Former Banning of Wilmington standout fullback Michael Alo passes at 53 years old. The Cal-Hi Sports 1980 Mr. Football never played a down of college football, but is legendary in South Bay and L.A. City Sectionc circles for his dominant play.
Michael Alo, widely considered the best all-around football player in recent L.A. City Section lore and one of the best ever from the South Bay, passed on Monday from complications of diabetes. He was 53 years old.
Alo attended Banning of Wilmington at a time when it was one of the nation’s best programs. The 6-foot, 220-pound Alo helped the Pilots win three L.A. City 4A titles during a stretch when it won six consecutive from 1976-81. Their best team during that time was the 1980 team that finished 14-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state in the midst of a 30-game winning streak. That was Alo’s senior year and at its conclusion he was named Mr. Football State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports. He was named national player of the year by the Atlanta Touchdown Club and was a two-time L.A. City Section 4A Player of the Year choice.
When Cal-Hi Sports put together its list of the all-time Top 10 teams from the section, 1980 Banning was No. 2. Alo’s reputation and ability was passionately displayed when we put together our list of the Dandy Dozen all-time running backs from the talent-laden section. Alo was a devastating runner and blocker, a standout linebacker and an even better punter, so we decided to wait to put him high on one of our upcoming lists of the greatest all-around players ever from the section, and the Cal-Hi Sports users let us know they felt Alo should have been No. 1 on the running back list regardless.
Before the internet-driven recruiting networks and services, Alo was considered the nation’s top recruit and chose to attend USC. Even more remarkable, he didn’t have the gaudy statistics of some of the other top recruits of that era such as Eric Dickerson (1978), Herschel Walker (1979) or Marcus Dupree (1981) that often helped players gain nationwide noteriety. With his all-around physical nature, Alo was expected to make an immediate impact at fullback for John Robinson’s program, but suffered a neck injury before he could ever play a game with the Trojans.
Our 1973 Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year from the same program, Frank Manumaleuna, was another rugged fullback/linebacker and terrific all-around athlete who also suffered a neck injury in college. In the case of Manumaleuna, it was during the first game of his freshman season for UCLA. The Bruins wouldn’t clear him to play again, so he transferred to De Anza JC to play, and eventually went on to San Jose St. and the NFL. Alo never played again.
In recent years, former Banning coach Chris Ferragamo told Cal-Hi Sports Alo was the best player he ever coached and reiterated that point to the South Day Daily Breeze after Alo’s passing.
Alo has four older brothers, Foe, Ricky, Harry and Frank, who all played football at Banning.