Holy Cross was much more than a school to assistant coach Chris Medina. It was a way of life that extended to his family and defined much of what he was as a man.
That's why Medina, who died Sunday, will be profoundly missed by the many whose lives he touched at Holy Cross, a coeducational school for students in grades 6-12.
His family and friends say such loyalty and service came naturally to Medina, a 1976 Holy Cross graduate.
"He did so much for Holy Cross," head coach and athletic director Mike Harrison said. "He bled blue and gold and was passionate about the school. His whole family was blue and gold."
Medina fell ill at home Saturday night and died Sunday morning at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-Westover Hills. He was 53.
Medina's strong ties to the football team have made the opening week of the high school season especially poignant for the Knights, who play at Central Catholic in the "Holy Bowl" on Friday night.
"It's all for him now," said his oldest son, Javier, a junior wide receiver, defensive back and kicker for the Knights.
Medina's other son, Rene, an eighth-grader, is on the Holy Cross middle school squad.
Medina is the second parent of a Holy Cross varsity football player to pass away this summer. Robert Fernandez, the father of wide receiver Zach Fernandez, died two days before the Knights started preseason workouts.
Harrison: 'He had a true servant's heart'
"We've had to deal with a lot of emotion and it's been very, very hard for us," Harrison said.
Medina was the videographer for the Knights' football program and coached the kickers for at least 20 years, Harrison said, and was also an assistant soccer coach.
"Nothing I say is going to do Chris justice," Harrison said. "He was a person who made a difference at this school. Chris had a great sense of humor. He was the king of the one- liners.
"He was the one who kept me grounded and kept things in perspective. He was just a very, very good friend. I just feel blessed to have had him in my life."
Medina also helped coach the middle school baseball team this spring and generally "filled in wherever we needed him," Harrison said.
And Medina, who worked at Randolph Air Force Base, did it all gratis.
"He would not take a dime from me," Harrison said. "We talked to him about money before, but he wouldn't take it. He may have gotten a break on his kids' tuition a time or two, but I'm not sure about that. He never took a penny from us. He had a true servant's heart."
Medina spent the final two days of his life doing what he loved, watching his sons play football for Holy Cross. He shot video of the varsity's scrimmage with Harlandale on Friday night, and filmed the Knights' middle school scrimmage against Cornerstone the next morning.
"He and I sat in my office for about 30 minutes and he talked about how excited he was about the season," Harrison said. "He said, 'We're going to be better than people think.' He was really looking forward to the season. That's the last time we talked."
Medina buried in green Holy Cross coaching shirt
Harrison said he told Medina's wife, Carol, at the hospital Sunday that Holy Cross was like a second family to her husband.
"Chris was so close to the school and his family," said Harrison, 49. "When I told Carol that, she said 'They're really both the same thing.' That's powerful. That's really what this is supposed to be about.
"Every coach dreams about winning the state championship, but, really, if you've been in it as long as I have, you realize there are a lot more important things in life than that. It's about trying to develop young men. When something like this happens, you realize what's really important."
More than 1,000 people jammed into the Holy Cross Convocation Center for Medina's rosary Wednesday night, with nearly that many attending his funeral Mass in the same building Thursday.
Holy Cross is located at 426 N. San Felipe on the city's westside.
Medina was buried in the green shirt Holy Cross coaches wore for last year's Holy Bowl. A football and a soccer ball, both autographed by Knights players, were placed in his casket.
"He meant so much to so many people," Harrison said. "The first thing he always asked you was, 'How is your family?' He really cared about people."
Harrison said Holy Cross offensive coordinator Angel Cedillo, who also is the school's dean of students, captured the essence of Medina's personality.
"Angel said Chris had the 'it' factor," Harrison said. "People try to define what 'it' is but they can't. Chris just had the ability to bring out the very best in kids."
Knights determined to honor Medina's memory with their play
Senior quarterback Sammy Moreno said he and his teammates admired and respected Medina.
"Chris Medina was the kind of man you'd always want to be around," Moreno said. "He'd bring life into a room that was dead. He was just someone you would want to have there. He was the true definition of a Holy Cross man, what we all strive to be."
Moreno is the brother of former Holy Cross football and baseball player Daniel Gutierrez, who died of cancer only five days after graduating in 2006.
"The great thing about our school is that it's a close-knit family," Harrison said. "When a tragedy happens, it brings out the best in our school and our community. People draw strength from each other."
The seven Holy Cross players who served as Medina's pallbearers choked back tears during the funeral service.
"I just loved the fire everybody had when he was around," junior offensive guard Daniel Espinosa said. "We're just going to play for him, knowing he's in our hearts and we love him so much."
Central Catholic leads the series with Holy Cross 34-9, but the Knights rolled to a 57-27 victory in last year's Holy Bowl.
"We just want to make sure that we win the game tomorrow (Friday) for Coach Chris," junior center Isaiah Montez said. "That's what he would want. He wouldn't want this to be a distraction. He would want us to play to the best of our ability."