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Leon Criner: Defensive Coordinator-Valley College

This veteran coach began his collegiate football career at Valley College in 1956 as quarterback following graduation from Canoga Park High School as both an All-American and the Los Angeles City Co-Player of the Year. In 1957, he moved north to Oregon State, where he served as a single wing tailback and defensive back under legendary coach Tommy Prothro. Multi-talented, he also played baseball, becoming the number one pitcher in the Northwest Division of the PAC-10, finishing with an 11-1 record.

With baseball as his calling, Criner moved to the professional ranks, joining the newly founded New York Mets of Major League Baseball in 1961. The Army called in 1962, but following a two-year hitch, he returned to the pitcher's mound for a couple of years. In 1964, he returned to Los Angeles to begin a coaching career which has spanned more than five decades. Criner, who GridPrep.com terms "one of the finest teachers and defensive minds in football today," believes the successful player will have qualities that can't be coached.

"Size, speed, instinct, and heart are a few," he explains. "We can coach technique and strength, but some things just come with the package." With respect to his coaching style, Criner reports, "We keep things simple. Everything boils down to fundamentals. Which is why when it comes to play calling, we'll never replace quality with quantity." While his gridiron accomplishments are numerous, Criner takes great pride in his marriage to his wife, Faye. They'll have been joined 46 years this September. They've raised four children, who now allow him to boast nine grandchildren

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