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Vernon Fox insistent on building Faith Lutheran the right way

Updated August 24, 2018 - 10:07 pm

When he sat across from them in 2013, those who would decide if he was the right person to oversee Faith Lutheran football, those who wanted to know his plans for helping the program continue its ascent, you can be sure Vernon Fox trusted those words by which he leads young men.

Proverbs 16:3

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

“I told them that if all they were interested in was winning games and championships, I wasn’t their guy,” Fox said.

Prep football has again kicked off across the valley, and there is every chance Fox has, in his sixth season as coach of the Crusaders, his most talented side yet.

It didn’t open as he hoped Friday night, Faith Lutheran being drilled by visiting Valor Christian of Colorado 35-0.

Still, some believe Faith Lutheran might ultimately prove to be Nevada’s second-best team this season, which for the past decade has meant the team closest to Bishop Gorman.

Liberty has set the recent standard for such designation.

Arbor View looks more than capable in 2018.

It’s all relative, of course. No one locally has been in the same stratosphere as Gorman, which has won nine straight state titles and last lost to a Nevada opponent in 2008.

The Gaels on Friday were humbled by visiting Mater Dei (California) 42-0 in a matchup of top 25 teams in USA Today’s national rankings, signaling that for the second straight year Gorman probably won’t be part of any national championship discussion.

Local football is another matter.

It’s a five-mile stretch along Hualapai Way, that which separates Faith Lutheran and Gorman.

In terms of football, it has been more Las Vegas to Boston.

But if the road to success is always under construction, Faith Lutheran has perhaps arrived at a point in which the opportunity to gain significant ground over the next several years is more realistic than at any other time in Fox’s tenure.

Makes sense. Faith Lutheran is, like Gorman, a faith-based private school with obvious advantages over Class 4A public counterparts. Kids want to play for such teams. The Crusaders have a few Pac-12 commits on this year’s roster.

The question is, how important does the man running things believe such a pursuit is?

Fox isn’t a fake tough guy. Many high school football coaches are. Guys who strut up and down sidelines and scream at kids and stick out their chests and present what is a laughable sense of bravado based exclusively on the foolish expectation of how those in their position should act. Fridays are full of fake tough guys.

Fox, 38, is a real tough guy. He was an undrafted safety out of Fresno State in 2002 who played eight NFL seasons for four teams. Competed at the highest level. Understands what can be an insatiable and at times overpowering hunger to win.

“Our foundation is always going to be about building men of character, integrity, accountability and excellence,” he said. “It’s not always easy. I’m human. I’m far from perfect. I’m a competitor. I want to win as much or more than anyone. So, sometimes I have to check myself, remind myself why we do this, to make an impact on the lives of young men through ministry.

“If your only mission is getting them to be better football players, you’re missing the point.”

Transfers are sprinkled across Faith Lutheran’s roster, not to any outlandish level, but it’s certain the Crusaders have caught the eyes of kids from this and other areas interested in all those advantages.

And yet those five miles still seem like 500.

Gorman and Faith Lutheran met in the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

2016: Gaels 58, Crusaders 10.

2017: Gaels 51, Crusaders 6.

“I think it means something,” Fox said of the private schools facing each other. “You have a program in Bishop Gorman that has done things on the field for which we have a healthy level of respect. At the same time, the goal is to always shoot for the best, and to do that, we have to close that gap.

“But it can’t be the end all be all, because then you’ll get sidetracked and it becomes all about winning and you get away from your foundation. And we won’t do that here as long as I’m the coach.”

Faith Lutheran might one day soon play with the Bishop Gormans of prep football.

Maybe it never will.

Either way, the journey will follow a path dictated not by final scores but rather Proverbs 16:3.

“It’s what we stand for,” Fox said.

Meaning something much bigger than football.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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