In honor of LV.
That means it's the 55th year of the Super Bowl in roman numerals.
Chris Hayes, a San Gorgonio High product who played on the Spartans’ 1989 CIF finals team that lost to Fontana, made football pay off in a big way.
Got 20 minutes out of him. Lives in Calabasas nowadays.
Teammates with the sensational Ron Rivers, the CIF Division I Offensive Player of the Year. Dude probably could’ve been Defensive Player of the Year, too (an honor that went to Fontana’s Bobby Sylvester), not to mention CIF Special Teams Player of the Year (which they don’t have, but should).
It was Rivers, in fact, who lives up in Northern California, that relayed Hayes’ number. Hayes was on the treadmill while we chatted.
Reminiscing with Hayes, not to mention Rivers, was fascinating. They re-lived some of their draft day experiences.
Hayes, though, was picked by Green Bay (1996), picked up a Super Bowl ring with the Brett Favre Packers, then coached by Mike Holmgren. A year later, Hayes was traded to the New York Jets, then coached by Hall of Famer Bill Parcells.
Assistant Jets’ coach? Bill Belichick. Hmmm.
Belichick, as everyone must know by now, eventually wound up in New England. He traded for Hayes in 2002.
“We lost in the second round that year,” said Hayes, who retired after that game.
Both Hayes and Rivers, incidentally, have sons that’ll be up for this year’s draft ⎯ Ronnie Rivers, Jr. and Louisville’s Isaiah Hayes.
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There seems to be a nice little connection to pro football’s biggest stage in a nice, polite, erudite city that sits alongside Interstate 10 in between Loma Linda and Yucaipa.
Readers, I think, know the place.
What are the odds, I’m wondering, that the little city referred to could send a few men into a growing sport that takes over the world on one Sunday every single year?
Brian Billick, for instance, was a schoolboy when the Green Bay Packers won the first two games of the Super Bowl era ⎯ 1967 and 1968.
On that Packers’ team, incidentally, was Jim Weatherwax, a backup defensive tackle who made Vince Lombardi’s roster as a rookie out of West Texas A&M in 1966.
Weatherwax, who attended high school at Billick’s future campus, must’ve watched the Los Angeles Rams during pre-season training (1948-60) before the Super Bowl era came to life in 1967.
Billick, for his part, wound up in a coaching career that took him to a handful of stops. One of those coaching stops in his travels might’ve been Fresno State. Instead, Pat Hill from the nearby mountain communities was hired to coach the Bulldogs.
Billick took the Baltimore Ravens.
Long around the time Billick was offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, a California school kid named Patrick Johnson was winning state sprints championships in the 100 and 200.
Believe it, or not, but Johnson didn’t envision a career in track & field. He wanted to play pro football. After four seasons at Oregon, Johnson got his shot. Billick watched the Ravens draft him. Second round, 1998.
Somewhere in between Weatherwax and Billick, incidentally, came a man named Greg Horton. A blocker. A Colorado Buffalo. A 1974 third round draft pick of Chicago Bears’ George Halas ⎯ Lombardi’s arch-enemy.
Horton came so close to a Super Bowl. Slugged it out with the Rams in a defensive struggle, 1979 ⎯ lost, 9-0. Came that close.
All those guys ⎯ Billick, Weatherwax, Johnson and Horton ⎯ came from that same little city of Redlands.
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A few Super Bowl notes:
• If the Packers had knocked off Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship game, it would’ve been Green Bay’s Ken Clark from Rialto Carter High lining up against Kansas City’s Daniel Sorensen, who is from Colton High ⎯ a mini-Super Bowl showdown between former Citrus Belt League stars.
• Current Tennessee Titans’ offensive line coach Keith Carter (think setting up blocking for Derrick Henry), who was line coach at the University of Redlands back in 2007 and 2008, has been part of two Super Bowl coaching staffs ⎯ Seattle in 2013 and Atlanta in 2018.
• Weatherwax, who also played basketball at Redlands High (coached by college Hall of Famer Jerry Tarkanian), has been credited with driving Kansas City Chiefs kickoff returner Mike Garrett out of bounds in the Super Bowl’s first play.
• Throw in Norm Schachter, a Redlands English teacher back in 1941, who got his initial start in football officiating in this area. There was no San Gorgonio, Aquinas, Citrus Valley, Yucaipa or Cajon ⎯ just Redlands, San Bernardino, Colton, Riverside Poly and beyond. Schachter, who wrote a book “Close Calls & Confessions,” not only served as the head referee in the Super Bowl, but he added Super Bowl V and XIII before hanging it up.
(Got a sports tip? Want to chat sports? Contact me at email@example.com.)