Jim Hard played football with a number of quarterbacks who ended up going to the NFL. But as far as Hard is concerned, nobody threw a ball as well as Dennis Fechter.
“He threw one of the best balls ever, so it was pretty easy to catch,” Hard said, acknowledging his quarterback from their days in the ’70s at Napa Valley College. “We worked really, really hard. We trained hard, before and after practice. We loved it.”
Hard set six single-season school records for football, catching 120 passes in two years. In 1977, he led the nation in receptions (70) for junior colleges, was named All-State Division I First Team and second-team All-America, and was the Camino Norte Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Upon being inducted into the Napa Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame during a dinner and awards program Saturday night at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Hard recognized his teammates and coaches for the two years that they spent together as a small school playing against much bigger colleges.
“I loved playing and training. I loved competing. I was really blessed to be playing with some great athletes, some dedicated coaches,” he said. “I went on and had some success at Montana, but looking back, my time at Napa College was probably the most memorable time in my life. It was really fun, we were a close knit group of guys. The camaraderie and friendships l developed have lasted a lifetime.”
Hard and six others were elected to the Hall of Fame earlier in the year. They were formally enshrined Saturday, with each member of the first class being introduced by Kevin Luckey, the Storm’s athletic director/dean of P.E. and athletics, and receiving a medal with a green and gold ribbon.
Besides Hard, there is the late Glenn “Pop” DuBose, a member of the founding faculty of NVC in 1942; the late Bob Steen, who during his 35-year career at the college was athletic director, coach and teacher; Frank Humpert, who played football and basketball; Warren Brusstar, who played baseball and today is the Storm’s pitching coach; Scott Buss, a tennis player who was the 1981 NVC Athlete of the Year; and Todd Pridy, a baseball player, who was a JC All-American, the Bay Valley Conference Player of the Year, and the recipient of the Northern California Big Stick award who was chosen All-Northern California.
“It’s exciting to see how this event is bringing the history and tradition of Napa Valley College together,” said Dr. Edna Baehre-Kolovani, NVC’s superintendent/president. “Tonight will serve as the beginning of a new tradition at Napa Valley College, our annual Athletic Hall of Fame.”
The seven honorees are among the visionaries and mavericks who helped to set the foundation of the college and to shape it into what it is today, said Baehre-Kolovani.
Members of the 2011 Hall of Fame class have individually contributed to the success of the school’s athletic program and represent character and values that participation in sports builds, said Luckey. The Hall of Fame was created to honor those who have been instrumental in helping build the history and tradition of NVC.
“It’s to illuminate the value of community college and community college athletics to our society and more specifically, to our community. You will see that tonight,” said Luckey. “It’s to honor those who have built our tradition.
“We play a good brand of athletics and we want people to come and watch us and be excited about what’s happening.”
All seven of the inductees share something in common: they are educators.
DuBose was one of the first teachers and coaches hired by Dr. Harry McPherson for NVC in 1942, with his career going to 1969. He was influential in the development of Napa’s community athletics and recreation programs. He was chair of P.E. and the athletic director for Napa High School and NVC simultaneously.
“First of all, I’d like to say that my dad would be really honored and touched for this recognition. My dad was really passionate about having everybody get to participate,” Glenn DuBose, Jr., said in accepting the award in his father’s memory.
Bob Steen was a man for all seasons, coaching football, basketball, baseball and golf during his career (1959-1994). He was instrumental in planning the present NVC athletic facility.
“We lived Napa Valley College at my house,” said John Steen, who accepted the HOF award on behalf of his family. “My dad was green and gold. Whatever Napa College needed, he was there for them. I think he literally loved every single minute of it. It’s a real honor that 10 years after his passing we’re still saying great things about him, thinking good things about him.”
Humpert played football and basketball for the college in 1946 and 1947. He was the co-captain of the college’s first football team and started in every game. He said coach Herm Meister turned Napa into a competitive team.
“As small as we were, it gave me an opportunity to experience college-level football with well established schools like Santa Rosa, Yuba, Marin, Sacramento and Menlo. We held our own,” said Humpert, 85.
He went on to play for the UC Berkeley team that went to the Rose Bowl in 1950. He earned a teaching credential and had a long career as a teacher and coach, including time coaching at Napa Valley College. He retired after 37 years as a well-respected Napa educator; his support for local schools continues today. He served on the college Foundation board for 21 years.
“I’m honored to be included in the Napa Valley College Hall of Fame,” he said. “I will always be grateful to Dr. McPherson and the Napa College faculty.”
Humpert taught at Napa Junior High, Ridgeview Junior High and Napa High. He was the dean of boys at Silverado Junior High, principal at Napa High for two years, and a dean at NHS for six years.
He was a major general reservist in the U.S. Air Force and had 34 years in the Air Force.
Brusstar played baseball for coach Larry Bailey at NVC in 1971. He pitched two years for Fresno State and was primarily a middle relief pitcher during his major league career. He appeared in 340 games and compiled a career record of 28-16 with 14 saves, while posting a 3.51 earned-run average in nine years in the major leagues. He won a World Series title as a reliever with the Phillies.
He has been NVC’s pitching coach since 2007. It’s a level of baseball that he is familiar with, going back to his first year of college baseball here.
“I happened to go on to bigger and better things,” said Brusstar. “But if I don’t start here, If I don’t get my opportunity here, it would have never happened for me. I was fortunate.”
Buss attended NVC from 1979-1981 and played No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for tennis. In both seasons, he was the Camino Norte Conference singles champion and went undefeated in conference play in 1981.
He played on a nationally ranked team at UC Santa Cruz and was an NCAA Division III All-American.
“I’m very proud to be part of this group,” said Buss.
Pridy had a big year of baseball in 1990, batting .393 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs as Napa made the Northern California playoffs under coach Matt Stewart.
In 1991, Pridy was on the All-Big West team for Long Beach State and was drafted in the 23rd round by the Florida Marlins in 1992. He was the Marlins’ Organizational Player of the Year in 1992 and became a Western Baseball League All-Star and MVP.
He played in the College World Series for Long Beach State, a top-10 Division I program at the time.
“That year that I spent at the JC was a very special year. You don’t get those kind of numbers without an incredible group of guys to play with,” he said. “That group was an amazing group of athletes. Without question, I need to acknowledge and thank my teammates.”
He also thanked Stewart, saying, “Your willingness to stand behind me and what you believed I could do set my athletic career off on a path that I truly can’t imagine.”
A Hall of Fame section will be displayed in the foyer of the NVC gym.