John Webb, former Kennedy High School athletic director, seen in this August 2008 photograph, was killed Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in an early morning crash
John Webb, former Kennedy High School athletic director, seen in this August 2008 photograph, was killed Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in an early morning crash involving three cars on northbound Interstate 680. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group Staff Archives)

FREMONT -- John Webb, a longtime athletic director, co-head football coach and "institution" at John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont died Saturday in an early morning crash involving three cars on northbound Interstate 680, authorities said.

The California Highway Patrol said Webb, 76, was hit by a Toyota Corrola around 1 a.m. after exiting a Corvette and trying to direct traffic on the freeway after the Corvette had run into the back of a stalled van between Vargas and Sheridan roads. Webb was a passenger in the Corvette, the CHP said.

Nobody else was injured in the crash, the CHP said.

"The irony of this whole thing is that he was doing what he always did," said Pete Michaletos, who coached football at Kennedy for 46 years, the final 25 of them with Webb as a de facto co-head coach. "He was helping someone out. That's just the way he was."

Webb was returning with a friend after attending San Jose State's 58-52 triple overtime loss to Navy on Friday night. Webb was an alumni of the school, where he starred as a running back in the same backfield with future Super Bowl-winning coach Dick Vermeil in the 1950s. He also is a member of the school's boxing Hall of Fame and once was offered a job to be a part of the staff when legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh became San Francisco's coach in 1978, friends and school officials said.

He retired as the school's athletic director after the 2010-11 school year, but Michaletos said he had been considering a return to the sidelines. In addition to coaching, he also taught math, English and wood shop, and he was the school's adviser of student activities as well as the athletic director. Late in his tenure, he took over the adviser to the school's Chinese Club when the school couldn't find a replacement to his predecessor.

He kept teaching after his retirement as the athletic director, Principal Edward Velez said.

"He could've retired from teaching years ago," Velez said. "But the kids needed him, and needed the kids. He was an institution, and we were lucky to have him for as long as we were able to have him."

Similar sentiments were expressed on a Facebook page dedicated to the school's football program, which was filled with messages from former students.

"Coach Webb was one of the best men I knew during my time at Kennedy," Becky Railsback wrote. " ... Not only did this man help in shaping my passion for helping people, he helped everyone around him do the same."

Webb arrived at Kennedy in 1986, Michaletos said, just as the Titans were in the middle of a 32-game winless streak. He was the offensive and defensive coordinator for Michaletos initially, and two years later, the team won a league championship.

"He demanded excellence, but he demanded it so that the kids he taught and coached would demand it of themselves when they went out into the world," Michaletos said. "He was a special guy. This is a very sad day."

A candlelight vigil will be held in front of the school at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.