Rare breed

Don Cantrell

One of the great defensive professional football players from the

past 44 years is Gino Marchetti of the Colts and one of his high school

coaches was Al Irwin, a former Newport Harbor High, Orange Coast College

and UC Irvine coach.

A one-time gridder under the famed Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg at College

of the Pacific, Irwin had the opportunity to coach Marchetti at Antioch

High School after World War II in Northern California.

Marchetti remains one of the most powerful players Irwin ever coached.

During those 44 years, only Marchetti and three other pro defensive

players have been honored as the NFL's Most Valuable Player. The balance

of the list finds 27 MVP honors going to quarterbacks and 12 for running

backs, but nary a one for any receiver.

The defensive picture was still looking slim until this year when this

corner's youngest boy, Dillon, put attention on one of his former college

mates at the University of New Mexico. His name is Brian Urlacher of the

Chicago Bears.

If Urlacher doesn't make MVP this year chances are strong he will earn

the honor in the future, according to media railbirds.

Dillon, now a pre-law major at Arizona State, was once astonished at

the size of Urlacher's neck. Dillon and his brother, Jesse, once played

rugby for New Mexico's Logos.

Ulacher, who hails from a small New Mexico town named Lovington in the

Southeast, was an NFL "Rookie of the Year" last year and achieved

remarkable statistics this season in helping the Bears climb into the

playoff picture.

A middle linebacker, Urlacher is a key defensive player, big on

tackling and QB sacks. He even caught a pass and scored a touchdown


"He's a real nice guy and gets along well with his teammates," Dillon


Another big name emerged recently out of a phone talk with Pilot

Sports Hall of Famer Al Muniz, a one-time All-Eastern Conference lineman

at Orange Coast College. Prior to that, Muniz was a 250-pound guard for

Newport under Irwin in 1948.

Muniz, 70, as once asked by athletic director Ralph Reed to appear

rearly at the Harbor High gym one night and open the doors for a noted

basketball team called the Harlem Clowns, who were slated to play a

harbor area team that evening.

The first representative of the Harlem team to appear was the "front

man" for the Clowns. Muniz soon became aware that he was talking with one

of the greatest all-time Olympians - Jesse Owens, who won numerous medals

at the '36 Olympic Games in Berlin, infuriating Adolf Hitler.

Muniz was pleased to meet the U.S. hero and said, "He was a fine

gentleman and a nice guy."

In addition, many locals were treated one night at the Harbor High

auditorium when the part-owner of the defunct Cleveland Rams pro football

team arrived to conduct a radio program. His name was Bob Hope.

Hope, who had a stout reputation of performing before millions of U.S.

service men and women over the years, always had a love for pro football

and baseball.

Ed Mayer, former Newport Harbor High linebacker and a top tackle on

the championship '51 Orange Coast grid team, is sometimes in the public

eye with Bill Walsh, former coach of the Super Bowl San Francisco 49ers

and Mike White, one-time head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Mayer, 69, owner of the Designs Alive T-shirt operation in Orange, is

never surprised to find Walsh dropping by for a visit or getting a phone

call from White out of Kansas City where he now is an assistant coach to

Dick Vermeil of the Chiefs.

He first met Walsh in the '50s when he turned out for football at San

Jose State. They became roomates at the Spartan camp.

Although Jack Bell, a CIF diver for Newport Harbor in '50 once worked

the Fort Ord Army swimming pool with Clint Eastwood, they went different

directions after Bell was shipped to Korea for combat duty.

Bell did spot Eastwood once years later in Newport Beach, but the

then-movie star was guarded closely by police officers and faded away.

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