By Zasha Hayes
Retired East Los Angeles College football coach Al Padilla was an exceptional man with a personality to match. The former ELAC coach died on Oct. 4 due to kidney problems. Padilla had been struggling with kidney problems for the past few years and spent the last days of his life in the hospital. He sadly died in his sleep at the age of 90.
Padilla was a resident of Monterey Park when he started working at ELAC in 1970 at the age of 40. He was hired to be the head coach of the football team and retired in 1995 after 25 years of coaching.
“He was one of my best coaches. He was my coach for the high school senior all-star game and at ELAC. He was always fair and in a good mood. He wasn’t your typical coach,” former football player and former Editor in Chief of ELAC Campus News Curtis Taylor said.
Hrair Shekerjian, a long time friend of Padilla and former ELAC counselor and his family, described him as a friendly and outgoing person with anybody and because of that, people were drawn to him.
Shekerjian said, “He was a very positive person. He liked hard work, and agreed with setting goals for oneself; he always thought that athletics were good, but finishing your education was so much more important. Even so, he was well respected with both his high school team and college,” he said.
Before ELAC, Padilla played football and baseball at Roosevelt High School and eventually advanced to being a player at Los Angeles City College. After LACC, he transferred to Occidental College and gained the title of most inspirational player. Padilla became a member of Occidental College’s Football Hall of Fame in 1972. Padilla graduated from Occidental with a bachelors in Physical Education and Kinesiology.
Padilla began his coaching career at Black-Poxe Military School in 1953 and coached at Garfield High School preceding his career as a college coach. He left the school after winning the league in 1961 with his high school players.
Padilla believed that the community was everything. One of the ways he showed this belief was when he co-founded the Booster Club for the football team.
Parents were the main people he encouraged to join, as a way to interact with their children. However, Padilla welcomed anyone who was willing to join the club with open arms. A direct result of his leadership and coaching skills were shown when the ELAC’s football team won the California Championship in 1974.
Padilla was soon after given the title of the 1974 California Community College Coach of the Year, and was named the coach of the year in 1975. During the football season of 1975, Padilla explained how a team works. He also revealed how much work not only he has to put in, but also those around him to keep a team united and together: much like a family.
“Most people think that it is the coach who is the key to the success of the team. But I can say from personal experience that a head coach is only as good as the players he has in his squad and the ability of the coaching staff to teach these players how to play. One person cannot run the whole show,” Padilla said in an interview with Campus News in 1975.
He stepped down from head coach in 1977 and gave the position up, only to take on the position of assistant head coach for the next few years. He was also the head coach of the ELAC baseball team from 1982 to 1984.
The Padilla family now consists of his wife Dora, daughter Lisa and son Steve. Padilla’s oldest son David died a year before him due to a stroke.
There will be no funeral service due to the pandemic. The family will be having a private ceremony. However, they hope that after the pandemic passes they will be able to host a memorial service.