Beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, don’t bother me. No emails, phone calls, texts or drop-ins. I’ll be busy alongside several thousand other local NFL fans. You have a good reason. Celebrating. Focusing. Screaming. Eating. Drinking.
It’s a national holiday — or should be.
Redlands, meanwhile, has carved out a little niche of its own when it comes to the Super Bowl. There’ve been participants right from within these city boundaries.
No, John Elway didn’t come from Redlands.
Neither did Mike Singletary or Larry Csonka.
Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi came from other areas.
But Brian Billick came from here.
Jim Weatherwax and Patrick Johnson launched NFL careers on local turf.
Norm Schachter taught here and even began his NFL officiating career while in Redlands.
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It’s been 19 years since Billick, a onetime Redlands High safety and QB, coached the Baltimore Ravens to victory in a one-sided Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants with another ex-Terrier, Johnson, who was 1993 state sprint (100 and 200) champion, even caught a pass in that 34-7 win in Tampa, Fla.
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It’s been over a half century since Weatherwax, a defensive tackle/end, played on back-to-back Super Bowl champions for Vince Lombardi’s Packers. He left Redlands High as a grad in 1961.
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Game of Games: Colton High vs. Redlands East Valley, 2005. At the University of Redlands. Big Citrus Belt League showdown. On TV. REV’s Kurt Bruich, in one of his early big-time, big-game, thrilling showdowns — of which there were many — going up against Yellowjackets’ coach Harold Strauss.
There were future pro football players on that field, folks, including REV’s RB Chris Polk (Philadelphia, Houston), plus three on the Colton side alone — namely Shareece Wright (six different teams) and Allen Bradford (7 different teams), plus a sophomore Yellowjackets’ defensive back.
Out of that pile of remarkable football talent, only one, safety Daniel Sorensen, will have played in a Super Bowl. But not until Sunday’s game when his Chiefs take on San Francisco in Miami.
Sorensen plays safety.
Footnote: Bradford was on the practice squad for Seattle during their Super Bowl team in 2014. Footnote II: REV won that 2005 overtime showdown, 41-40. Packed house. Starting QB Ronnie Fouch got hurt. In a Super Bowl-type coaching move, Bruich had given playing time in a handful of games to backup Mike Stadler.
Because REV won a handful of games by lopsided margins, Bruich rested his regulars for many fourth-quarters. It gave Stadler a chance to take a handful of snaps. Who knows what would’ve happened in that Colton showdown if Bruich had let his starters stay in to rack up stats?
Stadler’s game-winning TD pass in OT went to none other than TE Lance Evboumwan, who is Arrowhead Christian’s head coach — basketball coach, though, not football.
It can be viewed that the Stadler-Evboumwan game-winning pass came against a secondary with a future Super Bowl DB.
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Think how close another Redlands footballer came to playing in the Big Game: Terrier alum Greg Horton started at left guard for the John McKay-coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers who lost 9-0 to the Rams in the 1979 NFC Championship.
That Bucs’ team, with future Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams at QB and future three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs calling Tampa’s plays, couldn’t score a single point that day against the Ray Malavasi-coached Rams.
Wonder how that bummed out Horton in future years?
Especially since he’d been on the Rams’ roster a year, or so, earlier and was traded to Tampa in 1978.
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Super Bowl I, featuring the Packers and the Chiefs, had a Redlands man as head referee.
Schachter, who reffed three Super Bowls, taught English in the Redlands school system back in 1941. Eventually, he surfaced as a high school principal in Los Angeles — and eventually wore NFL stripes.
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Back to Weatherwax: His high school football coach was Frank Serrao, who led the Terriers to their only CIF championship in 1961.
But Waxie’s Terrier basketball coach was none other than Jerry Tarkanian, the future collegiate basketball Hall of Fame coach who was in town for two years to get his Masters from the local university.
You wonder how much Tarkanian’s coaching served Waxie’s football-playing career.
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Plenty of stories came from Waxie and Schachter, who was loaded with stories. Here’s one (remember, I have space limitations):
In that inaugural Super Bowl, which was then referred to as the NFL-AFL World Championship, an equal amount of officials from each league were assigned duty that day. Three each. You know, equality all around.
When an AFL ref threw a flag against the NFL’s Packers, Green Bay QB Bart Starr, said Weatherwax, complained to Schachter, the head official who was from the NFL.
“Norm,” complained Starr, via Weatherwax, “that was one of their guys.”
Said Weatherwax: “Schachter picked up the flag.”
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That’s one hell of a piece of trivia, incidentally, on Tarkanian: That there’s someone out there, Weatherwax, who played for both Lombardi and Tark The Shark — considered legendary in both sports. Wow.
(Speaking of Tarkanian, we’ll have an insightful piece on his two-year stint as Terrier coach, 1959-61, upcoming.)
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Let’s see here: The NFC West has produced Super Bowl participants from three-fourths of its affiliation over the past five seasons. Seattle, the Rams and, of course, San Francisco, have reached football’s Promised Land.
That leaves just one NFC West team, Arizona, out of that mix. Redlands East Valley LB Kylie Fitts — I promise a story on him down the road — is on that Cardinals’ roster.
Will Fitts be the next local connection to the Super Bowl?
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