One by one, each member of O’Dowd’s CIF -State Division 5-AA championship football team took a black velvet jewelry box, wrapped in a white cardboard sleeve with their last name, grade and position, from the altar in the Chapel.
Head varsity football coach Napoleon Kaufman instructed the players not to open the boxes until each member of the squad had his in hand.
Then Kaufman offered a brief prayer of thanksgiving, initiated a jewelry box opening count down, and watched proudly as team members opened them simultaneously.
The dazzling championship rings inside took the players’ breath away.
The custom ring top features the Dragon shield surrounded by four black stones – representing the team’s league, sectional, regional and state titles – on a bed of pavé-set diamonds. The words State Champions adorn the edges.
One side of the ring is personalized with the player’s name, jersey number engraved in a football helmet, and position. The other side features the school name, season record (15-1), and 2016 CIF champions.
“This is special – this doesn’t happen all the time,” Kaufman reminded them. “You guys will forever be a special team at O’Dowd.”
Kaufman is familiar with the sacrifices needed to play at a high level. He was a member of the University of Washington’s 1991 National Championship team, and played for the Oakland Raiders for six years. He relished the opportunity to present championship rings to his players. “It’s a reward for hard work and dedication. These kids stuck together during the difficult moments of the season and this is the fruit of their labor,” he said.
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Co-captain Avery Bilensky ’17 said the four stones on the ring top meant a lot to him. “Someday I hope to show this ring to my children and grandkids and tell them about the accomplishment,” he said.
Co-Captain Alijah Vera-Tucker ’17 said the ring serves as a reminder of the hard work he and his teammates put in – dating back to last spring and summer – even when they were worn out.
“We pushed on through,” he said. “To get this ring just means so much. It shows that we accomplished our main goal – we got it done. And we made the school and city proud.”
Vera-Tucker says every time he looks at his ring he’ll remember the “guys on the team who I sweated with.”