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Beloved former Fountain Valley High assistant football coach Adam Tallabas dies

Adam Tallabas Sr.
Adam Tallabas Sr. served as the defensive line coach for the Fountain Valley High School football team from 2016 to 2018.
(Courtesy of the Tallabas family)

Adam Tallabas Sr., who served as the defensive line coach for the Fountain Valley High School football team from 2016 to 2018, has died. He was 47.

The family said that Tallabas died in his sleep on Aug. 21, and the cause of death is unknown. Tallabas is survived by his wife Roberta, 44, and his two sons Adam Jr., 22, and Joey, 18.

As a father to two sons, Tallabas immersed himself in their lives as a coach as they advanced through the levels of Fountain Valley Junior All-American Football and then continued to play in high school.

Adam Jr. went on to play defensive end for the Barons and graduated in 2016. Joey played on the offensive line and graduated from Fountain Valley in June.

“He really was someone who loved his family, loved his friends, and just was generally somebody who welcomed everybody into his home with open arms,” Adam Jr. said of his father. “I could bring friends that he had never met before, and he [would] just give them love and give them a hug.”

The soonest Orange County can reopen most of its schools for in-person learning is Sept. 22. The county is listed on the worst level in California’s new four-color, tiered monitoring system for COVID-19.

Former players expressed their appreciation for Tallabas. Some spoke of a belief he instilled in them.

“Coach Tallabas played a huge role in my football career,” said Sean Phan, a defensive end who graduated from Fountain Valley this year. “He taught me how to train, how to lift and [about] work ethic. He became my motivation. He took in a shy Asian kid like one of his own and treated me no differently to his own sons.”

Jerry Ngo, another recent graduate who played safety for the Barons, said Tallabas acted selflessly, buying food for players and giving them rides home after games and practices.

“He has taught many of us how to become better men and brothers,” Ngo said. “Most of all, he believed in many of us before we even believed in ourselves. That was his attitude towards the kids he was around. He saw their potential before they could even see it in themselves.”

Carlos Salazar, a running back and middle linebacker who graduated from Fountain Valley this year, also recalled Tallabas’ generosity. He said he knew the Tallabas family prior to playing football.

“Coach Adam, along with his family, opened their door, took me in as if I were one of their own, and took care of me,” Salazar said. “The endless amount of kind things the Tallabas family has done for me is something I hold very dear in my heart.”

Tallabas, who owned a flooring company, enjoyed spending time with family, riding dirt bikes, barbecuing and watching Alaska frontier shows, Roberta, his wife of 24 years, said. She added that her late husband was working on earning a degree in political science from Grand Canyon University, and he was 20 units short of that goal.

“He taught them the value of compassion, hard work, generosity, understanding, and most importantly, love,” Roberta said of what Tallabas passed on to his sons. “His grit and passion for our family has shown our sons how to follow in his footsteps when they eventually have families of [their] own.”

Tragedy has struck the Fountain Valley football family for the second time in two years. Former Barons linebackers coach Scott Panique died at the age of 38 in September 2018.

“Adam was a very nice guy who was extremely dedicated to his kids and all of their friends that played football,” Fountain Valley athletic director Roger Holmes said. “He coached them as they grew up, always opened his house to them, and made sure they felt like part of the family.”

There will be a viewing for Tallabas at Garden Grove Friends Church (12211 Magnolia St.) from 4 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday. The Tallabas family said that there is a limit of 25 people per group for the viewing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tallabas’ funeral will be held at Christ Cathedral (13280 Chapman Ave.) in Garden Grove on Sept. 9 at 3 p.m.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Tallabas family with funeral expenses.

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