Coach Keeps Kids On Right Path
By Danny Bernardini/ DBernardini@TheReporter.com
Posted: 08/09/2009 01:00:24 AM PDT
Growing up in Vallejo's rough and tumble Hillside area a couple of decades ago, kids were introduced to street life
at a young age.
Dulon Stevens was no exception. By using sports and music to stay out of the streets -- and some help from his
mother who raised four children -- he made it out without being a statistic or victim.
"In my neighborhood there was a lot of drugs. There was a lot of violence I grew up around," he said. "As you grow
up, you try and better yourself. I never wanted to see my kids to see what I saw."
Stevens never let his surroundings get the best of him, he said, and maintained a 3.0 grade-point average while
excelling in sports at Hogan High School before transferring to Sacramento City College.
"I was an intelligent hoodlum," he said with a laugh, flashing his gold tooth.
Known on the field as "Coach Mugz," Stevens, 35, has traded in the blacktop for green grass as he coaches both
football and baseball in Vacaville. Sporting a Bengals fedora with his nicknamed stitched in, he can currently be
found coaching the Vacaville Bengals junior midget team. He also coaches a Pony baseball team in town.
It's here he says he's found his niche helping keep kids stay straight and out of trouble. For guys like Keith
Norwood, who grew up with Stevens since the fifth-grade and now coaches with him, the transition has been fun
"Coming up in Vallejo, it's a lot different out here. He and his brothers and sisters didn't have much growing up. It's
a 360-degree turnaround," said Norwood, who drives from Vallejo to coach. "He teaches that you can always turn
your life around no matter what your situation is at home. I see him more of a role model and father figure. He
instills self confidence of becoming a young man. "
Along with coaching, Stevens is a personal strength coach and currently runs 30/30 Records. He is the brother of
well-known artist E-40 and has appeared on several of his albums and tours, along with his own work. It was a
family affair as his sister, known as Suga T, and his other brother, D-Shot, also make music with the group.
It was actually recording and touring that diverted him away from sports after one season of football in Sacramento
around 1993. As the crew grew in popularity and the chance to earn money to support his newborn child presented
itself, the decision was easy.
"The music was giving me what I needed. I was getting a little money, getting a little fame," he said. "Right then I
said 'I'm going straight music.' ''
Once he made enough money, Stevens finally attained his dream of owning a home in 2000. And he decided to
move to Vacaville, which was a culture shock at first.
"When I saw Foxboro (elementary school), it was like a private school compared to Vallejo," he said. "It was
peaceful. Finally, I felt like I could breathe."
Before long Stevens love of sports led him to start coaching. It wasn't long before he started bonding with kids
and drawing some to the field that in the past may not have had coaches they could relate with.
"There weren't too many minorities out there," he said. "It seemed like the masses started seeing us."
It soon became a balancing act of music and coaching. He stopped touring about three years ago.
"We would do a concert and I would fly back here for the game," he said. "I don't think I missed a game. It was the
dedication to the kids. When a kid believes in you, you have to give it all you got."
Stevens said earning respect goes a long ways toward guiding them.
"When they come to the field, they look up to you. It's kids reaching out looking for help," he said. "I speak their
language. We're from the same era. I can get down on them as an adult so they don't have to make the same
mistakes I did. They know it's something to bring them up."
He recalled one instance when he found out a player of his was failing in school. Stevens eventually tracked down
the teacher and asked how they could improve. He asked if the student could make up the work and earn
whatever grade he deserved.
After the talk, he told the player that he could miss practice and do the work to get his grades up in time for the
playoffs. Which he did.
"The teacher told me 'I'm glad you called us. Not too many coaches care enough about the kids to reach out,'" he
Robbie Ramirez met Stevens about six years ago when their children began playing football together. He said it
didn't take long to notice what kind of person Stevens was or to recognize what he meant to the kids he coached.
"He's there for the kids. That's it," said Ramirez, who coaches varsity baseball at Vacaville High School. "He's
tireless. It's a thankless job. All you get is negativity, you never get praise. He's like a family member now, in every
sense of the word."
Before long, Coach Mugz and his teams started succeeding and heading to playoffs. Ramirez said Stevens picked
up a couple of coaching awards along the way.
"That doesn't mean much to him, but it does to people like me," he said. "He's a great human being. Him being able
to relate to the kids is more important than being a good coach."
Norwood said Steven's past is never an issue with parents.
"I think he fights through it. Not too many parents know he owns his own label or his brother is E40," he said. "And
when they do find out a lot of the parents don't have a problem with it. They don't see him rapping or doing what
the stereotypes are."