He was given the affectionate appellation of “Ground Chuck.”
The late Chuck Norred, who died in 2019, served two different stints as the head football coach at Firebaugh High School. In his 20 years at the helm, he led the Eagles to several league championships, a Valley title in 1995 and a Valley runner-up in 2006.
This Saturday the Firebaugh High School Stadium will be dedicated to the legendary coach.
Norred and seven other individuals will have school district buildings dedicated to them this Saturday starting at 3 p.m. The day will culminate in the annual Harvest for Education Dinner & Auction, which will be held at the Parker residence. The event is sponsored by the Foundation for the Firebaugh/Las Deltas Unified Schools.
Norred began his coaching career as the wrestling coach at McLane-Fresno while he was attending Fresno State.
Upon graduation he moved up north and coached at Tule Lake, near the Oregon border. Because of family issues, Norred returned to the central valley as the Firebaugh High football coach in 1983. After two years, he moved closer to family in his hometown of Salinas and coached at his alma mater, Alisal High.
But according to family members, he missed his days at Firebaugh, and in 1989 he returned to FHS.
His teams won five league titles plus the Valley championship in 1995. He retired from teaching and coaching in 2008.
The “Ground Chuck” nickname came from Norred’s old-school philosophy of running the football in between the tackles.
“When I first started coaching with him, if you mentioned passing, he would light you up,” said Steve Hurt, one of his longtime assistant coaches. “He didn’t throw the ball for nothing.”
Norred’s Eagles were widely known for running the Wishbone offense, counters and power runs up the middle.
“He just loved to grind it out,” said Hurt.
But Norred’s philosophy changed when his son, Justin hit high school with a strong and accurate arm.
“With Justin at quarterback and then my son Stephen after that, Chuck started to open up the offense,” said Hurt.
Hurt added that Norred was a real “down to earth” guy, noting that in their long friendship, he was in Hurt’s wedding party.
“Chuck was best at motivating his players,” Hurt added. “He would get his players to perform beyond their capabilities. He didn’t have the greatest talent in the world, but the kids always played hard for him.”
Mike Martinez, who is the school district athletic director in Tranquility as well as the head football coach for the Tigers, coached in Firebaugh for Norred for ten years.
“It was hard at first, especially me coming from Mendota,” said Martinez. “He was hard-nosed, and he was tough on me. But after a while, he would take me in, and he showed me a lot.”
Martinez remembered that after games, Norred would often come to his home for a post-game meal.
“He would talk about the game, about football in general and about life,” Martinez explained.
He said that to him, the highlight of coaching with Norred came in 2006, when they were runner-up to Caruthers for the valley title.
“We beat Madera Ranchos twice that year, and in the playoff semifinal, it was a last minute, thrilling win.
“It was a great experience with Coach Norred,” said Martinez. “I absolutely loved the man.”
Others who will be honored this Saturday include community volunteers John Diedrich and Jim Maiorino, school board member Oscar Sablan, educators Jo Ann Narbaitz, Bill Magnussen and Valerie Huntington, and administrator Violet Chuck.
For more information about the dedication and dinner, call (559) 659-1476.