Chris Musseman never had the desire to become a varsity head football coach.
Neither did his predecessor.
“Honestly, that’s probably what will make him a good coach,” Ripon High athletic director Chris Johnson said.
Ripon Unified will announce the hiring of Musseman as Johnson’s replacement as Ripon High head coach in tonight’s school board meeting. Johnson stepped down from the position this past season, his 12th as head coach and 19th overall with the program.
“He’s a very humble guy who is really in it for the kids, not for the credit or the glory for himself,” Johnson added. “That’s really what football is all about. It’s the ultimate team game that requires a group of selfless guys to work for each other, and that’s the philosophy he brings.”
The Indians were 77-53 with two Trans-Valley League championships and five Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearances under Johnson, one of the most successful coaches in school history.
“There’s always going to be that pressure, especially when you’re coming into a program that has had the success that we’ve had the last eight or nine years,” Musseman said. “We have a really good reputation as a quality program and we want to keep that going. Of course there’s going to be pressure and if you don’t feel it you shouldn’t do it. It’s not an easy task.”
Musseman, a Tracy resident, teaches English at Ripon High where he began his career in education in 2001. He is also the school’s boys golf coach and has led the team to three Sac-Joaquin Section championships in nine years.
Musseman joined the football staff in 2002 when both he and Johnson served as assistant coaches under P.J. Theriault. Johnson took over the head job in 2004, and he is relieved it is Musseman taking the reins.
“I look at it as something I’ve sunk my heart and soul into for almost 20 years and just about built it from scratch,” Johnson said. “It would have been more difficult to hand the keys off to a stranger, but it’s a lot easier to do that with him.
“It’s the logical choice. Chris has been with me for 14 years and was my right-hand man the whole time. I came in a couple of years before he did but we pretty much started out together and kind of figured things out as we went along. I asked him to do a lot of different things and helped me out in more ways than I can describe. He’s more than capable and more than ready to be head coach at Ripon.”
Musseman has experience as offensive, defensive and special teams coordinator as well as position coach under Johnson. He said that the coaching staff will remain the same as it was under Johnson with few additions.
“Am I the best ‘X’s’ and ‘O’s’ guy? No, but I bring stability,” Musseman said. “Our staff was loyal to Chris because he was such a great leader. When I started contacting guys about coming back they all jumped right on board with me. As head coach if you don’t have a good staff you won’t be successful, and fortunately I have a good staff.”
Musseman is a 1989 graduate of Monte Vista of Danville where he starred at wide receiver and defensive back. He helped the Mustangs win the 1987 North Coast Section Division I title by scoring the game-winning touchdown in a 14-13 upset over De La Salle, which had a 44-game winning streak snapped.
Musseman went on to play at the University of Mississippi for a year. He ended up graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in communications.
“I never thought I would be a head coach,” Musseman said. “It was a comfortable fit where I was, and I was ready to walk away from the game with Chris. But as (the season) got farther removed I started thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to the program I put 14 years of my life into?’”
Not much will change, as it turns out.
“He’ll put his brand on what we’ve already been doing, but he knows how things are done in Ripon and he knows the community well,” Johnson said. “The kids love him and there’s a lot of relief within the community. Things just keep rolling right on.”