Celebration of life honors former LAHS coach

Mr. Burt

A celebration of life for former Los Altos High School football coach Tom Burt is scheduled 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

Mr. Burt, for whom the school’s football field is named, died Oct. 16 at age 94.

In 1956, Mr. Burt was the first person hired by then-athletic director Dude Angius at the new Los Altos High, where he served for 25 years as teacher, coach and athletic director.

Mr. Burt inspired championship football from the Los Altos High Knights. Under his leadership, the school received recognition as the most successful football and overall athletic program in Northern California. From 1961 to 1970, Mr. Burt’s football teams earned championships six times, including the school’s first Santa Clara County title.

“Tom inspired generations of students and athletes to value teamwork and perseverance, pursue their passions and fulfill their potentials,” his family said in a statement.

Longtime Los Altos Hills resident Brad Lyman, a 1968 Los Altos High graduate and a star athlete, played quarterback from 1965 to 1967 under Mr. Burt.

“We had phenomenal success, and Tom was the unquestioned leader,” Lyman said. “He was intense – he didn’t settle for anything less than perfect.”

Lyman said the team would go over a play until they got it right – sometimes not until after dark. He said he learned about dedication and hard work by playing under Mr. Burt.

“There wasn’t a guy who influenced me more than that fella did,” said Los Altos resident Rod Incerpi, who played defensive back for Mr. Burt in the 1970s. “He instilled a sense of pride, integrity and a strong work ethic.”

Incerpi said Mr. Burt was tough and stressed teamwork.

“We all dressed the same,” he said. “He had a saying: ‘You look sharp, you feel sharp, you play sharp.’”

Doug DeBolt, who played offensive guard with the Knights in the 1960s, said he learned about discipline and character from Mr. Burt, life skills that went beyond the football field.

“He was wonderful for us arrogant teenage boys,” said Randy Beck, Knights running back and 1968 Los Altos High graduate. “Tom let you know you were not part of the team unless you worked together.”

For a more detailed account of Mr. Burt’s life, read the obituary written by his family here.

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