Former Palisades and Cal Wide Receiver Geoff McArthur Catches On as a High School Football Coach
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Many talented athletes have come through the Palisades High football program over the years, several of whom have made it to the NFL, but perhaps the best of them all was Geoff McArthur, a linebacker and wide receiver who played three seasons for the Dolphins (1997-99) and remains the school’s single-season and career recordholder in receiving yards, catches and touchdown catches. Flourishing in the spread offense implemented by offensive coordinator and highly successful quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder had 91 receptions for a national-best 1,779 yards and 28 touchdowns as a 16-year-old senior and finished his career with 139 catches for 2,517 yards and 35 touchdowns under head coach Ron Price. He won the Post Cup Award as Pali High’s outstanding senior athlete in 2000 and went on to a stellar collegiate career at California, graduating as the Bears’ all-time leader in receptions (202, a mark he held until 2012) and receiving yards (3,188, a record he still holds). He was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. A Lynwood native, he has a bachelor’s degree in social welfare and a master’s in education, which he earned while serving as a wide receivers and conditioning coach at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. Last fall he was the offensive coordinator under Anton Clarkson at St. Monica High in Santa Monica, helping the Mariners to a 7-2 mark. Here is his interview with the Palisadian-Post:
PP: What do you remember most about playing football at Palisades? Is there a particular play or game that stands out?
GM: We always had a great mix of talent and leadership. Coaches and players included. I’ll always remember coming out of the tunnel at Stadium by the Sea, awesome night games and when the fog would roll in.
The Dorsey playoff game my sophomore year [in 1997] was a big one for me. I was 14 years old and I had a pick six in the fourth quarter to help us win, 33-26. My brother Milton Parker won a City title with Dorsey after transferring there from Pali. I was almost a Don too. I even practiced with the JV for a week in ninth grade, but my mom chose Pali. Great choice!
PP: Do you still keep in touch with head coach Ron Price and OC Steve Clarkson? What is the most important thing you learned from them that helped you at the next level?
GM: Yes to both. I give them a ton of credit for helping prepare me for the next level. Believe it or not, I learned something similar from both that helped me in college: toughness and attitude.
I’ll never forget learning to play linebacker from Coach Price in the 10th grade. He gave me this old school pad and asked me if I ever heard of a “forearm shiver” or something like that. Then he shows me this move that’s probably illegal today and told me to do it to the tight end every play, while maintaining outside contain.
Coach Clarkson also instilled a tough-nosed attitude. Though he was on the offensive side of the ball, I’ve never played for a more aggressive coach or play caller.Winning was very important to him and he didnt want there to be any doubt who the better team was. He taught me to prepare to win and expect to put up points.
PP: Did you make it to your 10-year class reunion? Do you still keep in touch with your Pali High teammates? Have you gone to many Dolphins games since you graduated?
GM: Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the 10 year reunion as I was living in Missouri at the time. Yes, I’ve always stayed in touch with a good number of teammates from those days. Guys like Maurice Burgess, Charles Ealy, Dave Koral, Duke Manyweather, Keith Davis, Carlos Flores and a bunch of other guys.
PP: What did it mean to you to win the Post Cup Award as Pali’s outstanding senior athlete? Do you still keep the plaque on the wall or is it stashed in a drawer somewhere?
GM: Pali has always been, and still is, packed with talented student-athletes. So winning that award was important to me at that time in my life. It definitely was a boost in self-esteem heading into college. I still have it. Not on the wall yet, but eventually it will be.
PP: How difficult was your transition from high school to college? Do you think playing in Palisades’ pass-oriented offense prepared you for Cal?
GM: The transition was intense. Balancing the demands of Berkeley’s academics and athletics wasn’t easy for me. On the field, I led the team in receiving as a 17-year-old true freshman. Off the field, academics were getting the best of me. It wasn’t my ability, I just wasn’t aware of how to actually study. I also had zero concept of time management. As for style, yes our offense/scheme at Pali helped for sure.
PP: What was it like playing with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers? Do you rank him with the all-time greats?
GM: Playing with Aaron is a dream come true for a receiver. His commitment to the team, to excellence was second to none. He’s by far one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. His accuracy and arm strength and his feel for the game were as good as you can get. He’s a Hall of Famer no doubt and one of the best football players to ever suit up.
PP: After Cal, what did you pursue career-wise? How long did it take for you to realize the NFL might not be your destiny? When did you decide you wanted to be a coach?
GM: I decided after my senior season to pull my name from the draft. I was projected anywhere from the second to fourth round depending on my 40-yard dash. My knee was really, really bad at the time. I had cartilage damage that was irreparable. I had to choose my health over money at that point. I was very miserable attempting to train and play with the injury. I knew my career was in jeopardy going into my senior year. I had to choose between getting surgery and missing part of the season or getting a series of lubrication injections called Synvisc or something like that. I was encouraged by coaches to play and didn’t want to let any of my teammates down.
I first got a taste of coaching kids at a summer camp my sophomore year in college. My first coaching job was at Kennedy High in Richmond (CA) in 2005. I eventually went to do camps with Steve Clarkson alongside guys like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, while being the lead receivers coach for DeBartolo Sports University (owned by former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo). I coached at Lindenwood University, a Division II program from 2009-2011 and got my master’s there. After leaving St Charles, I moved to Canada to help start an after-school program to help international students get exposure to NCAA schools. It was useful and helped many students. When it ended I decided to stay in Canada and started my own all-boys private boarding high school and I founded Canada Prep Academy in 2013. I sold it in 2018. Upon returning to Los Angeles I coached receivers at El Camino College in Torrance. We had a great season, won the conference championship and I actually helped send our best receiver, Trevon Clark, to Cal. After that I had an opportunity to work with my best friend, [former Venice High quarterback] Anton Clarkson, who is Steve’s son, at St Monica Catholic. Anton is our head coach and I serve as assistant head coach/offensive coordinator. Prior to us getting there, the team had won only a handful of games (six) over the previous three years combined. We went 7-2 in just our first season and are currently placing our players in universities.
PP: Education has been a big priority for you, not only at Cal but then pursuing your master’s. How has it contributed to your career development and your growth as a person?
GM: Getting my master’s degree is probably one of my top accomplishments and influences in my life today. I thoroughly enjoy the concept of teaching and learning. Thank God for Google and YouTube as it helps to have “credible” experience that you can show because most kids now won’t listen if they can’t “verify” you as credible.
PP: What is the best advice you have for middle school or high school-age kids who want to play in college? Do you recommend playing other sports too or sticking to football?
GM: The best advice I can offer any student athlete that wants to play sports in college is simply to enjoy and embrace the journey. I think it’s easy to get fixated on the future. However, the junior high and high school experiences are the most genuine. I’d say it’s great to have a desired goal and outcome, but it’s even better to work for that goal and outcome. Don’t get so focused in on it that you put too much pressure on yourself, your family or your teammates. Those years are the most pure form of the sport, so cherish them. Some people are football junkies and that’s all they want to do. That’s up to them. I think playing multiple sports is a great way to become a better overall athlete and helps develop cognitive function in athletics, but to each his own.
PP: What was it like coaching alongside Anton at St. Monica last season? Did you enjoy being OC and will you be back in the fall?
GM: Man, what a great season it was! Coaching next to your buddy is like playing or being in the huddle with them again. The kids and families are awesome. The administration is very supportive. Teaching there is rewarding and fun. With the COVID-19 outbeak it’s tough to forecast the future at the moment but I anticipate being there and continuing to build on last season.
PP: What are your future goals? Do you want to stay involved in football?
GM: I’ll always be involved in football. I have to. The game did so much for me. I also want to get involved in the health industry at some point. I’m working on a small business plan that involves vitamins, organic fruits and vegetables as well as mental health and well being. Naturally, I want to help others. I’m 37 now so 20 years goes by fast, I guess. I was back on campus last year when Steve Clarkson ran his camp for all of the top college and high school quarterbacks. I was there as a guest and just to support him. I haven’t met [current] coach Tim Hyde yet, but I look forward to it. One day, I’d love to return to Palisades to coach and teach. That would be awesome!
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