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Wednesday, October 6, 2004 -

Bill Walsh addresses FPU, area athletes

The success of the San Francisco 49ers, including five Super Bowls in 14 years, was no accident. It was due, in large measure, to the fact that their players had character.

That was the message delivered to 750 high school student-athletes in the Special Events Center on Tuesday, October 5. The messenger was Bill Walsh, the 49ers former head coach, general manager and president.

Walsh delivered the keynote address at the second annual Character in High School Activities conference at Fresno Pacific Univeristy. His audience included San Jaoquin Valley high school athletes and coaches from Bakersfield to Merced. Walsh’s topic was “Perfect blend of teamwork and selfless team play”.

The address capped off a morning of events sponsored by FPU’s Athletic Department, in conjunction with the Champions of Character Initiative of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott were all “character guys,” Walsh said. “They were always the last ones off the practice field. They always worked on the fundamentals, even late in their careers. They played the game the way it should be played. They were graceful in victory and defeat.”

Bruce Brown, the NAIA’s special presenter for Champions of Character program conducted special training sessions for coaches and break-out sessions for student-athletes prior to Walsh’s appearance. Brown, a retired coach, has worked at every level of education in over three decades of teaching and coaching. He has written several books, including Teaching Character through Sport.

As coach, general manager and eventually president, Walsh took over a losing San Francisco 49ers team and built it into the most successful NFL franchise over the last two decades. Under his direction the 49ers won three Super Bowl titles (1981, 84, 89), made seven NFC postseason appearances and claimed six NFC Wes division championships. He was twice named the NFL Coach-of-the-Year (1981, 84) and was later named the NFL Coach-of-the-Decade for the 1980s.

The event was co-sponsored by Fresno, Clovis, Madera and Central Unified School Districts, Fresno County Office of Education, Educational Employees Credit Union, Dubudio and Defendis Insurance and Coca-Cola.

At the first Character Conference, on October 7, 2003, John Wooden presented “The pyramid of success.”