Becoming a positions coach for the Seattle Seahawks marked a significant milestone in Dave Canales’ ’03 almost surreal coaching career and a catalyst for the start of a journey that would transform how he viewed his career, and his life.
A wide receiver and two-time team captain at Azusa Pacific from 1999-2003, Dave graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and went into coaching, spending his first year at Carson High School, his alma mater. At that time, his dream was to one day become a high school head coach. With the encouragement of his wife, Elizabeth “Lizzy” (Henderson ’05), who recognized his standout gifts, he set his sights higher.
Dave’s leadership strengths, innovative approach to the game, and ability to motivate players was apparent to those around him. As a result, he quickly moved up the ranks, coaching at El Camino College and the University of Southern California before joining the NFL as quality control assistant coach for the Seahawks in 2010. Then, in 2015, the news came—he had been promoted to wide receivers coach.
A position coach in the NFL. A dream career opportunity. Dave credits this success to those who encouraged and developed him along the way. Coaches like former Azusa Pacific head coach Pete Shinnick and Pete Carroll, former USC head coach and current head coach and executive vice president of the Seattle Seahawks, recognized Dave’s potential and played a key role in helping him hone his leadership skills. Yet in this pinnacle moment, it took an honest conversation at home to see that although things looked good on the surface, life was far from perfect.
For Dave and Lizzy, a weekend marriage retreat became the moment when everything changed as God called him to reconcile their relationship. “I just knew it. I knew I had to be reconciled with her.” In that moment, through his wife, he deeply felt and understood the grace of Jesus Christ.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
That retreat was the beginning of a new journey, one that led to reprioritization of his life: God first, family second, then football. Today, Dave has a different regard for his football coaching career.
“I’m not fighting and scratching for identity out of it, but it just happens to be the place where I’m serving Christ right now.”
Recognizing that everyone falls short and a dream career doesn’t equate to a perfect life, Dave uses his story to connect with and minister to those he encounters, including his players. Beyond being a husband, father, and coach, he is a mentor, sponsor, big brother; he actively seeks opportunities to guide the young men with whom he works, helping them hone their gifts while reminding them of the importance of family and life outside of football.