Berkeley High Teachers Remember Talented Athletic Past

By Asa Burroughs

It may come as a surprise to some students, but most members of the Berkeley High School faculty had a life prior to academia. Though some of the faculty seem as if they have spent their entire life administrating knowledge to teenagers, this is not the case. Most of them attended college, many of whom even suited up for their school’s sports teams. The athletic pasts of many of BHS’ staff members are either shadowed purposely or quite apparent.

In some cases, it’s not hard to believe. The broad shouldered, intimidating frame of BHS safety officer John Williams, bellowing for you to get to class, exudes the very essence of a football player. Williams was a Cal running back starting in the late 1970’s. When asked about his years at Berkeley, he gets quiet and stares through his black lenses thinking back. “I didn’t realize just how big of a deal it was, until after I graduated,” Williams said of the Cal–Stanford rivalry. “It was huge in the community.”
He was the “Athlete of the Week” in the fall of 1979, following a game against the University of Arizona Wildcats. Mr. Williams racked up 130 yards, leading the team to a victory. The Cal football community has missed his presence since he graduated in 1980, but he hopes to get involved soon. “I want to get to know the new players,” he said, seeming to regret drifting away from the sport.

Continuing with college football players of the past at BHS, Villavicencio fits into the jock criteria. Sporting an Italian soccer jersey and SF Giants wristbands, he walks with a bounce in his step that could only be explained by his football prowess. Even though he is a math teacher in AC and the Green Academy, Villavicencio has always been an athlete at heart. Though soccer was his game of choice recreationally, football was what he played at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He started at wide receiver and on special teams on a squad of only 22 players.

Recalling his freshman year, he describes coming off the bench, “I caught my first pass for 30 yards,” then sadly remembers, “it was called back for offensive pass interference.” His league was tough, with teams like Linfield College and Willamette University going to the Division III national playoffs almost every year.

Due to their short bench, their season was always a struggle. The school gave out no athletic scholarships and had a GPA requirement of 3.5 in order to get onto the team.

His fondest memory of being on the team was the travel. “We got to go places I never would have for scholastic events,” says Villavicencio. He continued, “Washington State, Colorado [State], and even Southern California [USC].” Surprisingly the thing he misses the most, is the work. “At 3 PM there has always been a sport for me to practice,” he says, “You start to lose sight of your goals without one.”

During his senior year, he dislocated his shoulder in the middle of the season. He made the decision to not continue with football, “I wanted to be able to toss the ball around with my kid.” As of now, he trains just to get better, running triathlons and working out individually.

Most people have seen Amy Fry strutting across campus cloaked in an oversized water polo parka. She looks at home draped in the red and gold apparel. Unsurprisingly, there’s a reason for that. Not because she is the vice principal of Berkeley International High School, but because she was a charter player of the BHS softball program. Fry was a varsity starter her freshman year, playing pitcher and first base. Being a new sport to the school, the team had trouble fielding a full lineup.

However, by her senior year, they had grown to be a formidable opponent for some of the teams in her league. “We beat Albany and El Cerrito,” she beams, referring to her last year at Berkeley, “we had won a league game.” Fry went on to attend Pitzer College in Southern California, playing there as well. Today she coaches her son’s baseball teams for the Albany Berkeley league, saying: “Now I play through them.”