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First-year South San Francisco head football coach Dion Evans had a daunting task on his hands.
As he watched senior Luis Bernardino, he didn’t see him as a running back, although that was all he talked about from the time Evans met Bernardino. Evans saw him somewhere else, and he saw he could play along the offensive line as a center at the next level.
But how would Bernardino take the news? Would he sulk? Would he have a ‘me first’ attitude?
All of these questions weighed on Evans’ mind at his new school, which was coming off consecutive winless seasons and scored a combined 20 points over the 20-game 2019 campaign.
“When I break this news, would he fall apart? Would he quit? Would he create mutiny? Would he cause conflict?” Evans said. “And I just said to myself, ‘Well, let’s just look at it at its worst. If he decides to explode in the negative, I have enough time to get beyond it, so let’s just make the move now. Let’s not wait. I don’t want to make the move once we get in the pads. It’s obvious what he needs to be for the future.’”
The worst never happened.
In fact, Bernardino acted in the highest regard.
Bernardino wasn’t concerned about the positional change. His response was whatever is best for the team. He wanted to better those around him. He wanted to better the fortunes at South City.
In that moment, everything changed for the Warriors. South City football was back. Its success began to start in the Evans era.
“That right, as soon as he said that, I think we picked up two victories,” Evans said. “As soon as he said that, we started winning games, and I stopped the meeting at that point and I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to let you understand the historical moment, especially you freshmen.’ I said, ‘I want you to remember this day, and I want you to remember this time because it will be the reason why you’re winning games and you don’t know anything about being 0-20.’
“I said, ‘In the end, your football success at South San Francisco is going to be because of this sacrifice of Luis Bernardino’ because once he made that sacrifice and embraced it, nobody else had an excuse.”
What that meeting highlighted was Bernardino’s leadership – something he stems from his family background.
Bernardino’s family, particularly on his father’s side, comes from a military background, showing discipline and leadership skills that have translated into him and the future of South San Francisco football.
And Bernardino’s family is what pushes him every day to keep going and pursue his ultimate dreams.
“Family, playing in college,” Bernardino said. “I do it for my folks back home in the Philippines. I do it for those who can’t. I just want to be a figure that people can look up to. Doesn’t matter what size, what nationality you come from. As long as you put in the work and effort, you’ll go far.”
This transition to the center position did not take too long for Bernardino to master either.
He really embraced the position and divulged to Evans that he already boasted some experience at the position, as he played center as a freshman.
“It clicked maybe a couple days after coach announced my position change, and the opportunity for me to attend my first camp, things just started clicking from there on,” Bernardino said. “Coach started bringing me to extra practices, even after practice just helping with techniques and all that.”
Today, Bernardino is the face of South San Francisco.
There is no reason to do it any other way. Bernardino showed the way. He showed the sacrifices needed in order to build a cohesive unit, a cohesive program and a successful program.
Everyone is stepping up to his standard.
“When you make a sacrifice like that, you just get credit,” Evans said. “And he’s like the guy Nick Foles. When you take Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl as a backup quarterback and you win, you ain’t paying for nothing in Philly no more. That’s what Luis Bernardino is. When it comes time to buying stuff, just give him his. Give him his.”
And South San Francisco football’s history changed forever because of Bernardino’s ability to adapt and his willingness to do whatever it takes to better all of those surrounding him.
“He is why the success of South San Francisco in the future will be great,” Evans said. “All of the success can be pinned to him being a sacrificial player with a coach that’s not coached him in one down. He just believed. He believed, and I always tell them to believe what I think about you until you can believe you can believe it for yourself because I’m going to think the highest good.
“I’m going to think about the greatest opportunity, and you may not believe it, but believe what I believe until you can believe it because I know I’m not wrong, and if I am wrong I’m maybe slightly wrong, but I won’t be completely off. That’s for sure.”
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