If you have been lucky enough to cover high school sports for more than 35 years in Northern California, you’re happy this week that the Oakland Raiders have hired Jack Del Rio, previously the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, to be their newest head coach.
I’m one of those people and had been doing Cal-Hi Sports alongside my late uncle, Nelson Tennis, for just a couple of years and was still in college for the 1979-80 school year.
One of the state’s best prep athletes that year and still one of the best three-sport athletes I’ve ever seen was Hayward High’s Del Rio. It’s been well-documented this week that Del Rio grew up a Raiders’ fan and his parents have been long-time season ticket holders.
Later on that night, Pinole Valley of Pinole won the NCS 3A title with QB Dale Sveum. Like Del Rio, Sweum went on to be a pro coach but in his case in baseball, not football.
Del Rio also was a standout on Hayward High’s 1979-80 26-4 team in basketball that was No. 1 in the final Cal-Hi Sports AAA Division state rankings. The Farmers also went 27-5 the next year when Del Rio was a senior, but lost in the NCS playoffs to 31-1 Drake of San Anselmo.
I remember going to one game to see one of those Hayward teams (can’t remember which one) and one play that Del Rio was involved in even had the officials smiling. It was one of those plays in which Del Rio was on defense and was attempting to get a charging foul against an opposing player. The problem was that the other player was no more than 5-foot-8 and probably weighed less than 160 pounds. Watching Del Rio fake like he’d been knocked down by this player was one of the worst acting jobs ever.
In addition to football and basketball, Del Rio also was a catcher in baseball. I didn’t see him play baseball but have seen that he hit two homers in a 1981 NCS playoff game and I see that he would later hit .340 at USC.
Just last weekend, we put together a retroactive list of State Defensive Players of the Year and listed Del Rio for the 1979 season. Back in the day, my uncle already had him down as the 1979-80 State Junior Athlete of the Year and 1979-80 Medium Schools State Athlete of the Year. Darryl Strawberry of L.A. Crenshaw was the overall State Athlete of the Year for 79-80, one year after Del Rio’s most recent boss, John Elway of the Denver Broncos, was the honoree for 1978-79.
I also was lucky enough to have gotten to meet Del Rio a couple of summers ago when he was with his son, Luke, at one of the Elite 11 quarterback camps. He remembered that hit on the Miramonte quarterback quite well, not so much the attempt at flopping. Luke is now playing at Oregon State and may get to play next season with Sean Mannion (Foothill, Pleasanton) moving on hopefully to the NFL.
Let’s just hope that Del Rio can do for the Raiders what Hayward High’s last head coach in the NFL did for a different Bay Area franchise. That would be Bill Walsh with the 49ers. Yet another Hayward High alum who also is beloved in Bay Area pro sports is San Francisco Giants’ broadcaster Jon Miller.