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Durham leads OC Vision

Youth Scene

Former Bolsa Grande football standout who played in NFL now in charge of local youth basketball club.

March 07, 2012|By Steve Virgen

Soon Durham was on a different level while playing football at Bolsa Grande. By 1979, he had several colleges seeking his services. He went to play at San Diego State where he became one of the Aztecs top receivers. He led the team in receiving his junior year. He's No. 14 on the all-time career receptions list at San Diego State.

After San Diego State, Durham's dreams came true as he became a pro. But the dream wasn't all good. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1983. Durham called the team a mess. The Bucs went 2-14 and eventually released Durham.

But being released turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Durham was picked up by Bill Walsh to play for the San Francisco 49ers.

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Durham said he had reached the pinnacle of his career, catching passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. But more adversity came in the form of a knee injury. Later that season, the 49ers won Super Bowl XIX against the Miami Dolphins.

"It was the worst feeling to have to watch that," Durham said. "I was 22 at the time. I was thinking: 'Why can't I be out there?'

"My uncle told me, 'You got farther than most people have ever been.'"

Durham tried to return to football, but he said he knew he just didn't have it anymore. Being turned away from a professional football career challenged Durham. He did his best to recall the life experiences he learned in high school. He did his best to use all the traits he used to get to the top.

But even that didn't seem like enough.

"Making that transition from pro sports to real life, it is very difficult," Durham said. "It took me a while."

He worked jobs in customer service and sales. He also worked with the Boys & Girls Club. Now, the father of three who lives in Garden Grove with his wife, Anne-Maree, has found his niche, leading the small basketball club that trains players from all over Southern California.

Durham works with 13 kids, as the club continues to grow. Football made a big impact on Durham's life, but he said he enjoys teaching basketball. The game is a way for him to connect to the kids. He said, the young players have helped him too, as they have united and followed his way.

He said Shan Dharod, Sebastian Hooshmand and Chris Cox are players who have helped him form great team chemistry and a positive atmosphere.

"The goal is to impact the kids," Durham said. "I'm more concerned about making sure I have the parents realize that my ultimate goal is to have each of these kids treated as if they were my own. I want to see them grow and I want to see them learn. That doesn't matter if the group is 15 or if it's 500."

Durham will be there to lead.

steve.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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