Sweeney Turned Boys Into Men: Former Players Remember Mentor - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Sweeney Turned Boys Into Men: Former Players Remember Mentor

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FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -

Jim Sweeney was a motivator who impacted thousands of lives for 32 seasons as a head coach.

Saturday, on the field named in his honor, former players, a university president and a coach spoke about the man who dreamed impossible dreams and then achieved them.

In some ways it felt more like a pep rally than a celebration of life.

Fresno State's pep band was there to sound out the fight song.  Tears streamed from Trent Dilfer's eyes as the former Fresno State and NFL quarterback paid Sweeney the ultimate compliment. 

"He's the finest football coach I ever played for.   He may go down as one of the finest football coaches ever," Dilfer said.

When Coach Sweeney arrived in Fresno, he called the football program a sleeping giant.

University President John Welty called him one of a kind. 

"Coach Sweeney awakened our university in central California to new possibilities and new dreams and he lead the way,"Welty said.

Jan Stenerud, an NFL Hall of Fame kicker who played for Sweeney at Montana State, said, "He taught us to live and he taught us to work. I've never mention this before but June knows he is my Godfather and I love Jim Sweeney."

Sweeney's son Kevin talked about a lighter moment playing for and living with his Dad.  

"You know you haven't played well in the last few weeks.   It's 4:30 in the morning.   I looked at him and I said you know I don't think you've coached that well either.   How about we talk about this when I get in the office at 8 o'clock in the morning?"

Current Bulldogs Coach Tim DeRuyter promised the crowd that next year the team will wear throw back uniforms to honor Coach Sweeney.  

"We're working with the administration on an appropriate helmet sticker that we will have throughout the season," DeRuyter said. "But on Jim Sweeney field his legacy will never be forgotten."

All of his former players echoed the same message; Coach Sweeney told you the truth and he molded boys into men.

Coach DeRuyter also announced that he wants to add on to the football facility and create the Jim Sweeney Learning Center.

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