A couple of years ago, as Dave White began to count down his time as Edison High's football coach, he talked with Jeff Grady, one of his former quarterbacks.
White last coached Grady in 1997, and what struck him the most was how Grady quietly led the Chargers and how his teammates respected him. Grady went on to play quarterback at Fresno State, and then he became an assistant with the Bulldogs.
"Once he got into coaching at Fresno State, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, 'This might be a guy that we can snag back here, get back into the high school ranks,'" White said.
White saw Grady return to Orange County in 2012, to teach and serve as an assistant coach at Santa Margarita.
Two years later, White and Grady talked about him possibly coming to Edison.
"He had two master's [degrees] in history, and I said, 'Hey, if you're ever interested in taking over for me someday. I teach [physical education]. You're going to have to have a P.E. credential,'" White said. "He went back [to school] the last two years and got his P.E. credential. He was looking ahead also. He lives right across the street [from Edison]."
Grady's commute to work got a lot shorter on Thursday, as Edison tabbed Grady as its new football coach.
During the school's search for a successor to White, who retired in December after 31 years at the helm, White said he believed the job would go to an "Edison guy." And he's more than happy that it did.
"I love it, I love it," White said. "I had two guys [Grady and Canyon Coach Mike Ogas] that I highly recommended to our principal [Jennifer Graves] and Rich Boyce, our [athletic director], and they both were ex-players of mine. Jeff Grady is awesome. I think it's a great hire. He's played here, he played in college, he coached [the tight ends, the quarterbacks and ran the offense at Fresno State], he's been at Santa Margarita [the last five years coaching the quarterbacks, wide receivers, offensive linemen and secondary].
"But more importantly than his knowledge of football, he's just a great human being. He has high character. He's just a loyal, loyal Edison guy. All of our assistants love the pick, so everybody is happy. It's a great day for Chargerville."
White said many of his assistants, including Rick Justice, the longtime defensive coordinator, Mike Walters, who coaches the linebackers and running backs, Gregg Campbell, the offensive line coach, and White's son, Hunter, who coaches the linebackers, running backs and special teams, plan to stay on at Edison and help Grady in his first stint in charge of a high school program.
Boyce said Grady would start teaching P.E. at Edison in February.
Grady takes over an Edison program coming off a CIF Southern Section Division 3 title and a CIF State Southern California Regional Division 1-A Bowl Game appearance. The Chargers, who went 13-2 overall and 5-0 in the Sunset League, expect standout quarterback Griffin O'Connor (3,600 yards and 37 touchdowns through the air), wide receiver David Atencio (44 receptions for 704 yards and seven touchdowns) and running back Jack Carmichael (1,088 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground) to return next season as seniors.
The last time the school hired a head football coach was in 1986, when it went with another former Edison quarterback in White.
Grady will be the fifth coach to lead the Chargers in their history. As for why Edison has had so many few coaches, White joked, "I guess because the one that just retired didn't want to leave. The old fart wanted to hang around for 31 years."
White won a lot during his time with Edison. He finished with a 238-119-3 overall record, winning 13 Sunset League championships and two section championships. White ranks sixth for all-time victories in Orange County.
"I was just lucky to be at my alma mater. I loved what I was doing," said White, who stepped down to spend more time with family and watch his youngest son, Garrett, play at Yale and his oldest, Matt, coach high school football in Boise, Idaho. "I think Jeff will probably do this for 20 years. Who knows? We'll see. It's a great place to be, [we get] great community support and our parents are awesome. It's a pretty special place. The first two guys [Bill Vail and Vince Asaro] went two years apiece, and then Bill Workman went 13 [years], and then I went 31 years. Jeff will be here a while. He's not looking to jump ship in two years."
Boyce believes Grady will be at Edison for a long time.
"I'm hoping that when I retire in 12 years, I would have only hired one football coach ever," said Boyce, who has been the athletic director at Edison for seven years. "I think he will be a lifetime guy here. One of the questions we asked him [was about how long he planned to be here], to make sure this is where he wants to be, this is where he wants to retire. He lives right around here [in Huntington Beach]. He's very happy to be here.
"We had a lot of candidates, a lot of good people, but Jeff just stood out above everybody else, not just [because of] his Edison tradition, but he's just a good man, he's a perfect guy to follow Dave. He'll chart his own course, but he will keep that [Edison] tradition going because he knows what it's like."
Both Grady and his wife, Breanne, are more than familiar with Edison.
Breanne played on the girls' soccer team at Edison. She went by Breanne Kaa back then. She graduated from the school in 1998, the same year as her husband.
"I could not be more proud or more humbled to be back at my home," said Grady, who met and addressed his new football team for the first time in the afternoon. “It’s a surreal feeling and a very proud moment. Coach White has had such a profound impact on the lives of so many young men and women and it's an honor to be following in his footsteps.”