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It was in 1944 that I first saw Ronnie throw a football. He was only nine, but I immediately saw that he had a great arm and a good eye. So the tutoring process began. I sharpened his football playing by organizing touch-football teams all over the area. Most of the players were high school kids, bigger than Ronnie, but already he was passing them silly.
THE MEN FROM THE BOYS
As a sophomore at Beverly Hills High, Ronnie went out for the varsity football team. I dropped in at the field to watch practice. The coach announced, "We're going to separate the men from the boys." So he had the backfield men and linemen charge each other. After a couple of collisions, I observed that Ronnie was lining up with the tackles and the guards. After a further inspection, I discovered that Ronnie was out of his head. I immediately took him to Dr. Hunter Brown, a brain specialist, who diagnosed Ronnie's ailment as concussion. Were it his boy, Dr. Brown said, he would never let him play football again.
Nevertheless, Ronnie returned to the squad after five weeks and in five games he threw seven touchdown passes and ran for another. He scored 48 of the 60 points scored by the team, winning two and losing three. The losses certainly weren't Ronnie's fault. The coach's alibi was: "The boys here at Beverly Hills are different from other kids elsewhere."
I recommended to Ronnie that we move to Santa Monica as it was very plain that the coach there, Mr. Jim Sutherland, was the coach in high school football. Santa Monica had beaten Beverly Hills 52-7 in Ronnie's sophomore year.
See what I mean? I'm supposed to be leading this boy's life but you can see he used his own head in this matter. We moved to Inglewood.
There Ronnie found a coach?Marty Ernaga?who was as smooth as silk. He played the game with a slide rule?that's how close he played it to his vest. For the first four games he alternated guards on every play, sending in a new play every time with them, which he called from the bench. Naturally, this was annoying to Ronnie and boring for me. After all, it's a kid's game, and the kids should call it.
The battle cry was, "Beat Santa Monica!" That was the big game of the year. When it came, it started out in a thick fog. It was impossible to see more than 15 yards in any direction.
Ronnie was on his own for the first time. The coach couldn't even see who had the ball. But he still sent in his alternating guards?to find out what was going on. He was informed after five minutes of play, two touchdowns, 12 points! That's how quickly Ronnie and the boys slickered those guys.