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Former Glendale High football coach Rafik Thorossian dies at 44

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Former Glendale High football coach Rafik Thorossian dies at 44

Last coach to lead Nitros to winning season passed away Tuesday night. By Charles Rich, charles.rich@latimes.com - GNP

Rafik Thorossian, a standout running back at Glendale High and Glendale Community College who went on to coach two seasons at Glendale High, has died at the age of 44.

Thorossian died Tuesday night at his home in Whittier of an apparent heart attack, according to family friend Allie Akobian.

“He was like a brother,” Akobian said. “The word that comes to my mind when I think of him is genuine.

“We grew up together and he would always be there for you. He was a truly remarkable person.”

Thorossian, who was born in Iran, excelled at the high school and collegiate level. He received All-Pacific League honors while serving as a running back and linebacker with the Nitros before graduating from Glendale in 1989. He moved on to Glendale Community College, where he played during the 1990-91 seasons. He rushed for 1,380 total yards and 10 touchdowns in 228 carries with the Vaqueros.

Thorossian — who was married to Kathy Fundukian Thorossian, a former assistant superintendent for the Glendale Unified School District — returned to Glendale High and coached the Nitros from 2007-2008, finishing 7-12-1, 4-10 in the Pacific League. He inherited a squad that finished 0-10 in 2006 and began to reshape the program’s foundation. After Glendale went 1-8-1 in 2007, it responded the next season with a breakthrough mark of 6-4. It was the first time since 2003 that the Nitros posted a winning record and it stands as the last time the program has ended a season above .500 since.

“He was a tough guy who had a knack for getting the very best out of his players,” Glendale co-athletic director Pat Lancaster said. “He did a lot of great things here at Glendale, both as a player and coach.

“It’s very shocking right now. He certainly died way before his time.”

At Glendale, Thorossian flourished under the guidance of coach Don Shoemaker. Shoemaker said Thorossian’s work ethic often resonated with his teammates.

“Rafik brought a lot to the team,” said Shoemaker, who won two league championships while piloting the Nitros from 1986-93. “I remember the way he progressed from his junior season going into his senior season.

“He found ways to get better, starting with being a weight room guy and becoming even more aggressive and a vocal leader. ... He’s an example to everybody in the community about what it takes to be a hard worker.”

After wrapping up his high school career, Thorossian ventured to Glendale college and enjoyed a pair of stellar seasons with the Vaqueros.

Thorossian led the Vaqueros in rushing with 837 yards and seven touchdowns in 149 carries in 1991. He added 628 all-purpose yards in 1990 and 917 in 1991, receiving All-Western State Conference North Division honors both seasons. He helped Glendale win a conference title in 1990, which concluded with the Vaqueros picking up a 23-16 win against Citrus in the Southern California Bowl. He then transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso.

John Cicuto, who was Glendale college’s head coach from 1989-2007, said Thorossian was always eager to find ways to make improvements.

“Nobody got themselves more prepared to play a game than Rafik,” said Cicuto, who is currently Glendale college’s athletic director. “When I think of him, it’s about his work ethic and knowing how to compete the proper way.

“He was an outstanding player coming out of the backfield and he had two great years. He did a great job coaching at Glendale [High] and got the best out of his guys. I’m saddened by his loss. He was so young.”

Albert Ocon, an offensive/defensive lineman, said Thorossian proved to be an exemplary teammate at Glendale High and Glendale college.

“He’d be there to back you up whenever you needed him,” Ocon said. “He was very serious on the field, but we had a lot of great times off the field, too.

“He was a freaking horse when he played the game. You’d give him a block and he’d be out there running like a bull.

“I know he’s going to be missed by a ton of folks. He was a fantastic friend.”

Thorossian is survived by his wife, Kathy; father, Roston; mother, Hasmik; brothers Romik and Roubik and sister Lilik.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (1037 posted)

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Its really tragic for the students of our college who were getting coaching from Rafik. He was a true passionate footballer who had always prepared excellent college level players. He will always be remembered as his early age death has given a shock to everyone.
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