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Former Football Star Rodney Webster Provides Academic and Athletic Support for NVC

Before he became a star tailback at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds for Boise State, twice running for over 1,000 yards and earning All-Big Sky Conference honors during the 1981 and 1983 seasons, Rodney Webster had to figure out a way to get his academics in order and to also find a way to get more playing time.

It wasn’t happening for Webster during his freshman year at Boise State, as his carries were limited and he was adjusting to so many different things – the college game, a new program, new town, and being away from home.

“The first year was very humbling, because coming from Richmond I was pretty much a household name,” the former Salesian High School standout said in a telephone interview on July 22. “Going to Boise, I was probably the No. 1 recruit, but I wasn’t getting very much playing time.

“I was kind of lost my first year. My parents were very supportive.”

It was 1980, and Webster played in eight games for the Broncos, rushing for 66 yards on 15 attempts. He also caught one pass for 11 yards and had one kickoff return for 18 yards.

Webster returned home and enrolled at Contra Costa College in San Pablo for the summer session. He can’t say enough about the support and help that he received from instructors and staff.

“I got my grades together and was able to go back to Boise and then I had an opportunity to get on the field,” he recalled. “It kind of gave me a new life, because I was playing, doing something that I loved to do. It motivated me to stay focused academically.”

Webster made an immediate impact upon his return. As a sophomore, he played in 11 games and ran for 1,139 yards on 250 carries, averaging 103.5 yards per game, and scored 12 touchdowns. He led Boise State in rushing yards, rushing TDs and total TDs. He also caught 18 passes for 86 yards and was named All-Big Sky in 1981.

It was an experience that he is so very proud of and cherishes greatly – the people he met, the friends he made, the highlights that are embedded in his memory bank, the opportunity to take his game to a whole new level.

He was named as a second-team All-American in 1981 by The Associated Press.

“It was definitely a good experience for me,” said Webster. “It was a great place to go to school and play football. I have no regrets. There was a lot of support from the community. They basically would shut down the city for the college football game.”

Webster has learned so much from football – including being disciplined and accountable, working hard and functioning within a team environment. These are very important lessons that he applies to his everyday work, as Napa Valley College’s Athletic Academic Counselor.

“Working with 85 guys, all coming together, a common theme to reach a common goal, was very helpful for me,” he said. “It’s understanding that whatever you put into it, you get out of it. That was one of the biggest lessons I learned.”

As part of his work at Napa Valley, Webster meets 1-on-1 with each of the student athletes and sets up educational plans to help them as they transfer on to four-year schools.

“It’s a privilege for me to do this,” said Webster, 58. “I guide them academically, personally, and career wise. I’ve gone through it, so I can help guide them and keep them focused in the right direction, to get a degree, so they can be successful in society.

“I’m a people person, so I enjoy relationships. I put a lot of emphasis on academics – you’re a student first, athlete second. I let them know that everyone is going to get their last free throw, everyone is going to get their last swing at-bat. What’s going to last is a good education.

“A student-athlete is in a very unique situation, because college is so demanding and then college sports are so demanding. They’ve got pressure on them.

“What really excites me is the interaction that I have with the students. I was a student athlete – I know some of the challenges that they’re going through. I like showing the students that athletics and academics really go hand in hand with each other, that being in a sport is a great opportunity and it’s also a big key to life success I believe.

“It’s just a pleasure working with the whole staff in the department. It’s a pretty tight-knit family in there.”

Webster has a key role in the NVC Athletic Department.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed to have Rodney become part of our department the past couple of years,” said Jerry Dunlap, NVC’s Athletic Director. “To have his background, his demeanor, his knowledge of the (California Community College Athletic Association) and academics, we’ve just been very fortunate to have him become part of our family. He’s awesome. We love him.

“He’s doing an incredible job. He does a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t always see. But we in the department do notice it and we definitely appreciate everything he’s done for our student athletes and us, as well, the staff members and the coaches within our division.”

Webster provides support in helping student athletes schedule their classes and overseeing their work on an academic level.

“He keeps them on track,” said Dunlap.

Webster also works as a counselor at Contra Costa College and at Merritt College in Oakland.

He graduated from New College of California in San Francisco with a degree in humanities.

Athletic Background

Webster was born in Oakland and grew up in Richmond, learning about sports from his dad, Rufus Webster, and also his four brothers, David Webster, Rufus Webster, Deval Webster and Stanley Webster.

“I’ve got four brothers, and all of them were athletes. I just kind of played with them when we were kids,” he said. “I had to compete with them. I was pretty fast as a little guy. I had to run fast because my brothers were all very fast and I had to keep up with them.”

Rodney Webster played Pop Warner football. After attending Harry Ells High School in Richmond for two years, he transferred to Salesian for his junior year.

He was a three-sport athlete, playing football (running back-safety) and basketball (guard) and also running on the track and field team as a sprinter.

As a senior, he ran for 1,700 yards and scored 19 touchdowns, leading Salesian, a member of the Catholic Athletic League, to the North Coast Section playoffs. Salesian lost in the semifinals to Miramonte of Orinda.

Webster was honored by the Oakland Tribune and Richmond Independent.

Webster is very thankful and appreciative of the coaching he received from Dan Shaughnessy, a member of the Salesian Athletics Hall of Fame. Shaughnessy is one of the Bay Area’s winningest head football coaches, attaining 248 victories during a career that included stops at Salesian, St. Mary’s of Berkeley and Albany.

“I just looked up to him. He was smart,” said Webster, a 1980 Salesian graduate. “He was just a tough guy on the field, but a real personal guy off the field.”

Webster went on to play at Boise State, an NCAA Division I-AA school that played in the Big Sky Conference at the time.

He played in 10 games during the 1982 season and was fourth in the Big Sky, rushing for 792 yards on 180 carries and scoring four touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 207 yards with one TD.

He was named All-Big Sky after leading the Boise State team in rushing yards during the 1983 season, with 1,037 yards on 227 carries and four TDs in 11 games. He had 25 catches for 309 yards with two TDs.

For his career, he had 3,034 rushing yards, ranking second in school history, when he finished. He is currently eighth on the all-time list.

He was second in school history when he finished with 12 100-yard rushing games. He ranks tied for eighth all-time.

Webster got to experience pro football, with the Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League and Dallas Cowboys of the NFL.

He was selected by the Express in the 19th round of the 1984 USFL Draft out of Boise State and was released during training camp after suffering an injury.

He had a free agent tryout with the Cowboys and was waived during training camp due to an injury.

Coach Webster

Webster went into coaching football after his playing days.

He was the head coach at Kennedy High in Richmond for two seasons.

He has coached Pop Warner football for the Albany Bobcats and has been an assistant at Oakland High, Fremont High of Oakland, Salesian and Contra Costa College.

He is currently in his third year as a coach with the Bay Delta Nightmares, a semi-pro team in Concord.Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019 after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in September of 2019. martyjames.sports@gmail.com

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