Dave Naron always knew what he wanted to do, though after four years in college and another handful as a youth pastor, reality set in.
Youth ministry didnt pay, and Naron and wife Rhaynee were trying to start a family. The two had gone to school together and went on to New Hope Bible College in Oregon together.
Their goals never changed. Their careers did.
I wanted something that had flexibility, because I wanted to invest my life in young people, Naron said. Owning my own business allowed me to do that.
A graduate of Franklin Pierce High School, Naron began B-Line Landscaping in 1994. As he worked to establish the business, he made time to give back to his alma mater.
I graduated in 1984 and was part of the 83 (football) team that went 12-1 and played in the Kingdome for the state championship, Naron said. I walked back on campus and asked for the opportunity to help with the football team.
After three years volunteering as a line coach, Naron was offered a full-time position at Franklin Pierce. Nineteen years later hes still on the job, helping coach football and track for the Cardinals.
As his landscaping business grew, merging with The Lawn Guys, the Naron family did, too. Daughter Danielle and son Kyle came along. Rhaynee became a stay-at-home mom.
Their business allowed them the chance to pursue their first love, working with kids.
Players would tell me every summer, Hey coach, I could use a job, and we were able to give one to some of the kids, Naron said.
Sometimes it would be just a one-day project, sometimes it was all summer.
Landscaping is a hard job, but it can teach life skills. When you can impact a young person and be someone who helps mom, dad and school help them reach their goals ... thats what you call a game-changer.
Naron is as proud of his former employees as he was their achievements on the football field. One is a Tacoma police officer. Another, Eric Gunderson, is a Washington state patrolman.
I got to know him through football, and he didnt coach the team because he had a kid on the team he did it to work with players, Gunderson said. I got to know his family, and (son) Kyle was just a little guy back then.
He couldnt pronounce Eric, so he called me Carrot and that became my name. Now, all these years later, Kyle is on the team at Franklin Pierce.
For Gunderson, the summer job produced spending money, and along the way he came to admire the man whod hired him.
Hes big into church, but he never pushed it on me, Gunderson said. He made it known, if you had a question or wanted to talk about it, he was there. Dave had a big heart. He gave a lot.
Last summer, another former Franklin Pierce player, Ryan Phillips, found himself without a job after graduation.
I started working part time with him in August, and we got to know each other, Phillips said. He never brings religion up, but I do. I know his background, and I had questions. He told me I didnt need a church to find God.
Phillips job became full-time in October.
The Naron family business is now in the process of becoming a franchise of The Grounds Guys, a national company based in Texas. That wont change their approach or their goals.
School, football, work it does translate into life, Naron said. It can make you a better man, husband, father.
It helped make Gunderson a state trooper with a soft spot.
If I pulled coach over, I probably wouldnt give him a ticket, Gunderson said. But hes not a speeding kind of guy.
Larry LaRue: (253) 597-8638