Former UCLA star running back and long jumper James McAlister dies
James McAlister, a former UCLA All-America tailback and standout long jumper, died Saturday at his home in Corona after years battling cancer, according to school officials. He was 66.
McAlister combined with former high school teammate Kermit Johnson to form what was known as the “Blair Pair” in 1972 and ‘73, the onetime Pasadena Blair High standouts helping the Bruins compile the top four single-game rushing totals in school history.
McAlister logged six career 100-yard rushing games, including a career-best 121 yards against Arizona in 1972. The Bruins amassed a school-record 621 rushing yards against Stanford in 1973 during a season in which UCLA averaged a school-record 400.3 rushing yards per game.
The Bruins did not play in the Rose Bowl or beat cross-town rival USC in either of McAlister’s two years, though they wowed fans across the West Coast with their rushing exploits.
“They called me Mr. Inside and Kermit Mr. Outside,” McAlister, who was listed at 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds, told The Times in 2007. “But I could get the corner on you. Don’t let my size fool you.”
McAlister earned All-America honors in 1973, when he ran for 714 yards and eight touchdowns while helping the Bruins compile a 9-2 record and a second-place finish in the Pacific 8 Conference. The previous season, McAlister had rushed for 778 yards and nine touchdowns for a team that went 8-3.
He was also a track standout; his long jump of 27 feet 1/2 inch was the top mark in the world in 1973. It remains the school record.
McAlister was selected in the sixth round of the 1974 NFL draft but signed with the World Football League’s Southern California Sun before heading to the NFL when the Sun filed for bankruptcy after one season. He played in 43 games with the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots from 1975-78, scoring five touchdowns.
McAlister later returned to coach at Blair High, where he had led the Vikings to a 13-0 record and the Southern Section championship as a player in 1969 while rushing for 2,168 yards and scoring 31 touchdowns.
McAlister is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and sons Chris and James. Chris was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during an 11-year NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.
Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. April 14 at the Metropolitan Church in Altadena. A viewing will precede the services at 9 a.m.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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