On the back of Blair Roman’s blue T-shirt he often wears during the week is the word family.
It has a double meaning, especially for the Carson Senators. Football players spend nearly half of every year together. They form a unique brotherhood.
But, the bonding goes even further. It extends into the 24-7 life of three CHS coaches — head coach Blair Roman, linebacker coach Shane Quilling and defensive line coach Vic Castro IV. All three have student-athletes on this year’s squad.
And, there are two lower-level coaches, Greg Chech and Rod Estrada, who have sons who play on this year’s varsity squad.
So truly a family affair.
Coaching your own son is a dream. It’s what dads envision as they see their sons get older.
There also are pitfalls like battling talks of favoritism and being professional when your son is involved in a coaching decision.
For Roman, it’s his first opportunity to coach Jake, a reserve running back and special teams player.
“It is (a dream come true),” Roman said. “To be honest, I’m not like a lot of football parents who push their kids into it. I wouldn’t put pressure or push any of my sons into playing football. If they want to play, it has to be because of personal preference. It was my dad’s approach, something I learned from him.”
Unlike his two assistants, Roman is the only one of the three tasked with coaching his own son on a daily basis.
“It really hasn’t been an issue,” coach Roman said. “I was worried about it coming into the season.”
“So far, so good,” Jake Roman said. “We get along well. We know each other’s rules. I’m a player and he’s the coach. We talk about football, but we try not to get into things at home. We save it for when we’re at school.”
There’s pressure being the head coach’s son, something both Blair and Jake realize. There’s extra scrutiny.
“I think there is pressure on him, more off the field than on,” Blair said. “I think he feels the pressure. I think Jake is a tremendous person. I think he’s well liked. He’s a straight “A” student, and I hope that continues. A lot of credit for that (academics) goes to my wife Susan.”
“I definitely feel pressure on me to make the right decisions and be a good person no matter what,” Jake said. “I’ve worked hard, and I think I deserve whatever I’ve gotten this year. My dad knows that. I definitely feel the pressure to step up when I get the chance. I try to win my personal battles (in practices and games).”
The younger Roman has been productive. He scored on a 32-yard pass play in the waning moments of the 44-27 loss to Reed, and the grin on his dad’s face would have lit up the entire Las Vegas strip. Roman has 11 carries for 75 yards and two catches for 34 yards. Roman spends more time on the scout team and special teams than anywhere else.
“He takes pride in his role,” Blair Roman said. “He works hard everyday. He’s earned any playing time he’s gotten. He really has a high football IQ. He has bought into what I want and expect from him.
“He is only 140 pounds, but pound for pound is one of the strongest kids on the team. He’ll be our long snapper next year, and if he gets bigger, I can see him in the mix at running back and defensive back.”
This is Quilling’s second stint at coaching a son. He coached his oldest son, Chance, for two years. Now it’s his turn to mentor his youngest son, Connor.
“It’s easier the second time around,” Shane Quilling admitted. “It’s also a different situation. Connor plays special teams and gets in at receiver late in games (when the team is way ahead or way behind).
“When Chance came up, I was really hard on him because I didn’t want people to think he was playing because I was coaching. I remember Blair talked to me about Chance and thought I was being too hard on him.”
Chance Quilling was a two-year starter for the Senators, and played a big role on their championship teams, starring on both sides of the ball. He was hard-nosed tough guy; sometimes aloof.
“Conner is a different type of player,” coach Quilling said. “Conner is probably one of the most tender-hearted people. He is always asking what he can do to get better. He is much easier to work with than Chance was.”
The elder Quilling worked directly with his oldest son on the defensive side of the ball. He doesn’t have much direct contact with Connor.
“He originally wanted to play linebacker,” coach Quilling said. “We talked about it as a staff, and we moved him to wide receiver. We’re pretty thin there. He runs well and has good hands. If he gets bigger and stronger he might be able to go both ways a little bit next year.”
Connor said he talks a lot of football with his dad, and some of the talk is about linebacker play. The CHS junior knows he’s playing in his brother’s shadow.
“He’ll tell me what the linebacker is supposed to do,” the younger Quilling said. “So if I play there next year I’ll know what to do.
“There are high expectations, especially having to live up to Chance. People still talk about him. He was a great athlete.”
Connor Quilling got a late start in the game. As a youngster he suffered from night seizures, a form of epilepsy. He wasn’t allowed to play football until eighth grade.
“We took him to a neurologist (at Stanford) who recognized what was wrong right away,” Shane Quilling said. “It causes loss of speech. Within two weeks he was talking again. It affected his thought process. Learning didn’t come easy, but he is doing very well in school now.”
Vic Castro V grew up with the game. His dad, Vic Castro IV, was a high school football coach in Los Angeles, and his son was always around at practice, often running barefooted around the field.
The younger Castro has been in Carson’s program for four years, and his dad has been a coach in the program the entire time.
“It’s been pretty cool,” the CHS senior said. “We have a big white board in the garage. I’ll be watching film, and he’ll pull me into the garage to show me something. He has always been good at letting me know what I had to do to get better. I’ve always been able to talk football with coach Roman, too.
“I think I have a better football IQ growing up with a dad who was a coach. The disadvantage of being a coach’s son, though, is that there are more expectations placed on you. I know the game and have a passion for it.”
One of the pitfalls is having a dad as a coach is the perceived talk of favoritism. That happened when Castro was a freshman. The elder Castro served as head coach, and his son was the starting quarterback.
“Freshman year was rough,” the younger Castro said.
“It was vocalized by others that he QB’d because I was the coach,” coach Castro said. “We had 12-15 kids that year that wanted to play quarterback. I talked to Blair about it.”
A year later, Castro started at quarterback and led the Senators to the JV title.
“It was an enjoyable year, one he’ll remember for a while,” coach Castro said.
Part of being a coach of an athlete is knowing when to be a coach and when to be a supportive parent. As a junior, the younger Castro got just a taste of playing quarterback. Roman opted to go with Joe Nelson and Nolan Shine as his quarterbacks.
It was a tough pill to swallow. The younger Castro, who had been practicing all summer to compete for a quarterback slot, saw spot duty as a wingback. He explored other options (Dayton, Sierra Lutheran and Douglas), but opted to stay at CHS after talking with Roman.
“Last year was rough for him,” the elder Castro said. “It was a tough season. I told him if he didn’t want to play I would support his decision. I told him he should play the game because he wants to play. I wasn’t going to quit coaching if he decided not to play. This is what I love to do.
“Vic Jr. went in and talked to Blair about it at the end of the season, and they had a real good talk. They have a good relationship.”
Castro has had a productive season, rushing for 244 yards and four scores. He started the season at A back, but is now splitting time with sophomore Abel Carter, who has come on like gangbusters.
“He’s done a good job,” Roman said of Castro.