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Holmgren, O.J. and Me
Jim Toland
December 15, 1997
Memories of teammates and foes in San Francisco, circa 1964, put life in perspective
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December 15, 1997

Holmgren, O.j. And Me

Memories of teammates and foes in San Francisco, circa 1964, put life in perspective

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We talked for a few minutes one day near the football field. I told him that after my discharge from the Army, I had hitchhiked around the country, then worked my way through college. We were both a little envious of Simpson's success. I couldn't admit to Holmgren how lousy he had made me feel back in 1964.

When Holmgren took Balboa apart that day, everyone on our team thought that he was just another high school kid and that we had been beaten badly by just another peer. It would have softened the blow quite a bit to have known that one day Holmgren would become head coach at Green Bay and eventually lead his team to victory in Super Bowl XXXI. When Brett Favre and the rest of Holmgren's crew sent New England packing last January, I couldn't help thinking of how Holmgren had cut his teeth on us in 1964.

I watched last winter's Super Bowl with my 16-year-old son, John, and told him the story of Lincoln versus Balboa, Holmgren versus Valero. John asked me to dig out my old yearbook to see if there might be a photo of me chasing Big Mike or maybe even O.J. There wasn't.

Instead, one photo on the varsity football pages caught my eye. It was the only one that had been signed. It was of number 10, Jon Valero, running with the ball against Sacred Heart High. He had written on it simply: "Remember Me!!" Valero, a decorated infantry sergeant, like Yanez, also was slain in Vietnam.

If not for Holmgren, I might not have opened that dusty old yearbook, and I might not have passed Valero's legacy on to my son: "Move fast, hang on"—and celebrate diversity.

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