DARNOLD, DE ROO AND DAMON JUST PART OF “CONNECTIONS”

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold was the latest “connection.”

Throw in football’s Jim Weatherwax and Brian DeRoo.

Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright showed up here, with his team, one Saturday morning in 2003.

“Black” Jack Gardner left here in 1928.

Jerry Tarkanian lifted off from here in 1961.

How many Redlands Connections can there be?

It’s the basis for the Blog site, www.redlandsconnection.com. Dedicated to the idea that there’s a connection from Redlands to almost every major sporting event.

The afore-mentioned have already been featured. There have been others. Plenty of others.

Golf. Track & field. Tennis. Baseball and basketball. Softball and soccer. The Olympic Games and the Kentucky Derby. The World Series and the Super Bowl. You name it.

For a city this size, the connections to all of those are remarkable.

Softball’s Savannah Jaquish left Redlands East Valley for Louisiana State.

Bob Karstens was just shooting a few baskets when I saw him at Redlands High. Turned out he was one of three white men ever to play for the usually all-black Harlem Globetrotters.

Brian Billick coached a Hall of Famer. Together, they won a Super Bowl.

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Brian Billick, a key Redlands Connection.

Speaking of Super Bowls, not only was a former Redlands High player involved in the first two NFL championship games, there was a head referee who stood behind QBs Bart Starr and Lenny Dawson.

That referee got his start in Redlands.

One of racing’s fastest Top Fuel dragsters is a Redlands gal, Leah Pritchett.

LEAH PRITCHETT (leahpritchett.com)
Leah Pritchett has punched her Top Fuel dragster over 330 mph many times.

Greg Horton forcefully blocked some of football’s greatest legends for a near-Super Bowl team.

At a high school playoff game at Redlands High in 1996, Alta Loma High showed up to play a quarterfinals match. It was Landon Donovan of Redlands taking on Carlos Bocanegra.

The two eventually played on the same Team USA in the World Cup and the Olympics.

Karol Damon’s high-jumping Olympic dreams weren’t even known to her mother. She wound up in Sydney. 2000.

In the coming days, weeks and months, there will be more connections.

  • A surfing legend.
  • Besides Landon Donovan, there’s another soccer dynamo.
  • When this year’s Indianapolis 500 rolls around, we’ll tell you about a guy named “Lucky Louie.”
  • Fifteen years before he won his first Masters, Tiger Woods played a 9-hole exhibition match at Redlands Country Club.
  • University of Arizona softball, one of the nation’s greatest programs, was home to a speedy outfielder.
  • As for DeRoo, he was present for one of the pro football’s darkest moments on the field.
  • In 1921, an Olympic gold medalist showed up and set five world records in Redlands.
  • The Redlands Bicycle Classic might have carved out of that sport’s most glorious locations – set in motion by a 1986 superstar squad.
  • Distance-running sensation Mary Decker was taken down by a onetime University of Redlands miler.
  • Collegiate volleyball probably never had a greater athlete from this area.

As for Darnold, consider that the one-time University of Redlands blocker is the father of Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback who might be this year’s No. 1 draft selection in pro football’s draft.

Jaquish became the first-ever 4-time All-American at talent-rich LSU.

Jacob Nottingham, drafted a few years ago by the Houston Astros, probably never knew he’d be part of two Moneyball deals.

Gardner, who coached against Bill Russell in the collegiate ranks, tried to recruit Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas State.

Wright, whose team went into the March 31-April 2 weekend hoping to win the NCAA championship for the third time, brought his team to play the Bulldogs as sort of a warm-up test for Hawaii.

Tarkanian? Few might’ve known that the legendary Tark the Shark started chewing on those towels while he was coaching at Redlands High.

Norm Schachter was head referee in three Super Bowls, including Green Bay’s inaugural championship win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Norm Schachter with Hank Stram
Norm Schacter, wearing No. 60 (not his normal official number), synchronizes with Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram during halftime of the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967.

Speaking of Tarkanian, Weatherwax played hoops for him at Redlands. Eight years later, Weatherwax wore jersey No. 73 for the Green Bay Packers. It makes him the only man to ever play for Tarkanian and Vince Lombardi.

There will be more Redlands connections.

 

NFL DRAFT: THERE WAS A DARNOLD AT REDLANDS A FEW YEARS BACK

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold, as I remember, was a soft-spoken, seemed-to-recall type of player who blended right into his college football team.

An offensive lineman. I want to say he was a right tackle.

In those days, the mid-1980s, the head coach at the University of Redlands was Ken Miller, who has a nice Redlands Connection resume of his own – a Bulldog play-calling specialist when he returned to the Bulldogs as an assistant. That came before a brilliant career in the Canadian Football League in Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan.

As for Mike Darnold, a spot playing offensive line for a small college team in out-of-the-way Redlands was certainly not a pre-signal to raising a son that would turn heads in both college football and the 2018 NFL draft.

That son is Sam Darnold. USC. Heisman Trophy candidate. Possible No. 1 NFL draft choice. A legend, perhaps, in the making.

Mike, Sam Darnold (Photo courtesy of Triton Football).
Former University of Redlands player, Mike Darnold, left, stands next to his son, Sam Darnold, who is holding an award from the Triton Football Club. (Photo courtesy of the Triton Football Club.)

You can never tell. Quarterback John Fouch, a Redlands High School product who took off for Arizona State in 1976, transferred back to his small-town university. He played Bulldog football for two years. A few decades later, his shotgun-throwing son, Ronnie, turned up at Washington and, later, Indiana State.

I always thought John was one of the greatest local athletes I’d ever seen – track/football’s Patrick Johnson, soccer’s Landon Donovan and Heather Aldama, football’s Kylie Fitts and Chris Polk, plus softball’s Savannah Jaquish, to name a few – were among some of the others.

Ronnie Fouch tried hard – got into a couple NFL pre-season camps – but he never found that desired roster spot.

Mike Darnold’s kid did, though.

Boy, Sam turned up the heat in playing QB from his Orange County prep spot – San Clemente High School.

Instead of a career playing small-college teams from Whittier, Claremont-Mudd, Azusa-Pacific and La Verne, which were the stops on Mike’s playing career schedule for Redlands, his son was playing the likes of UCLA, Penn State, Notre Dame and teams from Arizona, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

“Some have asked about Mike,” said current Bulldog coach Mike Maynard, “but he was before my time.”

Which is fairly hard to believe since Maynard arrived in 1988 – that’s 30 years!

It was Miller who recruited Mike Darnold to Redlands.

Miller, who assisted Maynard until leaving Redlands in 2000 after a brilliant career as a Bulldog offensive and defensive play-caller, turned the Canadian Football League on its ear. He led the Saskatchewan Rough Riders to 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup championships. Miller distinguished himself in so many ways while also working for Toronto and Montreal.

Mike Darnold, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound blocker, came from Dana Hills High School, another high school from the O.C. These days, he’s a foreman for a gas company. He’s done plumbing.

After Redlands, he went off and got married to Chris, who played volleyball at Long Beach City.

 

Their older daughter, Franki, was good enough to play volleyball at University of Rhode Island.

It’s an athletic family.

A former Bulldog hero, Brian De Roo, who made it to the NFL, said he rented out his Redlands home on nearby Campus St. to Darnold, among others.

“They lived at my home,” he said, “the summer after they had all graduated. They were working on the grounds crew and needed a place to lay their heads.”

De Roo tried to contact Mike Darnold on his son’s good fortune, “and say congrats … he’s pretty private!”

Redlands, during Mike Darnold’s day, was scrambling to rebuild a football empire. Budgets had crumbled on campus. Women’s athletics were crawling into the scene. Instead of acquiring their own budgets – coaches, assistants, all the necessary expenses for various teams – athletic money was split instead of doubled.

Miller had no fulltime assistant coaches. Plus, he was asked to coach the baseball team. Recruiting two major sports? Please.

Miller did land a couple of major college transfers – lineman Tom Gianelli from UCLA and fullback Scott Napier from Nebraska, where he was teammates with future NFL great Roger Craig.

It wasn’t enough.

Mike Darnold played alongside some good players, but Occidental College wore down everyone during the 1980s. While he was never an all-conference player, it’s hard to land players onto those elite post-season teams when your own team finishes, say, 0-9.

Over a decade after Mike Darnold left Redlands, Sam Darnold was born.

 

 

 

 

A REDLANDS MINI-WORLD CUP CONNECTION: DONOVAN V BOCANEGRA

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Landon Donovan on the move. Image Credit: Jason Wojciechowski “USA vs. Algeria World Cup match. Licensed under CC BY (2.0)

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Landon Donovan, an Olympian and World Cup soccer player, not to mention a multiple-winning Honda Player of the Year in Major Soccer League play, was on the field during an unforgettable CIF-Southern Section high school playoff match back in 1996.

Donovan was a freshman midfield sensation who would eventually be named his league’s Most Valuable Player. On this March afternoon, in a match played on the school’s JV football field – corner of Citrus and University – Alta Loma High School was the visiting side.

The place was packed. People everywhere. Spectators lined up around the field six or seven deep. Parking was impossible. Assigned to cover the match, I could barely get a place to view the match myself. I needed a perfect viewing position. Unobstructed. When I did manage to find a spot, it was next to an Alta Loma player’s mother.

Her name was Kelly. Nice lady. Alta Loma had won the CIF Southern Section football championship a few months earlier. Plenty of the kids on the Braves’ soccer team played on that team. In Kelly’s mom, this match against Redlands would be no contest.

Kelly’s son was Carlos Bocanegra.

Imagine that!

Donovan and Bocanegra on the same field. Opposite sides. Two players who would eventually play together on the same U.S. Olympic and World Cup teams. Bocanegra, like Donovan, was a future big-time player in his own right.

That high school match itself was a classic. It was like a mini-World Cup match.

Redlands won, eventually, on penalty kicks. Terrier goalkeeper Jerad Bailey (who had a future great career at Loyola Marymount University) emerged a hero, having stopped some critical shot attempts by the visiting Braves, including during the penalty kick phase of the match.

The following year, Donovan had wound up at Redlands East Valley High School, its first year of existence. Midway through his sophomore season, though, the 16-year-old signed a professional contract to play in Europe.

A pro soccer career was underway.