- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2006

Al Saunders received good news — not that it wasn’t a surprise — when Joe Gibbs confirmed that Saunders would return in 2007 as the Washington Redskins’ associate head coach-offense.

But Saunders sustained two big losses this week. On Sunday, the man he calls a “mentor” and “surrogate father”, former San Jose State coach/athletic director Bob Bronzan, died in California. And on Wednesday, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt passed away. Saunders was a Chiefs assistant coach for 15 years.

“Those two passings have put everything in perspective,” Saunders said after practice yesterday.

Saunders was a defensive back and receiver at San Jose State (1966-68). Bronzan also worked with Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil.

“He was a dominant figure as an athletic director and coach in northern California,” Saunders said.

Hunt was a dominant figure in professional football, founding the AFL and naming the Super Bowl.

“It’s not only what he has done as a sportsman and businessman but what kind of person he was that leaves a mark with you,” Saunders said.

Saunders gave two of his favorite Hunt stories.

Story No. 1: In 1989, Saunders was receivers coach with the Chiefs under first-year head coach Marty Schottenheimer. The Chiefs lost 23-13 to Minnesota in the preseason opener.

“We thought we had a great football team, we thought we had a great training camp and then we came out and lost,” Saunders said. “We’re all in the coach’s locker room with our heads down and in walks Lamar Hunt. He stands in the middle of the room and says, ‘Guys, what a great drive at the end! We are going to be so good! I’m so excited to have you here, I know it’s going to be a great season so keep up the good work.’ He turns around and walks out. He was always so positive and optimistic.”

Story No. 2: One Saturday night, Saunders and his wife, Karen, attended their son Bob’s high school football game in Kansas City.

“They were playing their biggest rival,” Saunders said. “My wife and I are sitting there and up through the stands comes Lamar. He sits down and says, ‘I’ve never had the opportunity to watch a high school game in Kansas City and I understand your son is playing. I wanted to come and support him.’ It said something that someone of his stature would come to a game to watch the son of one of his assistant coaches. That was unbelievably special for me.”

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