Mr. Steve Grady ’63: A living Loyola football legend

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By Conor Gaffney and Ben Donohoe

With over 350 games of coaching under his belt and an estimated 1,100 young men who have participated for his teams throughout a timespan of 34 years, former head coach of varsity football Mr. Steve Grady ‘63 can claim dominion to one of the most distinguished and successful football programs in Loyola High School history.

Mr. Grady, who was born in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw District, arrived to Loyola High School in 1959 after graduating from Transfiguration School in Leimert Park.  Upon his arrival to Loyola, Mr. Grady commenced a multi-sport athletic career that included participation in basketball, baseball and football.

After playing all three sports as a freshman, Mr. Grady quickly developed a passion for football and earned a starting position on the 1960 varsity football team.  As a sophomore Mr. Grady played defensive back for the Cubs, whose record consisted of 5-3-1.  

Mr. Grady’s success on the football field continued throughout his junior and senior years.  As a junior, Mr. Grady played both wingback (offense) as well as middle linebacker (defense), the position for which he earned a spot on the 1961 All-League Team for the Catholic League.

According to Mr. Lewis Stueck, Loyola’s varsity football coach from 1958 to 1967, Mr. Grady’s athletic talents distinguished him from other players on the field. “He was a consummate athlete. He loved to play everything. I never compare players because when they come from different eras, it’s not a fair comparison, but for his time, Steve was obviously the most outstanding player in CIF…”

Mr. Richard Deakers ‘63 recalled Mr. Grady’s distinct athleticism on the field.  “Of course, when you are in the tailback or QB [quarterback]position, you take on a leadership role. His experience, ability and toughness was second to none on the team.  He not only was one of the toughest guys on the team but at 6 feet and about 195 [pounds]was also one of the biggest guys on the team,” Deakers said.  

Mr. Grady entered his final season as a Cub in the fall of 1962 as a wingback.  He ran for 2,097 yards and scored a total of 217 points in twelve games.

Additionally, Mr. Grady was the first-ranked player in the state in terms of total touchdowns with 45 during the 1962 season.

Mr. Grady recalled the prosperity of the 1962 season, saying, “In 1962 we had great success.  We went 12-0; we won the CIF Championship at the Coliseum against Anaheim [by a score of]14-3.  I was named CIF Player of the Year and State Player of the Year, and a lot of the guys on the team made All-CIF,” Grady said.  

Of the many accomplishments of the 1962 season, Mr. Grady remembered particularly his experience of winning the CIF Championship.

“For our senior year in the semifinals, we beat Glendale 7-0 in a real tough game, and then in the CIF championship game the following week we beat Anaheim 14-3, but to be in the locker room in the Coliseum, to run out of the tunnel at the Coliseum, to win a game at the Coliseum as a 17 and 18 year old kid—there is just nothing better,” Mr. Grady said.

Mr. Grady’s success did not deter his obligation to be a leader on the field, according to Stueck. “Steve was a very quiet type of leader. He was always on time, always worked hard, didn’t say very much, but his behavior and actions clearly were an influence on the great success of those teams,” Stueck said.

Mr. Grady also had a unique demeanor for a player with such talent, according to Mr. Paul Horgan ‘62, the California Interscholastic Federation’s 1962 Player of the Year.  “He didn’t take himself too seriously, which can be unusual for great athletes.  He has a good sense of humor [and]was a fairly normal guy; in fact, a normal guy—I shouldn’t say ‘fairly’—for a guy with his extraordinary athletic talent and his achievement,” Mr. Horgan said.

Mr. Grady’s athletic talents led to a multitude of scholarship offers from a variety of colleges nationwide, but he ultimately decided to attend the University of Southern California.  “I grew up rooting for SC; I had gone to a lot of USC games, so even though I was recruited by Notre Dame and UCLA and Stanford, I decided to go to USC,” Mr. Grady said.

At USC Mr. Grady played one year of baseball as well as four years of football. During his collegiate career, Mr. Grady was part of the 1967 National Championship team and played for USC’s most-winning football coach, John McKay.

Mr. Grady’s college football career was followed by a brief period in the National Football League. Mr. Grady was drafted in the 17th round of the 1968 draft by the Denver Broncos but was released shortly after. He was then signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as a “taxi” player for two weeks to provide relief to the team in the event that a Bengals running back was drafted to the Vietnam War.  

Eventually, Mr. Grady returned to Los Angeles and began working for his father’s rental equipment company.   He learned of a position opening at Loyola while he was relaxing at the beach and thought that coaching would be an enjoyable part-time job.  Mr. Grady applied for the position and was hired by Loyola in 1970 as a part-time assistant coach to the sophomore football team.  

Mr. Grady soon developed a love for coaching and decided to pursue a career in high school athletics and education.  He officially joined the Loyola faculty in 1972, and in 1975 he helped coach the Cubs to a national championship.  In 1976, six years after getting hired as an assistant coach, Mr. Grady was named the head coach of the varsity football team.

As head coach of the football program, Mr. Grady’s main goal was to provide his players and coaches with the greatest chance for victory. “That was my whole philosophy– to put our team in a position to be successful.  That means we lift weights during spring, and we lift them hard. It means we are in shape when we go into the season; it means we practice hard and with a purpose; it means leaving nothing to chance,” Mr. Grady said.

Throughout his coaching career, Mr. Grady also emphasized the value of sportsmanship.   “I wanted to beat [opponents]but honestly, fairly, and with class. My big thing with Loyola and the school itself is class, and I wanted to make sure that our football team emulated that,” Mr. Grady said.    

Many of Mr. Grady’s players and fellow coaches recalled his tough personality and hard work ethic.

“He is more than a great guy; he is tough, and I love that about him,” Mr. Paul Tyler ‘84 said.

Mr. Tyler, who coached with Mr. Grady for ten years and is now a public address announcer for Loyola football games, said that Mr. Grady demanded undivided effort from everyone who was a member of his program.  “I think what I learned from him [Mr. Grady] is to give it 100 percent every single time you are out there. That is what you are out there for, so give it 100 percent.  Don’t waste time—don’t waste everybody else’s time; don’t waste your own time, so that was the lesson I learned from Steve and what I try to apply in my own life on a daily basis.”  

Principal Mr. Frank Kozakowski, who coached with Mr. Grady for a total of 29 years,  said, “Football is a very strategic game; I think a lot of people see it as a very physical game, but it is probably more mental than it is physical, so he just did a great job of focusing us to prepare, and because of his incredible work ethic, we worked really hard.”  

Mr. Mike Gilhooly ‘88 agreed that Mr. Grady’s intense work ethic transferred to the other members of his program.  “Coach was always hard on his guys and kept us in line, knowing what we had to do to reach our goals. We were ultra-prepared through his hard work, and I think his hard work rubbed off on his players and his coaching staff and made us work equally hard. We just always felt that we were perfectly prepared to play against anybody, and I think that really made us successful,” Mr. Gilhooly said.

Assistant Principal for Faculty Supervision, Dr. Ricardo Pedroarias ‘84, agreed that Mr. Grady’s work ethic transferred to his players.  “He exemplifies everything about competition if you do it right, [if]you do it in a fair way [and if]you try to outwork your opponent, and that was his model–he knew we weren’t the most talented, but his hard work as a coach is a testament to our work ethic as players,” Dr. Pedroarias said.

Many of the individuals who played for and later returned to coach alongside Mr. Grady witnessed him emphasize the same tenants of hard work and effort.  

Mr. Gilhooly, who returned in 1990 as an assistant coach, said, “Whenever we lost our final game of the season, . . . . [Mr. Grady] would say that ‘If you guys would do it all over again, then all of us are successful,’ meaning that if you put in all that hard work, all that sweat, all that effort, and if you were willing to do it again, that would make him [Mr. Grady] successful. I think that every kid who left the chapel that night would say, ‘Yes.’”

Mr. Grady’s character and personality also influenced the members of his program beyond the football field.  

“I think the number of players Coach Grady’s touched reaches far beyond just numbers. He’s touched players, [and]I think he’s touched families.  He’s touched and coached both fathers and sons, he’s coached brothers and cousins, and just through the years, I think that’s rubbed off and created a huge Loyola family that everyone can really feel a part of, and that’s all because of Coach Grady,” Gilhooly said.

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Mr. Adam Gonzalez ‘02, who played for Grady as a starting varsity quarterback, said that aspects of Grady’s coaching philosophy have helped him throughout his own life: “It was his idea in ‘bending’ and not ‘breaking’ that has gotten me as well as many others I have spoke to through life’s greatest and most simple challenges. I literally had no doubt that we were able to defeat the opponent regardless of who they were because of his presence as our leader.”

Dr. Pedroarias also said that Mr. Grady has inspired him in his life. “He is easily the person who has influenced me most professionally and personally at Loyola, and I know that many people would probably say the same thing, so like I said, so much of who I am as a teacher, man, father, and coach is because of Coach Grady.

Mr. Grady enjoyed several aspects of coaching, including the “camaraderie of the coaches.”  

“We used to come in every day, and most people don’t know this, but we were working seven days a week during the season.  We came in on Saturday and Sunday, brought the kids in on Saturday, and then we would stay.  Then, we all would come back on Sunday, grade the film,” Mr. Grady said.

Mr. Kozakowski said that the coaching staff under Mr. Grady operated not only with focus but also with unity: “We worked hard, we worked long hours, but we had fun.  We really had a great time; we enjoyed each other’s company—not just he and I but the whole coaching staff.  It was good times, good memories, and I think when you work hard for something, you get some satisfaction.  We won some pretty incredible games, and certainly, the players earned it, but we put them in a position to do that with our preparation, so there is a great deal of satisfaction with that.”

Mr. Grady retired from the head coach position in 2004, but his coaching career has been accompanied by numerous accomplishments.  Mr. Grady has achieved more than 200 high school victories as a coach, 45 of which include California Interscholastic Federation AAAA/Big Five Conference/Division I playoff wins.  With CIF Championship victories in 1990 and 2003, Mr. Grady claimed the CIF Championship twice during his 29-year coaching career as varsity head coach.  

Additionally, Mr. Grady has won a multitude of awards.  He was named television station KABC-7’s and the National Football League’s Play Football campaign’s Coach of the Year.  In addition, Grady won the Riddell Footwear Coach of the Year Award for the West Region in 2003, and in 2004 Mr. Grady and his coaching staff were recognized by the National Football Foundation and Collegiate Hall of Fame’s Los Angeles chapter for the success, discipline and sportsmanship emulated by Loyola High School football teams under Grady’s direction.

In 2006 Mr. Grady was presented with the CIF’s Clare Van Hoorebeke Award, which acknowledged Mr. Grady’s significant contributions to high school football in the Southern California region.

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Mr. Grady’s most recent achievement was his induction into the CIF Southern Section’s Hall of Fame.  Mr. Grady as well as several other high school sports coaches were honored at a luncheon in Long Beach on Oct. 14.

“When you’re talking about the Hall of Fame particularly, the Southern Section is a big section and [includes]a lot of coaches, so it’s a pretty good honor that I truly respect and feel very, very humbled to have,” Mr. Grady said.  

Mr. Tyler believed, given Mr. Grady’s stature as a coach and mentor, that his induction was overdue. “If anybody deserves it, it is him.  I’m surprised it took so long to get him in there with all that he has accomplished in his career in high school football at that level,” Mr. Tyler said.

Mr. Kozakowski agreed that Mr. Grady is well-deserving of the award: “I certainly think that induction is well deserved.  It is certainly in recognition of an outstanding career and some accomplishments both as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach.”

Mr. Drew Casani ‘91 also agreed that Mr. Grady’s induction was fitting, especially because of Mr. Grady’s coaching talents.  “I’ve been at every level of football: I played in high school, I played in college, I coached in high school and then worked in the NFL as a scout for 8 years, so I’ve been around players, coaches at every level, and he was the best. He was the best coach that I’ve ever been around as a player or as a person that’s been able to sit in meeting rooms and hear a coach teach and communicate with his team,” Mr. Casani said.  

Mr. Casani added, “There were teams that were talented, and there were teams that were less talented, but what he got out of those teams was always something greater than the sum of the talent of the team.”

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