UC Davis head football coach Dan Hawkins, a North State native from Big Valley High School in Bieber, holds up the jersey he wore Saturday at Shasta College from the inaugural Lions All-Star Football game in 1978. (Photo by Mike Daly/Shasta County Sports)
Dan Hawkins is living proof a small school player can not only hang with the “big guys” on the gridiron but succeed in the sport on the biggest of stages.
Coming from Big Valley in Bieber, Hawkins opened up his keynote speech at the Lions All-Star Football banquet at Shasta College Saturday by holding up his No. 44 jersey from the inaugural 1978 game when he played fullback before moving on to play football at UC Davis.
Since then, he “went around the globe” coaching at Sacramento State, Willamette University, Boise State, University of Colorado and back to UC Davis where he helped the Aggies to a 10-win season and a FCS playoff appearance last fall. Through his experiences, his message of “disconnect from the product, focus on the process” resonated with the 70-plus players, their families and coaches in attendance.
“When you get out of your comfort zone is when you find out the most about yourself,” Hawkins said. “Don’t be afraid to fail as long as you can take notes and learn from it.”
The 42nd edition of the Lions All-Star 4-C1 football game is set for June 22 at Chico High School with the proceeds going to Camp McCumber for children with diabetes. The game features graduating seniors from Yuba City to the Oregon border and raises about $50,000 through ticket sales, advertising and concessions, said Ray Odom, Director of Lions All-Star Football. Tickets are being sold for $10 online at by clicking this link.
SEE MORE: Lions All-Star Football 4-C1 website
Hawkins drew from his personal experiences from the Lions game 41 years ago when he played for Anderson High and North State football legend Bob Reid, the Northern Section’s all-time leader in wins. It was an eye-opener for him but it prepared him for how to handle adversity for the rest of his career.
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“It’s daunting coming here from a small school and playing for coach Reid, he was like Vince Lombardi and some of the other players were like celebrities,” Hawkins said. “The whole time you’re running around with your eyes wide open.”
Although the Lions have separated 11-man and 8-man games, guys like Fall River’s Gavin Dobson will be one of those coming from the smallest 11-man division squads to play with the boys from the “city.” It gives him a chance to line up with the likes of Foothill’s Jayden Gordon, Enterprise’s Leslie Cummings, Anderson’s Parker Phillips and West Valley’s Devin Low – all on the 11-man North Squad.
“It’s cool to see what we can do against these schools that are so much bigger that say you’re not as good just because you’re from a smaller school,” Dobson said.
Lions All-Star week is also a time for those once storied rivalries like Enterprise-Shasta, Chico-Pleasant Valley, Fall River-Burney, Corning-Red Bluff, West Valley-Anderson to be pushed aside for the big picture. It might take some getting used to, said Enterprise’s two-way star Leslie Cummings, one of the standouts on the North roster.
“It’s going to be a change for sure, I haven’t looked at it the right way so far,” Cummings said with a smile. “Once the week comes we’ll settle our untied ends and everything will be OK.”
West Valley’s Greg Grandell, who guided the Eagles to a Northern Section Division III championship and NorCal 5-AA appearance, is the North coach for the fifth time. Grandell is 3-1 as the coach in All-Star games and assembled a team with one all-Northern Section player compared to the South (12-11) but has star power and speed with five 1,000-yard rushers last season. Plus, Grandell wanted players who would be successful off the field as well.
“I really looked deep into character kids,” Grandell said. “We did our research and went for what we believe are quality men of honor and guys that will do things the way we’re going to ask them to do when they’re here and that ends up being a good team too.”
Grandell’s counterpart is Chico’s Jason Alvistur, who guided the Panthers to an Eastern Athletic League title and a Northern Section Division II finals appearance.
The 8-man North squad is headed up by Mike Miller of Hayfork and features three Redding Christian players and four from Big Valley. The South 8-man roster is coached by Dave Keller of Greenville.
Eight of the 10 Shasta County schools are represented in the Lions All-Star game with Central Valley and U-Prep being the two programs without a player selected. The rosters often change by kickoff due to family vacations, injuries or previous commitments.
11-man North Team
11-man South Team
8-man North Team
8-man South Team