winningest coach in community college history (at time of retirement)
- 3 national titles (1965, 1967, 1983)
- Nationally ranked (top 25) 21 times
- 16 conference titles
- 13 bowl game appearances
- 47-game unbeaten streak (1964-1968)
- Coached more than 100 All-Americans
- Sent more than 500 players to 4-year schools
- 1994 California Community College Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2001 California Community College Athletics Association Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2005 Fullerton College Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee (Inaugural class)
- 2005 University of Montana Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2014 Fullerton College Centennial Hall of Fame Inductee (Inaugural class)
“When you can win 47 straight games over five years and have a bunch of misfits winning those games for you, that’s great coaching,” said Fassel.
The measure of Sherbeck’s influence is impossible to quantify. That is because it was off the field where his impact was truly felt. The testaments overwhelmingly poured in throughout the day.
“I came to Fullerton JC because I heard they had a winning tradition, I had no idea how it was going to affect my whole life,” said Jim Vernes, who played linebacker on the 1967-68 teams.
“Besides my dad, he was the most influential man in my life,” said Kirk Dodge, who played linebacker for the 1980-81 teams.
“The players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Fassel. “That was the one thing we all knew, they [the coaching staff] cared about us.”
The idea to make Sherbeck the first statue on campus was dreamt up by FC Sports Information Director Phil Thurman five years ago.
“I think it’s important for generations to come to see what Hal Sherbeck meant to this campus and pass the torch,” said Thurman. “He was one of the main cogs to, in my opinion put this school on the map.”
Former Dean of Fine Arts Bob Jensen stepped in as the executive producer for the project, seeing the event and sculpture to fruition.
“It is one of the most satisfying days of my professional life,” said Jensen. “To see 600 alumni return to the campus and honor a coach whose transforming love influenced their lives, can’t beat that.”
The entire event and Sherbeck sculpture was fully funded through donations collected by the Fullerton College Heritage Foundation over the past five years.
“It’s a sweet sense of victory because all of this was funded by money from alumni, all of it, when you realize thats how much they cared to make something this significant– a $100,000 project happen, it speaks to the generosity of spirit they all have,” said Jensen.
Don Treadway, a FC sculpture professor for 30 years created the Sherbeck sculpture. Treadway has worked on several notable projects like Angels Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan and Pee Wee Resse. Prior to the unveiling Treadway shared that this project was far more meaningful to him, having a personal connection to Sherbeck during his tenure as professor at Fullerton.
Transformative love and uncommon achievement. That is what Sherbeck was known for and so many came to celebrate. Throughout the day countless former players credited their beloved coach for transforming their lives. The unveiling was met with a standing ovation and numerous impromptu speakers took the podium to pay their respects, keeping the event going until the sun began to set.
“This is exactly what we wanted, we wanted to have a reunion type atmosphere and have everybody come reunite and tell their stories,” said Eric Sherbeck, the honoree’s son. “Once a Hornet is not just a phrase, these guys all love each other.”