Friends, family, and the community of west Fresno and beyond came together Saturday morning to celebrate the life of Tony Perry, the Edison High School assistant football coach who mentored many students who would go on to play in the National Football League.
Hundreds of people sat in the pews of Peoples Church in northeast Fresno to cry, laugh, sing and remember the defensive back coach. Mr. Perry coached young football players up and down the state, eventually earning the nickname DB Guru. Mr. Perry, 54, died Nov. 11.
Several of Mr. Perry’s former students spoke of his mentorship, including Ricky Manning Jr., who went on to a career in the NFL after graduation from Edison High and attending UCLA. “The influence he had on my life can’t be measured,” Manning said.
Being part of the DB Guru club was an honor, Manning said. “If you started naming your accomplishments, that’s one of them. The difference between the DBs on the west side of Fresno and the DBs from anywhere else is the confidence they had.”
When Manning started a coaching job with the Seattle Seahawks, people knew of Mr. Perry’s influence at Edison, he said. “He was getting Edison’s name and brand out there. We’re worldwide because of Tone.”
The influence he had on my life can’t be measured.
Ricky Manning Jr.
Fresno City Councilman Oliver Baines and former Edison High football coach Ray Reyes said Mr. Perry made it his life’s work to mentor kids and make sure they got into college. Reyes spoke fondly about his experience working with Mr. Perry during Mr. Perry’s early coaching days. “When I left Edison in 2002 it was a tough day driving away from that school,” Reyes said. “If not for Tone, I might never have known what a wonderful place west Fresno is.”
University of Nevada cornerback coach Courtney Viney sent a video that was played during the service in which he said he owed his accomplishments to Mr. Perry’s guidance and leadership.
“He always told you how it was and how it was going to be,” Viney said in the video. “He never sugarcoated anything. (He) could motivate you like no other … have you running through brick walls for him. He truly loved and appreciated coaching.”