Walton's connections help the program too, fie got more than 120 golfers to pay $225 apiece in May to rub elbows with his old NFL buddies Joe Namath, Franco Harris and Joe Theisman. A pal of his even built the new locker room. "What I'm really looking forward to," he says, "is building a new stadium."
The glint in his eye means nothing but business.
The Old Professor
John Ralston, 67, is up on a ladder in the garage of this house in Los Altos, Calif., only 15 minutes from where he works as the coach at San Jose State. He and Patty, his wile of 43 years, have just moved from the house in Menlo Park where they resided for 15 years while John pursued various coaching jobs and side ventures. Included in Ralston's résumé, which covers 43 years, are head-coaching stints with Utah State, Stanford, the Oakland Invaders of the USFL and the Denver Broncos. There is so much water under the bridge for Ralston that one can easily forget that this man on a ladder stashing old bookcases in the rafters coached Stanford to Rose Bowl victories in 1971 and '72 and has already been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Ralston refuses to live in the past. He looks at the tarnished and dented trophy that sits atop a storage box. It is the 1973 United Press International AFC Coach of the Year Award. "That's the only one of those things you'll see," he says from on high. "We moved things like that again and again, and finally I stopped and said, 'Why?' Enough is enough."
After being out of coaching for 10 years, Ralston signed on with San Jose State in 1993 for two reasons. First, his son Larry had died of AIDS at the end of '91, and he wanted to bury that pain by working with young men. Second, he had decided he wanted to coach until he could do nothing else on this earth. "I was with Larry for the year before he died, and I just, well, all of a sudden I got dozens of new sons."
Normally as ebullient as a cheerleader, Ralston gets blurry-eyed for a moment, before going on. "And the other thing is, you do get better with age," he says. "To amass all the knowledge I've gained through the years, why, it's almost a responsibility to share it."
San Jose State likes Ralston because of that knowledge and because the school is pretty certain that the old Bay Area resident (he played football at Cat in the '40s) isn't going anywhere. "Go to another college? No, no," he says. "But anybody who has coached in the NFL and not won a Super Bowl, you'd have nagging questions if an NFL job were offered."
Ralston left for the NFL in 1972, as he says, "on the crest of those two Rose Bowl championships." Now he has found that more than anything else, what coaching is all about is dispensing information. "Coaching is coaching," he says. "It's a function of teaching." He's standing on the garage floor now, sweating from his efforts, and his eyes blaze as he hears himself speak. "Imagine getting to talk to 85 young men every day!" he says. "Ah, the thrill. There's nothing I've ever found that feels the same."
Certainly, though, it must be odd for some of Ralston's charges to play for a coach nearly a half-century older than they are. "I don't know what they think of me," he says. "They probably think this old bastard's crazy. Personally, I don't see the kids as any different than 25 years ago. They all want to excel."