Former football coach raises money for coach Featherstone’s medical treatment


Jaime Solis

El Camino College’s Featherstone Field, housed within EC’s Murdock Stadium, quietly awaits the return of EC’s athletes and fans kept away due to campus’s closure. The field was renamed after Coach Featherstone in 2019. Image taken Sept. 16.

ECC Hall of Fame coach John Featherstone had a seizure on Aug. 20 and remained at the hospital for over three weeks, later a GoFundMe account was created on Sep. 8 for his current medical needs.

On Sep. 21 coach Featherstone’s wife Diana Featherstone posted a couple of videos of Featherstone on the GoFundMe account. The videos were updates on his current health.

“He couldn’t move a muscle for over a week while he was in the hospital,” Diana Featherstone said in her update on the GoFundMe account. “He wasn’t eating, talking, or walking but…in three weeks time, he was doing all three on his own.”

Coach Featherstone had a successful career at El Camino and also in the South Bay community during his 31-year career as head coach for the Warriors football team.

Coach Featherstone was born in 1949 in the South Bay, playing football for Mira Costa High School in the late 1960s as the quarterback, running back and wide receiver, making him win All-CIF honors as a wide receiver.

He later played at ECC as a wide receiver and earned a scholarship to San Diego State University in 1969, under coach Don Coryell, where he learned the coaching style “Air Coryell” which coach Featherstone used throughout his career.

After beginning his coaching career at San Diego State, a friendship grew from when he played and assisted for coach Coryell.

Featherstone succeeded coach Jack Reilly in 1985 at ECC, Reilly was on his way out to become a coach in the NFL.

After 31 years as coach at ECC, coach Featherstone (known by his players, supporters and the community as “Feather”) retired in 2015 with an overall record of 214 wins, 119 losses, and two ties.

Throughout his tenure as coach, the Warriors earned a national championship in 1987, a state championship in 2006, 11 conference championships, and appeared in 19 bowl games.

Great coaches come in all different shapes and sizes, different temperaments and strengths but the ability to connect with the players and to build trust is a common characteristic when it comes to great coaches, Eugene Engle, another former ECC football coach and longtime assistant and offensive line coach for Featherstone said.

According to Coach Engle, players would run through a wall for Coach Feather and while also having a great passion for the sport he had hopes of making his player’s lives successful.

Coach Engle, who was on staff with coach Feather for 31 years, retired in 2016, a year after Featherstone retired. Engle started his career as a coach at ECC in 1981.

From 2004-08, coach Featherstone’s teams made five consecutive Southern California Football Association playoff appearances. He and his staff led the team to 21 nationally ranked finishes, including seven straight from 2003-09.

According to Coach Engle, coach Featherstone helped create a family-oriented environment, and while winning was important to him, the development of the character of his players was even more important.

“Coach Featherstone, during playoffs, would come in and talk to my girls about how special it is to represent El Camino, how fun playoffs are, not taking anything for granted in volleyball and making the most of every moment,” ECC beach volleyball head coach Levalley Pattison said.

Featherstone coached many players who went on to play football in the NFL, including Keith Ellison Wide Receiver for Buffalo Bills, DeLawrence Grant Defensive End for the Oakland Raiders, Marcel Reese Full Back of the Oakland Raiders and Antonio Chatman Wideout for Cincinnati Bengals who are all now retired.

“When Coach Feather involves himself with something, he goes all in, not halfway in, you know you can’t say like, ‘I only want part of this’ when it comes with Feather, you get it all or nothing, that is why he involved himself with volleyball and football,” Derrick Deese, former offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said.

Deese went on to a career in the NFL for 14 years, playing for the San Francisco 49ers from 1992-2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004-2005 and winning Super Bowl XXIX, leading the line for quarterback Steve Young.

According to his colleagues, coach Featherstone always had a smile on his face and always lifted up others; not only athletes, students, or coaches but the community around him as well.

“Every time he (Featherstone) saw me he would say Deano, Deano, Deano, a nickname he had for me over the years,” Lofgren said.

“He was motivating for every team, not only football,” Pattison said.

Years later, to commemorate coachFeatherstone’s successful career as a junior college coach, ECC renamed the field inside Murdock Stadium to the Featherstone field at the 2019 homecoming game.

The five-year rule that usually applies for coaches to be eligible for the ECC Hall of Fame will not apply for Coach Featherstone due to his Alzheimer’s according to ECC Track and field coach Dean Lofgren.

Coach Featherstone was inducted in the El Camino Hall of Fame later that year in 2018, making him the first to be inducted as a player and a coach at ECC’s annual Hall of Fame Banquet.

Seven years ago, Coach Featherstone was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his friends and family are seeking some assistance from the community he once called home.

Engle, Pattison, and Lofgren have been coaching at ECC ever since he arrived, and while they developed a lifelong friendship, they’re saddened to hear of coach Featherstone’s condition.

“It’s been a year and a half, it was so sad while we all would walk up to him you could tell that he could recognize you, but couldn’t place it and he would say ‘hey, hey, hey’ still with a big smile but didn’t know who you were which hit you in the gut,” Lofgren said.

“He never forgot, you know, his players, he just would always know who played for him, what number you wore, what you did,” Deese said. “What is impressive about him, he could recruit so many guys and every year, you know it’s difficult to recruit, and every year he can come out and tell you what you did in your high school.”

Engle set up a GoFundMe the account on behalf of Diane Featherstone to help the family pay for a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation, and then a long-term facility that specializes in memory care.

The GoFundMe account as of this week has raised a total of $67,687 out of the $150,000 goal.

This money will help pay for a specialized facility that costs an upward of $6,000 per month, which insurance won’t cover.

Coach Featherstone was recently moved to a memory care facility in Mission Viejo and the facility is still undisclosed.

To donate to the GoFundMe account set up to help coach Feather, click here.

Editors Note Sep. 24: Correction coach Featherstone was inducted in Hall of Fame in 2018 instead of 2019 

Editors Note Sep. 24: A couple of paragraphs were added for clarity