ALL-USA Football Coach of the Year: Bruce Rollinson, Mater Dei

Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few days, USA TODAY High School Sports will name the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Coach of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year and First- and Second-Team Offense and Defense for football, with the ALL-USA State teams to follow next week.

We begin with ALL-USA Coach of the Year, Bruce Rollinson.


School: Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Record: 15-0

Details: Has been on the faculty at Mater Dei for 42 years and has been the school’s head football coach for 29 seasons, posting a record of 287-33-2, winning six CIF Southern Section titles and three No. 1 finishes in the Super 25 football rankings. He has coached 55 players who have won all-state honors. He was named the National High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year earlier this year. He played football and ran track at Mater Dei and was a defensive back for USC. He is married to Laurie and has two daughters, Carolina Rollinson Flanagan and Catherine Rollinson Pederson, and one grandson, Matthew Flanagan.

In Rollinson’s own words:

Toughest offseason workout: We use a little (blocking) sled on the field. It’s an individual Prowler. When we introduced those during hell week, that made a big difference. We have certain conditioning days that we’ve earmarked and every position has to spend 10 minutes on the Prowler. It’s sheer torture on them. Our toughest day of training during the season is the day after the game and our players are getting used to those.

Favorite game-day rituals: When they were little, my two daughters would draw me pictures, or little notes. I still have one of the original notes. It’s a picture of the Mayflower drawn by my youngest daughter, Catherine. All of the people in it are stick figures, except for one that has blonde hair. As they grew up, the pictures developed into little notes. I will not read them until I get to the stadium. They are very supportive. They have drunk the Kool-Aid even worse than my players.

Biggest accomplishment: I’d think winning the first CIF championship in 1991, that’s always been high on my list. To spin the entire program around in two years, with the help of good assistants, and take out the No. 1 team to win the championship was a big deal.

Favorite phone app: The Weather Channel because I’ve always worried about heat or rain.

What motivates me: It’s still a challenge. I’ve already started to think about next season. People still believe I’m going to shock everybody next by retiring, no matter whom I tell that I’m not going to retire. When you say I can’t do something, I will try to prove you wrong. A while back, there were people saying the game had passed me by, especially after the 2011 season, when we did not make the playoffs. The administration stuck by me and I reinvented myself and blew the program up. This is our third time we’ve made the section finals in the past five years. Don’t tell me I can’t do something.

Fondest memory this season: I would tell you there are so many great plays, so many memories. I think when we beat Bishop Gorman, that’s when I knew the (players) knew they were good. At that point, I knew we were going to roll from there on in. I saw how hard we played. At game time, it was 92 degrees and the humidity was ridiculous. There were high schools in Orange County that canceled their games that night. After our guys won, they didn’t go crazy. It was a very businesslike thing. I was thinking, ‘Look at these guys, they know this is just the first part of the whole picture.’ I go back to that moment, how we won that game without one of our superstars (Amon-Ra St. Brown.).

Personality turn-off: Liars.

Guilty TV pleasures: HGTV with my wife, but this time of year, she makes me watch the Hallmark Christmas movies.

Living person I admire: Fortunately, my high school coach at Mater Dei, Dick Coury, is still alive. I still talk to him two or three times a week. I always admire him. He epitomizes coaches. I have learned to calm down from watching him. He’s a good Catholic man. I really look up to him, like any of his ex-players.

Favorite oldie: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Favorite current song: I like Happy (by Pharrell Williams).

Least-favorite class: Any math class I’ve ever taken. I still don’t know how I got through algebra or geometry.

Favorite teachers: I’m so bad at names. I wish I could remember my eighth-grade teacher, a nun at Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange, Calif. I was a little bit of a juvenile delinquent. She pulled me aside and told me, ‘You have great leadership qualities. It’s what you want to do with it. They are going to follow you.’ Even back then, I knew she was telling me not to waste my talents.

Yearbook mention, besides football: They took all the pictures for the yearbook for the Class of 1967 in the gym. A lot of those pictures I shouldn’t be in. I photobombed the entire performing arts and got in some of the science club pictures.

I’d like to come back as: I’ve always said I should have been a rock and roll singer or a truck driver. In 1960, we pulled out of New York to move to California because of my dad’s health and back then, I wanted to be a truck driver. I also say rock and roll singer because I’ve always liked to watch people perform.