The friends of former San Fernando High football coach Sean Blunt tell you of his passion for the game, his zest for competition, his love of life and his devotion to wife Kim and sons Kameron, 14 and Kory, 9. They also say he was taken away far, far too early.
Blunt died on Sunday, Aug. 10, in his home following a nearly nine-month battle with colon cancer. He was 48. Funeral services are scheduled for Aug. 22 at noon in the Calvary Baptist Church in Pacoima.
He was a fixture in Valley area football starting with a standout career at San Fernando High where he earned All-CIty honors as a defensive back and graduated in 1983. Blunt went on to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he was a four-year letterman in football, a teammate to eventual NFL star Randall Cunningham, and is in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame. He eventually became a teacher and was the head coach at San Fernando High from 1993-2004. He also had assistant coaching jobs at Monroe and St. Genevieve, the latter since 2012.
The reaction to Blunt’s death was shock and mourning.
“We are devastated around here,” said San Fernando baseball coach Armando Gomez. “On the field he was a gamer. Off the field he was about helping everybody. Even on a bad day you’d get a smile from Coach Blunt. I feel like a I lost a brother. He was my first real friend when I got to San Fernando.”
St. Genevieve football coach Bret Huff, who is Blunt’s cousin, said, “He was the best man at my wedding. He was always there for me. Whatever need I had, he was there always.”
UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, “We were saddened to learn that we lost a member of the UNLV football family. We’ve been hearing from a lot of Sean’s friends after his passing and he is being remembered here as a great teammate and an even better person. He was a true Rebel and will be missed by a lot of folks.”
And Blunt’s UNLV football coach Harvey Hyde remembered Blunt as “a defensive back from a very successful high school program and he came in and was a great team guy who brought a great attitude to everything he did at UNLV … I remember him as just a great kid and it’s a terrible loss for everyone.”
Former San Fernando High football coach Tom Hernandez was also hit hard by Blunt’s passing. Hernandez knew Blunt as well as anyone; he coached him as a player, hired Blunt as an assistant, helped him get the head coaching job when Hernandez wanted a break from coaching, came back to join Blunt’s staff, and then resumed the head coaching duties when Blunt wanted to step away and spend more time with his family.
Hernandez had visited Blunt on Sunday.
“When he went to UNLV, he was so well liked and appreciated by the coaches there he became a graduate assistant coach, which at the time was hard to get,” Hernandez said. “I called him and asked when was ready to come back here. He finished up getting his teaching credential, and was hired as a full-time teacher. He became an assistant (for four years), and when I told him he was ready to take over as head coach and I had to get away, he said yes. He stayed 11 years.
“He loved football and the parts not everybody likes — watching film on the weekend, scouting, game planning. He was really strong at that. When he said a play would work, we would go with it. He was a great technician.”
Beyond his football acumen, Hernandez said, Blunt had a sense of empathy that helped him connect with all types of athletes, not just the obviously talented.
“Our thing was the kids came first,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes some of the kids shouldn’t have been on the team. But we thought it would be a good experience; keep them out of trouble, develop them as young men.
“His big thing was competition. You had to compete with best to beat the best, he said, so he’d always try to get the hardest schedule he could. The outcome was important, but it was the competition the kids learned from. He knew that was something they’d remember, especially the second- and third-string kids.”
Blunt brought those same concepts and ideals to St. Genevieve, Huff said.
“He had the ability to engage the kids and establish a rapport, and get their respect. He was a great teacher and motivator — very passionate. He could pull the best out of the kids … His coaching style was not just specifically about football schemes, it was also about things they could carry off the field into everyday life.”
Blunt was feeling tired and rundown last December when he went to a doctor for an examination. He was diagnosed with Stage Four colon cancer, Huff said.
“Because he was so busy with high school football, youth football, and afterschool programs, I can see how he attributed being tired to just not getting enough rest,” Huff said.
A barbecue fundraiser was held in February to help raise money for medical treatment. Nearly 600 friends, former players and teammates, and concerned community residents gathered at San Fernando High in support.
“He shook everyone’s hand, and thanked everyone who came,” Hernandez said.
Blunt sought alternative treatment to fight the cancer at the Oasis Of Hope facility in Mexico in March and kept people aware of his progress on his Facebook page. He stayed for a month and returned to California. One of his final postings was on July 12: “Hello Everyone, I would like to ask you all to keep the prayers coming. I’m doing my best. I’m fighting for my life and I’m praying for a miracle. Thank you!! May GOD bless us all. Coach Blunt.”
A final fundraiser took place on Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Tequilas Cantina in Burbank, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to Blunt’s family.