NORTHEAST GLENDALE — They each came Saturday night to be celebrated and honored for their accomplishments at the 10th annual Glendale Community College Athletic Hall of Fame.
But in the midst of sharing memories and smiling about their experiences, they each paid tribute to a special coach.
The 1972 co-ed volleyball team, Angela Brinton-Collins, John Block, Steve La Rusch, Chris Hale and Jimmy Evangelatos were each thankful to be inducted into the college's hall of fame. Before their speeches, they each mentioned a mentor who made a difference not only in their athletic careers but also in their lives.
"What we did back then was unbelievable," said Michael Cram, a member of the 1972 volleyball team that won the Southern California Championship "AA" title against El Camino College and remains the only co-ed team in school history to capture that crown.
Cram credited the Vaqueros' success to 2006 Hall of Fame inductee Coach Blanche Donovan.
"She was instrumental," he said. "She let the players take over the game. She knew we had something special."
That team also won the Division I title that was sanctioned by the Southern California Community College Intercollegiate Athletic Council and had three players continue their careers at four-year schools. Cram played at Pepperdine University, and teammates Judy Thomsen transferred to Cal State Northridge and Roy Nichols went to Cal State Fullerton.
Thomsen later coached Brinton-Collins at Glendale college.
Brinton-Collins was an All-Western State Conference selection in 1983 before transferring to Northridge, where she helped lead the Matadors to the NCAA Division II title and earned the first-ever Honda NCAA Player of the Year award in 1987.
Brinton-Collins, a Glendale High graduate, looked back on her Vaquero career and remembered the grueling practices.
"My greatest memory was how hard [Coach] Dianne Spangler trained us," Brinton-Collins said. "We were the most conditioned team out there. After every practice, we were exhausted."
It was that drive from a coach that allowed Block to succeed as a Vaquero.
"I was planning on coming to Glendale College to pick up a few classes because I had already committed to USC," said Block, a Glendale High graduate who played for the Vaqueros in the 1962-63 season before becoming an All-American at USC. "But then Coach Abe Androff took me in and he worked with me and totally changed my game. I became a scorer here. This time here was transforming."
Block had a remarkable career. He set the single-season scoring record in the then-PAC-8 Conference at 27.7 points per game, until future Trojan star Reggie Miller broke the mark.
The Lakers drafted Block in the second round of the NBA Draft in 1966. In 10 seasons, he played for seven teams, and was a teammate of 11 Hall of Famers, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
Like Block, La Rusch was a gifted athlete. He won a CIF title in the high jump at Glendale High, competed in 10-event decathlons, played co-ed volleyball at Glendale College and was a member of the U.S. National Bobsledding Team.
He was mentored by John Barnes at Glendale High and John Tansley at Glendale college.
"They made the biggest difference in my life," La Rusch said. "I told my wife that if we have a boy, his name is going to be John. Our first boy's name is John, [who is considered one of the top outside hitters as a senior at Long Beach Poly]."
Hale thanked Jim Sartoris — his coach at Glendale college and the chairman of the hall of fame foundation — for molding him into an outstanding athlete.
"The coaches I had, including Coach [John] Cicuto were such good people," said Hale, who played at Glendale College in 1986 before starring at USC and playing in three Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills from 1991-93.
"They cared so much about the players and so much about the players as people. These guys cared about the individual. This place turned my career around. It reignited my passion for the game. When you find someone who motivates you, it makes it easy to play for them. It is my favorite coaching staff. It's probably my favorite place to play."
Evangelatos said Sartoris and Cicuto were influential in his life.
"Next to my father, they were probably the most influential people in my life," Evangelatos said.
Evangelatos was honored for Meritorious Service. He was a Vaquero from 1976-77. In 2004, Evangelatos and former teammate Jeff Orlando were asked to lead a campaign to raise funds for a new scoreboard for Sartoris Field. Evangelatos was a part of a group that approached Philadelphia Eagles Coach Andy Reid, his former teammate, about supporting the scoreboard project.
The scoreboard was entirely funded by the Reid family. Evangelatos introduced Sartoris as the field was officially named in his honor. Sartoris has spent more than 40 years at Glendale college, first as a student-athlete, then as the head football coach, then as the athletic director before retiring in 2006.
Said Sartoris: "It's so gratifying that they express their appreciation. But I don't think it's me. We've developed a philosophy with our program and been consistent with it and instilled that philosophy with our players. It's a contribution of every player and every coach who has come through our program."