Nelson Medeiros takes over as Atwater High football coach

Atwater coach Nelson Medeiros runs drills with his linemen during practice at Atwater High's Falcon Field on Wednesday (8-28-13).
Atwater coach Nelson Medeiros runs drills with his linemen during practice at Atwater High's Falcon Field on Wednesday (8-28-13). Merced Sun-Star

Becoming a varsity football head coach always has been a goal for Nelson Medeiros. Becoming the head coach at his alma mater makes it even more special.

Medeiros, 34, was named Atwater High School’s coach late last week. He takes over for Bob Valladao, who stepped down after nine seasons to become an associate principal at Atwater High.

“It was exciting when I found out,” said Medeiros, who is also the Falcons’ wrestling coach. “It was a surreal moment. It’s something I wanted for quite a long time. It’s nice coming back to your alma mater and giving back to the program that gave you so much.”

Medeiros graduated from Atwater in 2000, starting two years at center on the varsity. In 2001, he was hired as an Atwater assistant by head coach Paul Bristow.

“I think one of the benefits of Nelson being in the program so long is he’s been able to develop a vision for the program,” Atwater principal Torrin Johnson said. “He’s gone through different coaches. Even though most Atwater coaches have the same philosophy, he’s been there and seen it all.

“Nelson has been there through the years we’ve won league championships and the years we didn’t win. He has a unique perspective. He can bring all that together.”

Medeiros has done a little of everything on the coaching staff. He was a lower-level head coach for six years, coached the offensive line and served as the offensive coordinator and scheduling assistant.

“The No. 1 thing about being an alumnus is I know what Falcon football is all about,” Medeiros said. “I’ve been given an opportunity to try to make the program the best it can be. This program taught me everything about confidence. I was a small offensive lineman. I played varsity football for two years as a 180-pound center. My coaches never doubted my ability.

“My coaches Kevin Navarra, who is now the head coach at Buhach Colony, and Scott Wine, who is our athletic director, never gave up on me. They taught me how to play big, how to play strong and how to stay disciplined.”

Medeiros said he wants his teams to be known for discipline. He also wants them to play fast and physical.

“Nelson has always been good with the kids,” Valladao said. “He’s been in the program and he’s alumni like myself. He cares deeply about the program and the community.

“He does a good job of working with everyone and getting along with the teachers and staff. He has experience with the wrestling program. He’s been an assistant with me for quite a long time. Each year he’s taken on more and more responsibilities. I think he’s ready to take on the challenge.”

The Atwater coaching staff will stay the same with Medeiros calling the plays as the Falcons switch to a pistol Wing-T offense. Seneca Ybarra will remain as the defensive coordinator. Seth Gunnin will coach the offensive line.

The Falcons will bring on former Stone Ridge Christian assistant coach Nick Ray to help coach the offensive and defensive lines.

“Offensively and defensively, there will be little tweaks,” Medeiros said. “We’re going to try to get a little better every day. We’ve got to get the kids believing they are going to get better each day. We’re really pushing the weight room very hard and conditioning.”

Medeiros plans to remain the wrestling coach initially.

“As of now, yes,” Medeiros said. “I love my wife and family, too, and I don’t want to lose them. Right now, that’s the plan.”

Shawn Jansen: 209-385-2462, @MSSsports