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San Clemente Journal

Coach Tim Butler; A Life Well-Played

Nov 28, 2021 10:52AM ● By Mike Chamberlin

Coach Butler stands in front of the Triton Wall of Fame, his name is at the top of the list.

by Mike Chamberlin

If you walk through the gates of Thalassa Stadium on the campus of San Clemente High School, look to your left. You will see a Triton Wall of Fame. It’s a Who’s Who of some of the greatest football players that ever played at SCHS. Some even went on to professional careers.

Upon my recent visit to the school, my eyes raised to the top of that impressive list, to the first inductee from 1968; his name … Tim Butler … a San Clementean through and through. He was there the first day Concordia Elementary School opened in1955 and he was there the day SCHS opened in 1964. 

A surfer at heart, he was too competitive for the water. He took to football and track - a two-sport phenom - but really gained fame on the grid iron. In addition to returning kickoffs and punts, he was the lead running back and he still owns some Triton Football records. 

The best way to describe Tim is that he was undersized but an overachiever. “I never considered myself to be a gifted athlete. I was born with average speed but a fierce desire to compete in all I did.” He added, “I wanted to be the best I could be because I was always smaller than my peers, so I had to play harder just to keep up.” 


Play hard he did, some 50+ years after leaving San Clemente High he still owns the record for the most rushing touchdowns in a game. He scored five touchdowns, the oldest standing athletic record at SCHS (he actually scored six TDs, but one was called back due to a clipping penalty). He was also the school’s football MVP and Athlete of the Year in 1968. And Tim did all this while wearing heavy corrective glasses under his Triton helmet.  

Jim Summers played on Tim’s Triton team, and he remembers Tim Butler this way. “Timmy was extremely competitive when it was game time, a very humble person with so many natural gifts that could have made him feel special, but he never played that card.”  

Tim also ran track for three years and owned the 400-meter record for 40 years. On top of all that he was the 1968 homecoming king! He was definitely the ‘’golden boy.”


You’d think with all those records, he would have been heavily recruited, yet only a few schools came calling. He chose Saddleback because he knew he’d be a starter. He owns a record that will never be broken at Saddleback…scoring the first ever Gaucho touchdown!  Eventually finishing college as an NAIA All-American in track at Biola University, he graduated with a degree in Physical Ed and a BA in Biblical studies. 

 As inevitably happens to high level athletes, playing days eventually come to an end. But the end of his playing days opened the door to a stellar coaching career. For 44 years he was the head cross country and assistant track and field coach at Dana Hills High School. During his time there, Coach Butler’s cross county teams qualified for postseason play 36 consecutive years, winning 23 South Coast titles, seven Orange County titles, five CIF titles, and four Division 1 state titles. Coaching 16 individual state finalists, he coached with a purpose and lived by a proverb, “We can prepare for the battle, but the outcome is from the Lord.”

Fortunately Tim never had to leave the San Clemente area. His career kept him at home. That home included marriage to his high school sweetheart Mimi (he first met Mimi at T-Street at 10 years of age). Their union produced three children, Stephen, Sarah and Peter. 

Tim also penned a book, The Authentic Runner. It’s a moving story about the heart and passion of one man, and the effect he has had on hundreds, if not thousands, of young athletes. 

Well-played Coach Butler, well-played …

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