Aggie Pride on full display during camp's first day

Former Aggie football head coach Bob Foster, Coach Jim Sochor's son-in-law Rupert Johnson, and Donna Sochor talk in the lobby of the Varsity Theater prior to Monday's special screening.
Aug. 8, 2016

DAVIS, Calif. - With the first football practice of the 2016 season ready to go on Monday afternoon, there was no better way to set the tone for camp, to teach the new players - and veterans, for that matter - about the origin of Aggie Pride than to see and hear from Coach Sochor himself.

Monday morning, after their first position meetings of the season, the 95 student-athletes, as well as the coaching staff, were treated to a special screening of "Aggie Pride: The Jim Sochor Legacy" at the Varsity Theater in downtown Davis. Coach Sochor's wife Donna was a special guest of head coach Ron Gould and received a standing ovation from the Aggie team.

The movie - not yet available to the general public - was just the beginning of a special morning that touched the history of the UC Davis football program.

Former All-America linebacker Jason Hairston, who starred for the Aggies from 1992-94 and is being inducted into the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame this fall, and who now owns KUIU, a successful outdoor equipment company, spoke to the team afterwards about his experiences and what it means to be a member of the Aggie program.

AGGIE PRIDE: Telling the story of Jim Sochor

The documentary, which has a style and feel similar to ESPN's acclaimed "30 for 30" series, tells the story of Jim Sochor, his beginnings and his successful quest to build the UC Davis football program. 

Sochor never had a losing season in his 19 seasons from 1970-88, amassed 156 wins, led the Aggies to the 1982 NCAA Div. II Championship game, and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

But, just as importantly - and many would say, more importantly - he built the foundation of the program with Aggie Pride and the three tenets of "trust, unity and togetherness." It's a foundation that has continued throughout the program and remains a constant thread through each generation of Aggie players.

Freshman defensive tackle Bryce Rodgers, who had yet to take part in his first Aggie practice, said the movie helped him refine his focus for fall camp.

"Hearing the interviews from the (former) players and how they didn't need anybody to tell them what to do to try their hardest, to work, to go the extra mile, it really motivates me to make sure I try my best on the field," he said. "Even when practice is over, to stay and do some extra drills that are going to better myself and better the team without having to be told."

Senior wide receiver Ramon Vargas is a program veteran but said that although he and other teammates had the chance to talk to Coach Sochor, there was still much to learn from the movie.

"I didn't realize the impact he had on other people's lives," he said. "That's more special to me; not all of the accomplishments, but the way he impacted everyone's lives throughout his time coaching here and throughout his life."

Fourth-year head coach Ron Gould felt it was important that the team see the documentary before putting on their Aggie uniforms for the first time.

"To hear me talk about the love, the coming together, of being united and the trust that we have to have, to actually experience it and see it first-hand is life changing," he said. "I was fortunate to meet with Coach Sochor, to spend time with him and so it has changed how I do things. My philosophy has changed (because of him)."

Gould hopes the movie has long-lasting benefits for his team.

"We talk about redefining ourselves every single day and every single practice and so I hope that they'll be able to draw back on this film as the motivation that's going to inspire them to get over the hump when they're sore, when they're tired, when they're homesick, when they miss their girlfriend," he said. "That it's about the unity, it's about the brotherhood, it's about the togetherness."

Hairston adds to the Aggie message

Jason Hairston didn't have UC Davis on his recruiting radar when he was in high school in Southern California, let alone any other school that wasn't named Stanford or Cal.

But after losing a scholarship at the last minute to play linebacker at Stanford in the early 1990s, Hairston returned to his home in Newport Beach and played for a year at Saddleback College.

He later took a recruiting visit to UC Davis and wasn't overly impressed with the lack of scholarships, aging Toomey Field, the old locker rooms or just about any other part of the football facilities. But Hairston felt a connection to the coaching staff and he later joined the Aggie team.

He went on to earn All-America honors, was a two-time team captain and all-conference player, and is ranked No. 2 on the Aggies' all-time tackles list. In October, he'll add Hall of Fame status to his resumé.

Hairston built the highly successful KUIU, which markets mountain hunting clothing and equipment and is the second global company he has started. He said that his success in the business world came from lessons he learned as an Aggie.

"To come back and connect with the team and feel like I'm part of it again is huge because it was such an important aspect of my life in every single way - emotionally, physically and everything it's taught me in my life" he said. "To come back and share those experiences with this group is huge."

Hairston played one year for former head coach Bob Foster and two years for his successor, Bob Biggs. He said he didn't know Coach Sochor but felt like he did after watching the film.

"Watching that film and seeing all of that, a lot of it I didn't even know because I didn't know Coach Sochor back when I played," he said. "But everything that he taught was there and that essence of Aggie Pride is what I felt, even though nobody talked to me about all the stuff that was Aggie Pride. 

"It was the culture. To see what created that was amazing. To be able to talk about how that's affected my life and to be able to give back to the team was great because coming to play football here was the most important things that's happened to me."

NOTES: The movie, "Aggie Pride: The Jim Sochor Legacy" will be made available for general public viewing in the future. That availability will be announced by UC Davis Athletics.