NOVEMBER 2, 1964
John Huarte left football 26 years ago, but the Heisman Trophy-winning Notre Dame quarterback is still making his mark in sports arenas. His company, Arizona Tile, which imports and distributes ceramic tile and natural stone, supplied marble columns for Bank One Ballpark, Italian porcelain flooring for the Staples Center and granite pavement slabs for Invesco Field at Mile High. To find the materials for these venues, as well as for commercial buildings and homes, Huarte, 58, travels the world, from the Andes to the mountains of Ukraine, with geologists and buyers. "We're making something beautiful and lasting," Huarte says. "I always knew I would build this business, but it's grown way beyond my dreams."
He could also be describing his senior year at Notre Dame. Huarte would have been sidelined for the entire 1964 season had he heeded the advice of the three doctors who advised surgery to repair the shoulder he had separated in a spring scrimmage. However, Ara Parseghian, who had taken over as Irish coach in January of that year, decided to get his sidearmed passer one last medical opinion. That doctor advised Huarte that the shoulder would heal without surgery. Huarte kept practicing, and by the fall he was throwing pain-free. He led the Irish to a 9-1 season, their first winning fall in six years. He passed for 2,062 yards and 16 touchdowns, and set 12 school records, four of which still stand. "I lucked out in playing for Ara," Huarte says. "After a practice, four days before our first game, he looked me in the eye and said, 'John, you're my quarterback. I want you to get out there, relax, and if things don't go right, if you make a mistake, you're still my quarterback.' I'll never forget that."
Huarte played sparingly in the AFL and the NFL over 10 years, then finished his career in the now defunct WFL, in which he played two seasons (1974-75) for the Memphis Southmen. There, sharing time with Danny White, Huarte completed 231 of 330 passes for 2,966 yards. Still, his NFL career had not been without its rewards. One August day in 1965, while practicing with the Jets at Shea Stadium, he met Eileen Devine, a St. John's student who was working as an elevator operator. The two married the following spring and now live in Pacific Palisades, Calif. They have three daughters, two sons and two grandsons. Three of Huarte's children work with him in Arizona Tile. Since starting the business 25 years ago with money he saved while playing in the NFL, Huarte has seen his company grow to the point that it has showrooms in five states and offices in Brazil, the Czech Republic and Italy. "I've been incredibly lucky," says Huarte, "but I do have a knack for sticking with things."