John Ralston, former Stanford and Denver Broncos coach, dies at 92

Coach John Ralston carried by Stanford football players
Stanford coach John Ralston is carried off the field by his players after they defeated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1971.
(Associated Press)

John Ralston, who coached Stanford to two Rose Bowl victories and spent five seasons leading the Denver Broncos, has died. He was 92.

San Jose State, where Ralston finished his coaching career and later worked as special assistant to the athletic director, said Sunday that Ralston died Saturday in Sunnyvale.

Born in Oakland, Ralston spent much of a long coaching career in the Bay Area, but he first became a college head coach at Utah State in 1959.


The former Cal player was hired to coach rival Stanford in 1963. Ralston’s Stanford teams won consecutive Pac-8 championships and the Rose Bowl following the 1970 and 1971 regular seasons. Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992, Ralston coached 1970 Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett at Stanford and Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Merlin Olsen at Utah State.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees says he has gotten X-rays and will be meeting with a hand specialist in Los Angeles to determine the severity of his thumb injury.

Ralston left college for the NFL in 1972. With Denver, he had a 34-33-3 record. He later coached the Oakland Invaders of the United States Football League from 1983-'84 and at San Jose State from 1993-'96.

Ralston served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the South Pacific in World War II, achieving the rank of corporal before attending the University of California.

He was a linebacker at Cal, playing in two Rose Bowls under coach Pappy Waldorf. After coaching high school football in the Bay Area, he returned to Cal as an assistant under Waldorf and was part of the Bears’ last Rose Bowl team after the 1958 season.

Among the prominent coaches who worked for Ralston were Super Bowl winners Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil along with Jim Mora Sr. and Mike White.