Mountain Lions lure coach out of Sun City

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Life in Lincoln Hills Sun City has been stress-free for Steve Shafer. The toughest decision he makes most days is whether to play golf, find a tennis match or push his 69-year-old body to do both. The closest he has come to football in the past seven years was lending a hand in 2008 at Woodcreek High School in Roseville. His granddaughter is a student here, so he tagged along. Shafer figured he was finished with football after that. He had coached in the college and professional ranks for 35 years. The time had come for him to stay home and huddle with his wife, Janey. Then the call came. The California Redwoods of the United Football League were moving to Sacramento to become the Mountain Lions. And the Mountain Lions needed a defensive backs coach. That just happens to be Shafer’s specialty. It was that not difficult for the Mountain Lions to talk him into it. The football field is where he belongs. He ran the show at College of San Mateo in his first eight years as a coach. He then spent eight seasons as San Diego State’s defensive coordinator. His NFL coaching career included stints as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams. It was during Shafer’s time at San Diego State that he and his wife bought a home in the area. His coaching career took him across the country, but he always thought of San Diego as being home. Shafer thought he would reside there once his career came to an end. His wife called an audible, however. As he was on his way to earning a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens in 2000, she was on the move. The couple had looked at model homes in Lincoln Hills Sun City because they wanted to be closer to their daughter and three grandchildren, who live in Roseville. One phone call was all it took for Janey to buy one. “I wasn’t going to say ‘No’ to her,” Shafer said. “It was a perfect move. I like living here. It’s so active.” Shafer could hardly knock his wife. After all, it took one phone call to get him back into coaching. “They said they wanted me to coach, and here I am,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed what I do. I like to coach. I like to work with the guys and help them get better. I’m not doing it for the money.” The players’ aspirations range from hoping for a tryout in the NFL to getting a second or third chance. “That’s what (the UFL) is,” Shafer said. “Most of these guys have had a shot. We’ve got guys that played a couple years in the NFL and we’ve got guys just out of college that didn’t get a shot.” Shafer believes Mountains Lions safety Andrew Sandejo will play in the NFL. The Rice University product’s only pro experience before the UFL was attending a Buccaneers rookie mini-camp last May. “I’m surprised he didn’t make it into a training camp,” Shafer said. “There’s going to be teams calling us about him.” There were days when Shafer’s phone would ring quite often. A coach with his experience is always in demand. He has had his fill of the NFL, however. The UFL’s eight-week season will be enough. The Mountain Lions (2-3) will host the Hartford Colonials at 8 p.m. Saturday at Hornet Stadium. “This is more,” he said, “than this old body can take.”