Roman building a winner at Carson
Blair Roman was 20 years old when he came to the realization he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and get into education and coaching.
“I was originally looking at business or physical therapy when I went to Butte College,” Roman said. “After a couple of years, I called my dad and told him I wanted to teach and coach like him.
“My initial goal was to coach at the highest level and go as far as I could with it. I was exploring a couple of D-2 opportunities; looking into being a graduate assistant.That was my dream.”
Then came a life-changing event.
It was 1994, and Roman, who was on the staff at Butte College, traveled to Anaheim for the National College Coaching Convention.
Roman was talking to a veteran college coach, and after a brief conversation with the gentleman, Roman put college coaching on the shelf and turned his attention to coaching in high school. He’s never looked back.
“He pulls out his resume and hands it to me,” Roman said. “This guy is over 60 years old, and he’s giving me his resume. He had been an assistant at nine different schools all around the country and gone through two divorces. I started to think about the big picture. I’m very happy with the decision I made. I don’t have any regrets.”
College football’s potential loss is Carson High’s gain.
All Roman has done since taking over the Carson High football program in 2008 is win. He has won or shared five league/conference championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014) en route to compiling a 51-24 record heading into Friday’s regular-season finale at home against rival Douglas. Before Roman came along, and according to records at the school, Carson had won league titles in 1960, 1964 and 1998.
One of Blair’s biggest fans is his dad, Keith, who had the football field at Douglas named after him.
“Of course I’m proud,” Keith Roman said. “I played in the 1950s and have been involved in the sport all along. Carson has never had this kind of success. He’s done a helluva job.”
Blair Roman politely accepts the accolades that come his way. He has earned the praise 10-fold because of his hard work, and he’s quick to turn around and heap praise on his staff.
“One of the reasons we’ve been able to sustain success here is because of the staff we have here,” Roman said. “We have the luxury that a lot of schools don’t have. Most of our coaches are here on campus, and that is important. They are seeing the kids each and every day as both students and athletes.”
The Senators are now one of the teams to beat year in and year out in the north. For many years, the program struggled.
“Obviously his dad was a coach,” said Bob Bateman, former Carson head coach, an assistant under Roman for many years and current CHS athletic director. “I think he was destined to be a coach. So many coaches’ kids get into it. When he decided to get into education, I knew he would be a coach.
“Blair works very hard at his craft, he spends a lot of time and gives back to the kids. You can’t ask the kids to work hard and give up things and not do the same thing yourself. Blair knows the game and he’s willing to put in the time. There are some guys out there who know the game very well, but aren’t willing to put in the time.”
Accolades from the opposition
His work hasn’t gone unnoticed by other people around Northern Nevada.
“What I see since Blair came in is high energy and a group of kids buying into the program,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “You can feel the energy when you play them. The entire program is going in one direction.”
And, except for a 3-7 record in his first year at CHS and a 4-5 record in 2010, the program has experienced plenty of success. In five of his seven seasons, Roman has enjoyed a winning record, and whenever Carson has posted a winning record it has won or shared a title.
Carson’s success comes as no surprise to Craig Rigsbee, Roman’s junior college football coach at Butte.
Roman played two years of quarterback for Rigsbee, starting games once in a while. Roman went to Chico State to continue his education, but decided he’d had enough of playing football. Rigsbee called up Roman, offering him a chance to coach wide receivers. Roman jumped at the opportunity.
“I told him that coaching a year here would be like coaching five years in high school,” Rigsbee said. “He was going to learn a lot more, and he got good coaching from me. Unfortunately, I’ve never had a chance to watch him coach because I’ve either been coaching myself or going to my son’s games at Cal.
“I knew he would be a success, a great coach if he wanted to be. He was a quick learner and his attention to detail was great. He paid attention to everything, not just one thing. He always wanted to be involved in the schemes, not just coach wide receivers. He was very smart.”
Roman was grateful for the experience.
“It was a real learning experience,” Roman said. “The amount of football I learned in four years was tremendous; more than my whole life combined. I found that I had a knack for it.”
Besides his expertise with Xs and Os, Roman is a competitive guy. He wants to win, and he expects top-flight effort on each and every play. Miss an assignment or take a play off and he’ll let you know.
“You won’t find many people more competitive than me,” Roman said. “That’s how I was as an athlete in high school. I was an above-average athlete in high school. I had to do other things to compete with the good athletes.”
Translation? The mental part of the game and having a big heart was just as important as natural skill.
Roman has always been more of an offensive coach. It’s not hard to imagine him drawing up play after play on a board, looking for ways to outsmart the guy across the field. Can you say mad scientist?
“We’d go to coaching clinics, and he’d always be diagramming things on a napkin,” Bateman said, with a smile on his face.
And his wife, Susan, said on more than one occasion her husband would show her plays he’d come up with.
The road to being a head coach
After serving as Bateman’s assistant from 1994-2000, Roman ran the North Valleys program for four years. After taking a year off in 2005, he came back to Carson and joined Shane Quilling’s staff in 2006, and worked two years before taking Quilling’s place as head coach.
Recent success has Carson High fans expecting bigger and better things every year.
“One of the things that is tough to do is sustain success. Once you have success you have high expectations. There are certain things I want to accomplish, and I’m not going to lower the bar; not going to lower it for one team.”
The one thing that Roman would like to see in the CHS trophy case is another regional football trophy. Carson has won a regional title three times — 1949, 1956 and 1960.
“My goal is to win regionals,” Roman said. “It’s been a really long time since Carson won a regional title.”
Three years ago, Carson reached the state semifinals/region finals and lost 49-0 to Reed. That same Reed team went out and lost by six touchdowns to Bishop Gorman the following week.
Carson has an opportunity to get that far again this year, and could be on another collision course with Reed.
“Everything is about building blocks, taking the next step,” Howren said. “After you win a league title, you want to win a region title, and after a region title, you want to win a state title.”
With Bishop Gorman becoming a national powerhouse, there isn’t a coach in Nevada who believes winning state is a possibility anymore. Just getting there is a big chore; a big accomplishment.
“You have to have five or six really great players to win a state title,” Roman said.
Dylan Sawyers was a standout running back/return man in his three-year career as a varsity player at Carson High, and he was arguably the best player during Roman’s tenure. Besides Sawyers, Carson has had some gifted athletes such as Jon Parker (Abilene Christian) and Trevor Goodale (Texas A&M Commece) who have or had successful college careers, but Carson’s success has largely relied on kids who haven’t received athletic scholarships.
The fact Carson has had such success is a testament to Roman and his staff, who help mold the Carson football players into a cohesive group.
“I love playing for coach,” said running back Colby Brown, who has played three years under Roman. “He really connects with the players. He always does what’s in the best interest of the team.
“He expects a lot, he’s hard on us, but he’s fair. He focuses on the little things.”
Jim Franz, a veteran line coach said, “(Roman) has changed the attitude. The kids believe. It’s a tribute to him getting the kids to believe. The kids want to be part of it.”