Bellarmine homecoming: Who is David Diaz-Infante and what are his plans for Bells’ football program?

SAN JOSE — David Diaz-Infante played for Jack Elway and Claude Gilbert at San Jose State and Mike Shanahan with the Denver Broncos. He blocked for John Elway in a pro career that stretched well over a decade.

Since retiring with two Super Bowl rings on his fingers, he has worked for ESPN as a broadcaster and helped coach in the NFL.

Now, Diaz-Infante is coming home.

And to hear him tell it, he couldn’t be happier about moving from Arizona to take over as the football coach of his high school alma mater, Bellarmine College Prep.

“No one has what Bellarmine has,” Diaz-Infante, 59, told the Bay Area News Group. “That’s the history and tradition of one of the oldest high schools in the state of California and with a rich and incredible tradition of football and doing great things.”

Diaz-Infante’s buddies from back when he was a team captain at the San Jose Jesuit school in the early 1980s nudged him toward adding his name to the list of candidates when Jalal Beauchman stepped down in late March.

Friday, Bellarmine announced that Diaz-Infante got the job.

“It’s been an interesting journey in itself, much like my journey,” Diaz-Infante said with a laugh.

The next chapter of Bellarmine Football 𝐢𝐬 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞. We’re thrilled to announce David Diaz-Infante ’82 as our storied programs 7th Head Coach! 🔔

— Bellarmine Football (@bcpfootball) June 3, 2023

At first, Diaz-Infante wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his home of 15 years in Arizona, his family’s bubble of friends and interests.

But the more calls he received about the Bellarmine opening, the more sense it made to apply. Diaz-Infante played on the school’s first Central Coast Section championship team in 1981.

“This is the way I can have an impact on some young men like Bellarmine had an impact on me,” Diaz-Infante said. “I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of good coaches and teachers of the game. The game has been good to me, and I think I have been good to the game.”

Diaz-Infante called his time with Denver in the late-1990s the highlight of his playing career, which included stops in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League.

With Denver, Diaz-Infante said he made his living as a sixth man on the line.

“I always tell people, ‘Look, I was a good player. I was not a great player. But I learned what it meant to be a great teammate,” Diaz-Infante said. “That’s what it takes to win it all. It was really special to be a part of those teams.

“Our offensive line probably epitomized that more than anything, of what it takes to win and the work you have to put in and the dedication and the unselfishness.”

No doubt, those are intangibles that Diaz-Infante will try to instill in his new team.

The coach spent 20 minutes on Friday in a phone interview with the Bay Area News Group. Here is what he said (edited for clarity and brevity):

BANG: What is your plan of attack, given that it’s early June and the season is just a few months away?

Diaz-Infante: “I am in discussions with people right now (for the staff). I have some people that have been around the game for a long time that have expressed interest in working with me and we’re working on some of those details right now. Guys that have a lot more experience than me. … We’re going to have some great coaches and some great teachers and that’ll help the program all the way through. Guys with experience and guys that love the game and share the same values. I am so excited about that because I don’t know it all. But I made a living being coachable, and I’ll remain coachable. I’ve been around some great coaches and I’ve always taken note of how they do things and why they do them. I’ve been around them when they work and when they don’t work.”

BANG: Ideally, when would you want to meet with your team?

Diaz-Infante: “I plan on getting back early next week and stopping by myself. Introduce myself to the team.”

BANG: The West Catholic Athletic League has changed quite a bit since you were playing for the Bells. As you look at the landscape of the league, what do you see?

Diaz-Infante: “Like it always has been, I see one of the best leagues there is. There is probably more parity today than ever with the addition of Valley Christian (in the early 2000s) and I know Serra is a very good football team and St. Francis and Mitty. Shoot, everybody is good — SI, Riordan and Sacred Heart. The league is as tough as it’s ever been. There are some great coaches.”

BANG: Not a lot of people go from Arizona to San Jose these days. (Diaz-Infante will also have a staff position with Bellarmine’s Office of Advancement, according to the school.)

Diaz-Infante: (Laughs). “The more me and my wife talked and my kids — they’re grown but we always make decisions as a family — they said, ‘You’ve got to do it.’ I’m really humbled by the opportunity, that people thought that highly of me to really put the full-court press on me. And I’ll be home. I used to always tell people, I’ll always be a Bell and San Jose will always be my home. And, obviously, I enjoyed a great deal of success at San Jose State as well. It’s very near and dear to my heart. I still have a lot of incredible friends and family (in the area).”

BANG: Mark Schlereth (now a broadcaster) was on those Denver offensive lines. What does he think about your new job?

Diaz-Infante: “He’s one of my best friends. I am going to see him tomorrow. He’ll be down to visit I am sure when I am coaching there. He was as excited as I was, I think. That’s the kind of relationship we have. I would practice for him when his body was too beat up. We’ve remained close over the years because of those things.”

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