"It's a sacred mantle for somebody to call you coach." - Brandon Staley
Montebello High School Assistant Coach Gabriel Arellano, who passed away in January after spending nearly a week in the hospital battling Covid-19, was the embodiment of the quote above. Now, in his memory, the Los Angeles Chargers have posthumously nominated him as the team's 2020-2021 Don Shula High School Coach of the Year.
Unlike most other Don Shula High School Coach of the Year nominees, Coach Arellano wasn't actually Montebello's head coach. Coaching wasn't even the profession that primarily provided for his family. It was, rather, a selfless calling. An opportunity to serve. And now, it's a life that lives on because, to countless students, he wasn't just a coach – he was their coach.
Coach Arellano began his coaching career as wide receivers and special teams coach at Rosemead High School in 2008. While promotions at his full-time job would occasionally limit his ability to be as involved in coaching as he'd like, he never let anything keep him away from the game. Frequently volunteering his time after work and on the weekends for more than eight years at Rosemead, Coach Arellano arrived at his hometown Montebello High School in 2016-2017. In addition to working with his familiar wide receivers position group, he also served as the team's "eye in the sky" during games – ensuring the cameras were filming correctly and managing the game film software adjustments so student-athletes could better utilize them for recruiting purposes.
According to his fellow coaches, as soon as the scoreboard hit triple zeros, Coach Arellano could be found on the field high-fiving everyone in sight. That didn't mean that Saturdays and Sundays following the game were a time to rest, though. They were times to make the team better. Assisting with breaking down film, creating game plans and grading each player's performance from the prior week – what Coach Arellano did behind the scenes, and the experience he shared with his fellow coaches while asking for nothing in return, spoke volumes. And if actions speak louder than words, Coach Arellano was the loudest person at Montebello.
"Our football program was better because of Gabe and the time he spent with us," explained Montebello High School Head Football Coach Pete Gonzalez. "There is no doubt that Gabe's spirit is intertwined throughout our program's accomplishments, successes and legacy."
Coach Arellano was 39 years old. He is survived by his wife Rena, his children Nathan (15) and Lana (14) and everyone who was fortunate enough to call him coach.