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Legendary Manteca High coach Walker Vick dies at 85
Walker Vick
Manteca High coach Walker Vick (front) is surrounded by his assistants’ Butch Linn, Art Mathis, Mick Founts and Randy Gaines. Photo contributed

Walker Vick’s memory lives on.

The legendary Manteca High coach passed away on Wednesday. He was 85.

 “Today is a very sad day for myself and the entire Manteca High football family — we have lost a legendary football coach,” said Jon Shaefer on his social media post.

Walker Vick
Walker Vick reunites with many of his friends and coaches during a special evening at Chez Shari’s. Photo contributed
Vick was part of some great Buffalo coaches in his time — included are Jim Brown, Joe Handy, Butch Linn, and Art Mathis — who have since passed on.

Aaron Goodwin, who is the host of ‘Man About Town’ podcast, said the loss of Vick “marked an end of an era.”  

Karen Steves-Ott, who is one of the school’s biggest supporters, held an event a few years ago at Chez Shari’s featuring Vick and the other legendary MHS coaches of the 1970s.

“They were a close and unique group — this was an opportunity to get them all together while they were still living,” she said.

Steves-Ott spent time with Vick at the football games in recent years. She recalled her time as a female student-athlete at MHS, in particular, his support of her efforts with an approving smile.

“That meant a lot (to me),” Steves-Ott said, pointing out the old coach’s quiet and reserved nature.

She added: “Manteca lost a legend — MHS lost a best friend.”

Mick Founts, who had just completed his collegiate football career at Humboldt State, was just 21 when he first encountered Vick.

Vick, along with then-MHS Principal Ed Brasmer and teacher Bob Camden, interviewed him for a job in the English Department.

Besides teaching, Founts was brought on as an assistant football and assistant wrestling coach.

“I was the luckiest guy alive to have worked with coaches Vick, Art Mathis and Butch Linn — I learned so much,” he said.

Those were life lessons as well.

Founts went on to follow in Vick’s footstep by serving as head football coach for the Buffaloes for five years and head wrestling coach for three years.

“He was ahead of his time — he knew how to break things down on film,” Founts said.

When it came to becoming Superintendent of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, he sought out Vick for support.

“He was not just a great coach, but a great friend and mentor,” Founts said.

Eric Reis was another of the great football coaches produced at MHS. He’s proud of that legacy, having been raised in the program.

“When I first became head coach, I sat down and picked his brain,” he said.

Reis, who is winningest coach in the school’s history, incorporated a defense-first approach that he learned from the legendary coach.

“We were going to play defense and continue what coach Vick started,” Reis said.

Reis eclipsed the previous mark of 76-42-4 held by Vick during his time as coach from 1969 to 1980. Reis and Vick, shedding a few tears, met at midfield

Walker Vick
Legendary Manteca High coach Walker Vick is joined by Karen Steves-Ott at a recent function. Photo contributed
on that record-breaking memorable game against rival Sierra in 2010. Reis went 150-42-2 over 16 years (2002-2017), winning five Valley Oak League titles and five Sac-Joaquin Section championships in the process.

Jack Thomson was hired by Vick in 1979. He, too, was a legendary coach, leading successful baseball programs at both MHS and Sierra High.

“(Vick) was a great mentor. Whatever I accomplished, it was because of him. He had a simple way of explaining things,” said Thomson, remembering the many of those adages used by Vick.

He was among those who nominated Vick for the Manteca Hall of Fame in 2016.

“There are very few people, who in their profession, have touched as many lives as coach Vick did,” said Thomson, who was enshrined in the Manteca HOF that previous year.

In football, Vick led his teams to five league championships and was a five-time Valley Oak League Coach of the Year.

He was a basketball official from 1961 to 2002.

In 2005, the MHS field house was named in his honor.

He’s in the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame and was selected Section Athletic Director of Year in 1987.

In 1989, Vick was named California State Athletic Director of the Year and the Western Regional Athletic Director of the Year.

In addition, Vick was manager of the Tuolumne Meadows Pack Station in Yosemite National Park from 1990 to 2014 – since 1981, he worked for the Park Service.

His son Todd Vick said the family is looking to get together in the following days to make finals arrangement for Walker Vick.

“He meant a lot to so many people,” Reis said.