Vinny Fazio’s “Majestic” Next Step

“I don’t want to get in trouble. I’ve been in a lot of trouble lately. I’m trying to keep my nose clean here.” — Vinny Fazio

Last time we caught up with Vinny Fazio, Football Coach, was prior to the 2012 season. He had been hired by Rialto Eisenhower to be the Eagles’ man-in-charge. It was his first head coaching gig.

Fast forward two seasons and Fazio has twice coached teams good enough to reach the playoffs, first at Eisenhower then at Murrieta Valley last year, posting a 13-7 record at two schools in his first two seasons as a head coach.

VINNY FAZIO

VINNY FAZIO

Now Fazio, 34, is at a third school — Riverside Ramona — but he’s thinking 7675 Magnolia Ave. can be a place he finally plants some roots.

I caught up with Fazio recently, and I was able to ask him some of the pertinent questions re: his career choices and his new job at Ramona.

I’ve heard you’ve been telling people there’s something special about the ram. Is this true?

“It is a majestic animal,” Fazio said.

Where did your interest in Ramona come from?

“When it came open it was a job I was interested in, and I was interested in (Ramona) when I went to Eisenhower. At that time Ramona had opened and I was really interested in it then but since I was in a district, in Rialto (at Carter High), they were able to move me over and it was an easy process. I ended up doing that (because) Ramona wasn’t sure what their teaching position would be, and I didn’t want to risk ending up without a job. To have it come open this time was a good – you hate to see program’s turnover – but it was fortunate for me,” he said.

What can you say about your departure from Murrieta Valley?

“We had a little bit of a disagreement between myself and some of the parents and some of the admin about how to run a football program at a high level. (Murrieta Valley) is a place where it’s a block schedule so I could only see the kids every other day. We were trying to find time when we could have access to them in the offseason. It seemed like every time we tried to do something there’d be another wall that was put up and it came to a point where it looked like we couldn’t run anything close to what our program was. At that point it was in everybody’s best interest, I thought, to move forward let them get somebody in that can work with them under their rules, and for me to find a place that I feel is better fit for me,” he said.

How do you go about building your idea of a team culture for the third time?

“That’s kind of a big thing when you come into a place that hasn’t had a lot of success, although I thought they did start to figure some of those things out last year. Damon Dustin has done a really good job of instituting an offseason program – they work hard. They lift. Their kids have gotten way stronger. Truth be told, I was looking at the numbers and they’re stronger at Ramona than we were at Murrieta Valley. It’s a culture where kids want to work and get better and we just have to figure out how to do that. The kids don’t all know how to do that. Sometimes that’s hard. Harder than they think it is. It’s hard to play big-time football. We have to lay that foundation. I think it’s a process. It doesn’t happen in a week or two weeks. It’s a thing that happens over the course of time. We have the right kids. These kids want to get better. They have some cool kids and some really good players. There’s some really good players at Ramona. I think we have some good clay to work with. The cool thing about Ramona is it’s a really good academic school, too. It’s a great school. They have a great academic vision. Beautiful campus, older campus, it’s a cool place. I really like it. I played my first ever Pop Warner football game I played was at Ramona High School when I played for Fontana Pop Warner. It’s kind of a special place for me. There is a culture of hard work in the offseason at Ramona that Damon has been working to build. That’s really a hard first step. He’s got them off of Step One, and done some of the hard work for us now we just have to get our program in but at least the kids know – we have to lift, we have to work, we have to get after it – and it’s going to be hard. They know that. They have some – it was hard – but last year they started to figure it out and we need to keep that going. I think the players at Ramona are good enough so long as we start keeping Ramona kids at Ramona. That’s a thing that has hurt them in the past — kids transferring out and that kind of thing. We have to build a program, a culture and an environment where there’s a pride in Ramona football. So we’re not losing kids. That has been a problem at Ramona but that’s something we have to work on but if you run a good program kids want to play for you and kids will want to stay. We’re going to try to build a family environment around Ramona football.”

Did you know Dustin much before this process began?

“I always thought Damon is a good guy. He’s been ultra-supportive. He hasn’t said a negative thing. He e-mailed me. He was the first guy outside the process to e-mail me so when he knew I knew it was starting to get out there. He e-mailed me (and) congratulated me and I called him and we talked on the phone for about an hour just about everything. Talked about kids and what their plan was in the weight room. We went over everything from A-Z, which is nice because you don’t always get that from an out-going coach but (Dustin) is a professional. Knowing him I expected nothing less out of him and he’s been great. He’s still running the 6th-perioud class right now because I’m still at Murrieta. I can get over for some after-school stuff but he’s still running it for the rest of the school year. We talked about some of the things they are doing, and I told him the things we want them to do, and trying to find a good blend of that. He’s been great. I have nothing but positive things to say about him,” Fazio said.

The untimely death of former QB Timothy “T.J.” Miller may still hang over the program. Any thoughts on that situation?

“I just found out about that a couple of days ago so I had not known about that. Obviously it’s a tragedy and I don’t know enough – didn’t know him – so I don’t have enough to comment intelligently. Some our kids will have known him or knew him so it’s something that will be there and be around and we’re aware of. There’s nothing uplifting about it. It’s a disaster when stuff like that happens,” he said.

What are your impressions of the football situation at Ramona?

“When I met the kids I was like ‘There’s some kids here.’ I watched some film because I’m not stupid. I watched film on a bunch of these jobs that were open this offseason. The first thing that I do is go on the internet and try to find some film and see if there’s any players. There’s some good players here. It’s a place, it’s a league where everybody is kind of similar in terms of what you have in size and socio-economically. So it’s a league where you get a true indication of how good everybody is. There’s a lot of balance there. It’s a cool league. It’s a cool league and I’m looking forward to it. Nothing happens overnight but I’m hoping this is it. I can’t keep moving around. This is where I want to be. I didn’t apply at those places where I didn’t want to be for a very long time. I really feel like Ramona can be that kind of place. I couldn’t be more excited. I think we have the right kind of kids. We definitely have the right athletic director and I think that admin is committed to happen. I’m fired up and it’s cool,” Fazio said.

Have you just accepted that all this moving is part of your life as a coach?

“I want to build this thing, I really do. I want to be here for a long time. I want to get to build it then take advantage of the building. It’s a perfect situation for me. I’m hoping Ramona is the stabilizing place. I’m tired of moving around,” he said.

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