Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series of articles that features accomplished Galt High School and Liberty Ranch High School graduates. If you are interested in being considered as part of this series or you know a GHS or LRHS graduate with notable accomplishments, career or otherwise, please email Faith Lewis at faithaeriel14@gmail.com or Bonnie Rodriguez at editor@galtherald.com.

There are football fans and then there are people like Alex Zavala, who seem to have the game built right into their DNA. After playing football throughout his school years and beyond, it finally came time for him to hang up the helmet and kick off the cleats, but he didn’t go far. Instead, he traded in his shoulder pads for a whistle. Coaching has since taken him across the Atlantic Ocean and back.

“Galt’s always been home to me. I left for a couple years,” Zavala said, “and just always found a way to come back home.”

Zavala has good memories of playing football at Galt High School, where he was quarterback as a sophomore and outside linebacker during his junior and senior years. He describes his coaches as role models whose tough love and unwillingness to compromise on getting your priorities in order – like homework and good grades – taught him the value of hard work and dedication.

“Everything I learned from them, I use it everywhere I go,” he said, “with school, with my daughter, with the job that I have now, with coaching my players – just that relationship, building that relationship with my players and also just holding myself accountable and holding them accountable. I’m very hard on myself, making sure everything is done the way it’s supposed to be done, not cutting corners. Everything I do goes back to playing sports at Galt High School.”

After graduating from GHS in 1998, Zavala attended Sierra College with hopes of going into law enforcement.

“Law enforcement was all I wanted to do. I got out of high school and that’s all I thought about,” he said.

At the same time, he continued to follow his love of football, playing for Sierra College’s team one year and then continuing on to a semipro league with the Sacramento Wolverines and the Norcal Lawmen out of Walnut Creek.

“With that team, we won State Championship, and we were nationally ranked number one for about 16 weeks,” he said.

But before he really got a chance to see how far football could take him, he injured his knee, effectively ending not only his future football career, but also his dreams of being in law enforcement.

Having worked in the restaurant industry throughout high school and during his time playing in the semipros, Zavala fell back on the familiar and returned to the food and beverage industry. But he never got over his love of football, and it wasn’t long before he was called back to the field – this time as coach.

Several of the people on the Sacramento Wolverines and the Norcal Lawmen teams were also high school football coaches, which got Zavala thinking about different ways he could be involved with the game. In 2009, he started coaching at Galt High School and since then has taken over the Jr. Warrior program and also coached at Sierra College.

“When you’ve played the game and then you go and coach it, you know the dos and don’ts and you learn from the things you did do or didn’t do,” he said, “so you’re able to relate to the players and talk to them about certain things.”

While coaching at Sierra College, another coach asked Zavala to take his place coaching a French American football team called La Courneuve Flash in La Courneuve, France, located just north of Paris. One Skype interview and three weeks later, Zavala was on a flight to Paris, where he lived and worked for the better part of a year.

“Most of the players spoke English,” he explained. “Whenever we had any kind of communication barriers, what we did was we’d speak football.”

After Zavala returned home, he was offered another position in Italy, but he had just found he was going to become a father and decided it was time to settle down closer to home. He went into business with his cousin and now helps run El Patio in Woodland. But football is never far from his mind. He hopes to finish his degree in kinesiology in the fall and get hired to coach and teach weight lifting and other physical education classes at a local university.

“My goal is to keep moving up,” he said.

Zavala hopes to return to Europe to coach again in the future and aspires to coach in the NFL.