Gone is the wavy blond hair that made Ron Cuccia look like a surfer dude during his playing days at Los Angeles Wilson High. A receding hairline could make it difficult for former classmates to identify him. Then again, having any kind of hair at 56 is pretty good.
“It’s hard to believe 40 years have gone by,” he said last week standing in an empty Vic Cuccia Stadium, named after his father, who was Wilson’s football coach for 22 years.
In 1975, the Wilson Mules began a three-year run that is unlikely to be duplicated. With Ron Cuccia at quarterback and his father as head coach, Wilson went 39-0 and won three consecutive City Section 3A championships.
Cuccia set national records in passing for 8,804 yards and 91 touchdowns. Every Friday night, the community of El Sereno would come out to see the team that never lost.
“It was neighborhood football,” said Eddie Martinez, a receiver back then who is now Wilson’s head coach. “Guys grew up in their neighborhood and wanted to play for their neighborhood. When I was a kid, there was no way I would go to another school.”
Cuccia served as a ball boy for Wilson growing up. He played youth football with his future Wilson players. With his dad as the coach, he got a permit to attend Wilson even though he lived in Alhambra.
It was the glory days of City Section football. John Elway was on his way to Granada Hills. Tom Ramsey was at Granada Hills Kennedy. San Fernando was running its wishbone offense. Banning was a powerhouse. And the City Section went from one division to 3A and 4A.
Vic Cuccia put together a strange but exciting passing offense with four receivers and one back. No opponent in 3A could figure out the Mules, led by their Harvard-bound quarterback and a cast of receivers who didn’t drop passes.
Wilson even got some national attention. In a 1977 game against Lincoln, the Mules led at halftime, 63-0, and Lincoln never returned from the locker room, deciding to forfeit.
Ron Cuccia went on to Harvard and became a chiropractor. This year, when he sent his daughter to college, he had so much free time he became an assistant coach for Wilson’s JV team.
On Friday night, Wilson will wear throwback uniforms for its game against Franklin. And at halftime, members of the 1975 13-0 team will be honored in a 40-year reunion.¿ The players are scattered around the country, and several became firefighters and police officers.
“Every time I see them it’s like a shot of youthness,” Ron Cuccia said.
Vic Cuccia, who was Wilson’s coach from 1956 through 1977, died in 2008. He’d probably be as proud to see his old players getting together as he would seeing his granddaughter follow his son to Harvard.
Ron is looking forward to the reunion. “It will be a blast,” he said.
He might even show off his arm.
“I can throw a spiral but not far,” he said smiling and enjoying every minute standing on the field that was the site of so much excitement 40 years ago.