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Local gridiron greats: From Catholic HS to the pros

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Mater Dei’s John Huarte was a 1964 All-American quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner for Notre Dame. His favorite receiver was fellow Catholic high school product Jack Snow of St. Anthony. (Credit: University of Notre Dame Archives)

From their days on the high school gridiron, they went on to become collegiate All-Americans (in many cases), Heisman Trophy winners (in three cases) and on to the pros, where some lasted for a game, or a season, and others established noteworthy careers.

They are the 161 graduates of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Diocese of Orange (at one time, part of the archdiocese), who have played professional football, either in the National Football League, the old American Football League (1960-69), or the even-older All-American Football Conference (1946-49).

The first (as reported here recently) was Ray George of Loyola High School, with the 1939 Detroit Lions. Loyola, a longtime high school grid power, has sent 14 players to the pros, though two schools have exceeded that tally in recent years: Bishop Amat of La Puente, with 17 (a good many of them who played collegiately at USC), and Junipero Serra of Gardena, with 15 (six of whom played in 2016).

The three who have received the Heisman Trophy as the year’s top collegiate player were all quarterbacks from Orange County schools: John Huarte (Mater Dei and the University of Notre Dame, in 1964); Carson Palmer (Santa Margarita and USC, in 2002); and Matt Leinart (Mater Dei, and USC, in 2004).

Following is the list (as per pro-football-reference.com), listed by schools, with the players’ position, team(s) played for, and years played professionally. (Note: the L.A. Dons were part of the AAFC; the New York Yanks were an NFL team for two seasons).

Bishop Amat, La Puente (17): Adrian Young, LB, Phi/Chi/Det, 1968-73; Pat Haden, QB, L.A. Rams, 1976-81; John McKay Jr, WR, Tampa, 1976-78; John Sciarra, DB-QB, Philadelphia, 1978-83; Paul McDonald, QB, Cleveland/Dallas, 1980-86; Ron Brown, LB, L.A. Raiders, 1987-88; John Jackson, WR, Phoenix/Chicago, 1990-96; Eric Bieniemy, RB, SD/Cin/Phil, 1991-99; Mazio Royster, RB, Tampa, 1992-94; Troy Auzenne, T, Chi/Ind, 1992-96; Scott Fields, LB, Atlanta/Seattle, 1996-99; Daylon McCutcheon, DB, Cleveland, 1999-2005; Kory Minor, LB, Carolina, 2000-02; Ralph Brown, DB, NYG/Minn/Cleve/Ariz, 2000-09; Brian Russell, DB, Min/Cle/Sea/Hou/Jacks, 2002-09; William Robinson, OT, Wash/NO, 2009-12; Sheldon Price, CB, Ind/Balt, 2015-16.

Junipero Serra, Gardena (15): Theophile Viltz, DB, Houston, 1966; Phil Smith, WR, Balt/Ind/Phil/L.A. Rams, 1983-87; Oliver Williams, WR, Ind/Hou, 1985-87; David Williams, WR, Tampa/Raiders, 1986-87; Gene Profit, DB, New England, 1986-88; Joe Cormier, LB, L.A. Raiders, 1987; Jemeel Powell, DB, Dallas, 2003; Jashon Sykes, LB, Denver, 2003-04; Carl Ihenacho, DE, Oakland, 2012; Duke Ihenacho, DB, Den/Wash, 2012-16; Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo, 2013-16; Bene Benwikere, CB, Carolina, 2014-16; Marquise Lee, WR, Jacksonville, 2014-16; Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle, 2014-16; George Farmer, RB, Seattle, 2016.

Loyola, Los Angeles (14): Ray George, T, Det/Phil, 1939-40; Bill Chambers, G, N.Y. Yanks, 1948-49;  George Murphy, BB, L.A. Dons, 1949; Bob Wilkinson, RB/DB, N.Y. Giants, 1951-52; All Pollard, RB, Phil/N.Y. Yanks, 1951-53; George Kunz, T, Atlanta, 1969-80; Gordon Banks, WR, NO/Dallas, 1980-87; Joe Murray, G, L.A. Rams, 1987; Danny Farmer, WR, Cincinnati, 2000-02; Jeff Grau, C, Dal/Miami, 2002-03; Scott Tercero, G, St. Louis, 2004; Matt Ware, DB, Phi/Ariz, 2004-10; Chris Conte, DB, Chi/Tampa, 2011-16; Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota, 2014-16.

Mater Dei, Santa Ana (11): John Huarte, QB, Bos/Phil/KC/Chi, 1966-72; Larry Williams, OL, Cle/NO/NE, 1986-92; Nicky Sualua, RB, Dallas, 1997-98; Chris Jackson, WR, Ten/GB, 2000-03; Matt Grootegoed, LB, Detroit, 2005; Matt Leinart, QB, Ariz/Hou/Oakland, 2006-12; Khaled Holmes, C, Indianapolis, 2013-15; Matt Barkley, QB, Phil/Chi, 2013-16; Thomas Duarte, WE, Miami, 2016; Jason Meyers, K, Jacksonville, 2015-16.

Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks (12): Dave Kopay, RB, SF/Det/Wash/NO/GB, 1964-72; John Vella, T, Oak/Minn, 1972-80; Gordy Ceresino, LB, SF, 1979; Harper LeBel, TE, Sea/Phil/Atl/Chi/Balt, 1989-98; Justin Fargas, FB, Oakland, 2003-09; Travis Johnson, DT, Hou/SD, 2005-10; Cary Harris, DB, Buffalo, 2009-10; Wes Horton, DE, Carolina, 2013-16; Daniel Munyer, OL, Kansas City, 2015; Nick Folk, K, Dal/N.Y. Jets, 2007-16; Kai Forbath, K, Wash/Min/NO, 2012-16; Ben Gottschalk, C, Tampa, 2016.

Crespi, Encino (11): Randy Cross, C, San Fran, 1976-88; Keith Eck, OL, NYG, 1979; William Curran, WR, Atlanta, 1982-84; Babe Laufenberg, QB, NO/SD/Dallas, 1986-90; Russell White, RB, L.A. Rams, 1993; Shaun Williams, DB, NYG/Car, 1998-2006; Christian Fauria, TE, Sea/NE/Wash/Car, 1995-2007; Sione Fua, DL, Car/Cle/Den, 2011-14; Joseph Fauria, TE, Detroit, 2013-14; Hronis Grasu, C, Chicago, 2015; Chris Harper, WR, NE/SF, 2015-16.

Servite, Anaheim (9): Blaine Nye, G, Dallas, 1968-76; Turk Schonert, QB, Cin/Atl, 1981-89; Steve Beuerlein, QB, Raiders/Dal/Ariz/Car/Den, 1988-2003; Derek Brown, RB, NO, 1993-96; Kurt Vollers, T, Dal/Ind, 2002-05; Matt Willis, WR, Bal/Den, 2007-12; Matt Slater, WR, NE, 2008-16; Matt Kalil, DT, Minnesota, 2012-16; Troy Niklas, TE, Arizona, 2014-16

Damien, La Verne (8): Dennis Shaw, QB, Buff/StL, 1970-75; Brian Allen, RB, Ind, 2003; Thomas Henley, WR, SF, 1987; Darryl Henley, DB, L.A. Rams, 1989-94; Brian Roche, TE, SD/Kan City, 1996-98; Sheldon Jackson, TE, Buffalo, 1999-2001; Brad Lekkerkerker, T, Oakland, 2005; Cory Lekkerkerker, T, SD/Miami, 2005-07.

St. Bernard, Playa del Rey (8): Mario Celotto, LB, Buf/Oak/L.A. Rams, 1978-81; Aaron Smith, LB, Denver, 1984; Al Smith, LB, Houston, 1987-96; Jason Willis, RB, Seattle, 2004; David Richardson, DB, Jacksonville, 2004-06; Joselio Hanson, DB, SF/Phil/Oak, 2004-12; Donald Penn, T, Tampa/Oakland, 2007-16; Kyle Knox, LB, Sea/NO/Jacks, 2012-14.

Verbum Dei, Watts (8): Vernon Maxwell, LB, Balt/Ind/Det/Sea, 1983-89; Renard Young, DB, Seattle, 1987; Hardy Nickerson, LB, Pitt/Tampa/Jacks/GB, 1987-2002; Joe Campbell, DE, San Diego, 1989; Kenechi Udeze, DE, Minn, 2004-07; Terrance Pennington, T, Buff/Atl, 2006-07; Louis Leonard, DT, Cle/Car/NE, 2007-10; Akeem Ayers, LB, Ten/StL/Ind/NE, 2011-16.

St. Anthony, Long Beach (6): Johnny Olszewski, RB, ChiCard/Wash/Det/Den, 1953-62; Ernie Cheatham, DT, Balt/Pitt, 1954; John Farris, G, SD, 1965-66; Jack Snow, WR, L.A. Rams, 1965-75; Mike Simone, LB, Denver, 1972-74; Manu Tuiasosopo, DL, Sea/SF, 1979-86.

Pius X, Downey (6): Mike Ernst, QB, Den/Cin, 1972-73; Darrin Nelson, RB, Minn/SD, 1982-92; Don Noble, TE, L.A. Rams, 1987; Cornelius Redick, WR, GB, 1987; Lamont Hollinquest, LB, Wash/GB, 1993-98; Phillip Ward, LB, StL/NO, 1998-2000.

St. Paul, Santa Fe Springs (4): Bill Bain, OT, GB/Denver/L.A. Rams/NE/N.Y. Jets, 1975-86; Ed Luther, QB, San Diego, 1980-84; Alex Espinoza, QB, Kansas City, 1987; Matt Willig, T, NYJ/Atl/GB/SF/Car/StL, 1993-2005.

St. John Bosco, Bellflower (4): Bill Reid, C, San Francisco, 1975; Todd Husak, QB, Washington, 2000; Leon McFadden, CB, Cle/Sf/NYG/Dallas, 2013-16; Bryce Treggs, WR, Philadelphia, 2016.

Santa Margarita, Rancho Santa Margarita (4): Brian Finneran, WR, Phi/Atl, 1999-2010; Kris Farris, T, Buffalo, 2001; Carson Palmer, QB, Cin/Oak/Ariz, 2004-16; Gavin Escobar, TE, Dallas, 2013-16.

St. Monica, Santa Monica (4): Bob Klein, TE, L.A. Rams, SD, 1969-79; Phil Freeman, WR, Tampa, 1985-87; Marcellus Wiley, DE, Buff/SD/Dallas/Jacks, 1997-2006; Adrian Klemm, OL, NE/GB, 2000-05.

Bishop Montgomery, Torrance (3): Chris Maumalanga, DT, NYG/Arizona, 1994-96; Stanley Wilson, DB, Detroit, 2005-07; Terrance Pennington, T, Buffalo/Atlanta, 2006-07.

St. Bonaventure, Ventura (3): Lorenzo Booker, RB, Mia/Phil/Minn, 2007-11; Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, 2009-16; Trey Hill, CB, Cin/L.A. Rams, 2015-16.

Cathedral, Los Angeles (2): Gary Finneran, DE, L.A. Chargers/Oakland, 1960-61; Kent Carter, LB, New England, 1974.

St. Joseph, Santa Maria (2): Tom Rehder, OL, New Eng/NYG, 1989-90; Mark Brunell, QB, GB/Jacks/Wash/NO/NYJ, 1994-2011.

Chaminade, West Hills (2): Gabe Crecio, TE, San Francisco, 2004; Logan Paulsen, TE, Wash/Chi, 2010-16.

Paraclete, Lancaster (2): Todd Davis, LB, Den/NO, 2014-16; Darlan Thompson, FS, N.Y. Giants, 2015-16.

Fermin Lasuen, San Pedro (1): Haven Moses, WR, Buffalo/Denver, 1968-81.

Pomona Catholic (1): Ron Kadziel, LB, New England, 1972.

Bishop Alemany, Mission Hills (1): Randy Poltl. DB, Minn/Denver, 1974-77.

Daniel Murphy, Los Angeles (1): Darrell Patillo, DB, San Diego, 1983.

Mary Star of the Sea, San Pedro (1): Tim Wrightman, TE, Chicago, 1985-86.

St. Francis, La Canada (1): Alan Grant, DB, Ind/SF/Wash/Cin, 1990-94.

Santa Clara, Oxnard (1): Cierre Wood, RB, Buf/Hou/NE, 2013-15.

 

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