Inspiration Beyond the Gridiron

2022 marked the first year for the new Sammamish head football coach, Sepehr Sadrzadeh. Coach PZ — as he is called by players, coaches and families — began a new chapter in football at Sammamish High School. For senior quarterback, Anthony Mejia, playing for Coach PZ was more than just playing a game, it was an opportunity to strengthen focus on his leadership both on and off the gridiron. Mejia shared, “In my eyes to be successful in football you have to be dedicated to give it your all. I’ve learned to be a leader by helping others around me and bringing them up when they doubt themselves, I’ve learned to not give up when things get hard. I’ve learned how to respect everyone around me.”

Throughout the season, senior linebacker, Ruslan Karplyuk, found a connection with caring adults who supported the football community that fueled his sense of belonging both on the team and at school. Senior running back, Benny Brudnack, was motivated by the stories and life lessons shared by the coaching staff.

Led by Coach PZ, the coaching staff’s  relatability, conviction and dedication, students have found inspiration to take the lessons learned and apply them both on and off the field.

For every creator of their future world, inspiration has the power to propel potential and transform the way students perceive their own capabilities. Sometimes this inspiration comes intrinsically, sometimes it takes another person to help us know how limitless our potential can be. This season, Sammamish football provided a backdrop for students to be inspired to focus on dedication and leadership, develop a sense of belonging, and to believe in themselves.

Coaching the Creators of Their Future World

As the first immigrant Iranian Football coach in the Northwest, Coach PZ brings a unique ability to relate to the students and families of his school community. Having previously served as the Defensive Coordinator for Sammamish Football, Sepehr spent a few years as a teacher of the culinary arts at Hazen High School before becoming head coach. A member of the Culinary Institute of American, Sepehr had previously opened multiple restaurants, worked in high-end fine dining, received accolades from The New York Times, was featured on The Today Show, and most recently mentored groups of high school culinary students. Similar to the coaching he does on the field, Sepehr had a goal in the kitchen to empower future chefs with the ability and confidence to truly improve their industry.

When it came time to hire a new head coach, Sammamish Athletic Director, Wesley Newton, understood that students need an opportunity to have their voices heard and ensured that the hiring process included parents and players.

Guy Feldman, President of the Sammamish Gridiron Club, the booster that supports the coaches and players involved in the Sammamish High School Football Program, wrote an end of season note to parents, stating:

Many parents have come to me saying that this year’s new football program kept their athlete engaged and involved in school. Coach PZ has set the bar high for our players… and stresses regularly that academics come first, and football comes second. I often share with people that there is more than just football happening on the field. Football is a game of many parts. It requires teamwork, communication and dedication. In a community as diverse as ours it is the perfect sport for our youth to learn and growth with. The game of football transcends the many issues we are challenged with as parents and community members.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.