DeJulius unassuming type of coach
high school: Fifty years of students learned life lessons from DJ on the gridiron
Glen Jackson says he shouldn’t, but halfway through his 69th year, Bob DeJulius is retiring.
Even though he still looks the same as he did in 1961 when he started his journey helping to mould bright-eyed, naive kids through coaching them in football, he says he is ready to put his feet up. After all, his four children have given he and his wife 13 grand children.
He will vacate his unpretentious principal’s office at Holy Cross High School in North Surrey at the end of the month having been the 28-yearold Catholic school’s founding principal. There will be a gala on June 25 where he will be feted in a grand way, but on Thursday alumni organized a separate fundraising bursary bash that will be offered in his name. About 300 attended.
This is a well-liked gentleman who has loved coaching football and teaching kids. He was offering his wisdom to a class Wednesday and coached the 2009 Crusaders offensive linemen, five decades after he began taking on his little brother’s peewee team in when the previous coach abandoned it.
“We got lucky and won it [the league title],” “DJ” said the other day. He was hooked.
He coached at Notre Dame with Al Blesch (1961-62) and Vancouver College (twice) with Cal Murphy beginning in 1963 when he was still going to UBC and then again in the ’80s as head coach after he was let go at SFU. He coached Notre Dame coach and vice principal George Oswald and against him. “George [quarterback] nearly beat us [Vancouver College] single-handedly in the championship. He had us down 19-0. I think we won 20-19.”
Much of DeJulius’s notoriety, however, was earned at SFU where he was, an assistant to Lorne Davies, co-head coach with Pokey Allen and then head coach. He recruited such luminaries as Lui Passaglia, fabled linebacker Glen Jackson as well as other CFL greats such as Nick Bastaja, Dan Ferrone, Tom Kudaba, Nelson Martin, Lyall Woznesensky and Randy Graham.
The Clansmen beat University of Montana and Nevada at Reno the same season. In 1976, they had five players selected in the first round of the CFL’s Canadian draft. That was after the B.C. Lions had made Jackson one of their two territorial protections. Passaglia was the fifth pick.
Besides being a terrific coach, he was a good recruiter — it helped that SFU offered scholarships — and helped get players offseason employment. PNE boss Mario Caravetta was DeJulius’s uncle and resource for offering SFU players jobs around the fairgrounds. The coveted ones were as ushers at Vancouver Canucks games when they played in the Pacific Coliseum.
That job creation carried over. The Crusaders first head coach was former Clansmen Frank Roberto and Jackson has been a teacher and assistant coach there for eons. DeJulius coached in ’88 and lost the double-A title in triple overtime to St. Thomas More. Then he became an assistant to Ron Smeltzer (1991), Chris Blesch and Ken Buchan. He proudly wears a triple-A championship ring won in ’07 with Buchan as head coach. Big ego isn’t part of his vocabulary.
“Bob is a fanatic when it comes to football,” said Jackson, who only had him as a coach his first year at SFU when he played tight end because DJ coached offence. Jackson was switched to linebacker as a sophomore. “He has an amazing memory; remembers every game, every year, every player.”
Passaglia spent a lot more time with him because he was a quarterback/receiver/punter/kicker. “But every time they had a quarterback who could throw, I went to receiver.”
Lions vice-president of business development George Chayka, who was a running back for DJ back in the day, said he still recites a speech he heard from DeJulius. “My staff hears it at least once a year.”
By his recollection, Chayka heard it as a life lesson after a tough loss. “It was to never assume. Because when you assume something you make an ‘ass out of u and me.’”
There are literally hundreds of kids who grew up to be adults who have similar things they learned listening to DeJulius.