As part of the nationwide Super Bowl 50 celebration, three Yuba-Sutter high schools have received some special hardware to display in their trophy cases.
Marysville, Yuba City and Wheatland High were each given a Wilson Golden Football, awarded to schools across the country for every player or head coach who graduated from the school and was on an active Super Bowl roster.
On one side of the Golden Football is the Super Bowl 50 logo, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's stamped signature. The other side lists the player's name, high school, city and the Super Bowls in which he participated.
An adjoining placard was also issued with the player's name, Super Bowl and the following message: "Football has always been about more than wins and losses. The game teaches lessons that last a lifetime. Through your football program, your school is building men of high character by instilling values in your student athletes. The NFL is grateful to you and your community, and honored to partner with you in making champions on and off the field. Your school's name will be listed on the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll."
Four values are listed underneath that inscription: "Integrity. Respect. Resiliency. Responsibility to Team."
The NFL started the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll program to acknowledge schools and communities that have directly influenced Super Bowl history and impacted the game for the better.
More than 2,000 high schools and about 3,000 players and coaches were recognized during the course of the season. Some players and coaches delivered the commemorative footballs personally.
According to NFL.com, the highest number of golden footballs a state received was California with 432. Following California is Texas (326), Florida (218), Ohio (155) and Pennsylvania (148). California also has the most high schools receiving golden footballs with 296. Texas is second with 223, followed by Florida (141), Pennsylvania (124) and Ohio (119).
Memorial High in Port Arthur, Texas, received the most golden footballs with eight.
The NFL Foundation, which gave $1 million for the campaign, also provided schools with the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to support their football programs, along with a new character- education curriculum.
WILLIE CLARK, WHEATLAND
Although Willie Clark attended Wheatland High for only two years, the stories about the 1990 graduate are the stuff of local legend.
Perhaps the fastest player to ever come out of the Yuba-Sutter area, Clark's blinding speed is etched into the memory off all who saw him play — from fans and fellow players to coaches and even the referees who officiated his games.
His staggering 17.3 yards-per-carry average for the Pirates as a junior in 1988 was an all-time state record, while on the track, Clark won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints at the Northern Section Championships during his senior year while anchoring Wheatland's winning 4x100 relay team.
As legend has it, Clark was so dominant in the Northern Section that he won the 200 without even taking off his sweats.
He qualified for the CIF State Meet both of his years at Wheatland and finished second in two events, including a narrow loss to future Oakland Raiders running back Napolean Kaufman in the 100 (Kaufman won by one-hundredth of a second).
His combination of speed and skill earned Clark a full-ride scholarship to Notre Dame, a national power under coach Lou Holtz in those days, where he played both running back and defensive back.
He rushed for 223 yards and four touchdowns for the Fighting Irish and remained a standout sprinter on the track, qualifying for the NCAA Finals in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.22 seconds. He also joined Clint Johnson and future NFL receivers Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and Rod Smith to set an NCAA record in the 4x100 relay.
"He was an amazing athlete and he was also a very good student," said Wheatland athletic director Sue Kirby, who was Clark's English teacher during his time at Wheatland. "I believe he left here with a 3.7-3.8 GPA, another reason why he got into Notre Dame. He was a great kid and was really nice, polite and everything you would expect from an Air Force kid in those days. He had all of the right qualities."
Clark ended up being a third-round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers as a cornerback in 1994 and played in Super Bowl XXIX against the San Francisco 49ers in his rookie season.
The 49ers won the game 49-26 in Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, but for having been of the select few to play in the big game, Wheatland was rewarded with a Golden Football as part of the NFL's Super Bowl 50 celebration.
"We received ours about a week and a half ago. It came directly to (principal Dr. Vic) Ramos, and as soon as he got it, he said 'Hey, you've got to come to my office!'" Kirby said. "We had no idea we were getting one of these, so it was a nice surprise."
Clark had a five-year NFL career with the Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles from 1994-98, in which he recorded 96 solo tackles, four interception and two fumble recoveries.
He returned one interception 83 yards for a touchdown and returned an onside kick 39 yards for another touchdown in his career before moving on to the education field.
Today, Clark is the principal at Palmetto High in Palmetto, Fla., and was inducted into the Wheatland High Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Kirby said Wheatland will have a rally on Feb. 19 and show the football off to students and hopes to have Clark come to the school for a formal presentation in the future.
"Our foyer area has all of our trophies, and we're going to clear out a section of that and have our wood shop or metal shop build something to put it in," Kirby said. "It will have a mirror in the back so people can see both sides of the football."
RON PORTER, YUBA CITY
former Yuba City High standout earned the Honkers a Golden Football for his exploits in two Super Bowls.
Ron Porter, who graduated from Yuba City in 1963, competed in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of them all when he took the field at Miami's Orange Bowl in Super Bowl III.
In the first game to officially be called the Super Bowl (the first two editions were referred to as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game), Porter's Baltimore Colts took on the upstart New York Jets and brash quarterback, Joe Namath.
In what is regarded by many as one of the greatest upsets in American sports history, Porter's Colts, who were coached by Hall of Famer Don Shula, lost to the Jets 16-7, the first Super Bowl win for an AFL team.
Porter, a linebacker, had a fumble recovery in the loss, picking up a loose ball on the Jets' 12-yard line.
And that wouldn't be Porter's last appearance on the sport's biggest stage.
In his final year in the NFL in 1973, Porter played in Super Bowl VIII for the Vikings, who lost to the Miami Dolphins 24-7 at Rice Stadium in Houston.
With the Vikings, he played alongside the famed "Purple People Eaters" of defensive tackles Gary Larsen and Alan Page, and defensive ends Jim Marshall and Carl Eller.
Overall, Porter started 57 games in the NFL and had three interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries over his career (sacks and tackle totals were not statistics kept by the NFL in those days). Porter played in the NFL from 1967-73, spending time with the Colts, Eagles and Vikings.
During Porter's senior season at Yuba City in 1962, he led the Honkers to a perfect 6-0 record in the Sierra Foothill League, earning All-SFL and team MVP honors. He was a standout at both linebacker and running back for the Honkers during his four seasons in brown and gold.
After high school, Porter earned a scholarship to the University of Idaho, where he was twice an all-conference selection and served as team captain his junior and senior seasons.
Porter was drafted by the Colts in the fifth round of the 1967 draft.
He's a member of both the Northern Idaho and Northern California Sports Association Hall of Fames. In 2007, he was elected president of the South Florida Chapter of the NFL Alumni Association.
Porter is the only player in the 93-year history of Yuba City High School to play in the NFL.
Yuba City athletic director Joel Seaman, who both played and coaches football for the Honkers, said receiving a part of Porter's legacy is an honor for the school.
"A lot of us went to the same school as him and played on the same field," Seaman said. "He carried the torch for all of us. That's as good as it gets."
Porter, now 70, resides in Florida, and Seaman hopes to reach out to him at some point about this prestigious item.
"Not many guys in the NFL even get to play in one Super Bowl, and he was able to play in two," Seaman said, "and not only was it the biggest game of them all, but it was the best of all of the Super Bowls. That's the apex of the profession right there."
JOE ROSE, MARYSVILLE
Founded in 1871, Marysville High is one of the three oldest high schools in California.
Many students and football players have passed through its halls over the past 145 years, and three have been good enough to reach the highest level of the sport by playing in the NFL.
Only one has the distinction of playing in what has become the biggest game of them all.
Last week, Marysville received a commemorative Golden Football by the NFL for the efforts of 1975 graduate Joe Rose, the star player on the Indians' last undefeated team in 1974.
Rose now resides in Davie, Fla., but his family still calls the area home. He came to Marysville and visited with principal Gary Cena three weeks ago and plans to return to address the students during a formal presentation of the ball when time allows.
In the meantime, the football will be on display in the school's trophy case.
"He has a connection to the community, and even though he graduated some 40 years ago, he's still big medicine around Marysville," said Cena, a Marysville alumnus who grew up watching Rose play during his high school days in the 70s. "He had been contacted by the NFL and came by to touch base and see what this was all about and what we were looking for. I told him I just wanted him to come and share his message because I know he's a phenomenal public speaker and he has a context that the kids will respect and we could honor him for his accomplishments."
Rose caught 55 passes for 916 yards and 10 touchdowns during his senior year at Marysville, when he topped all of Northern California in receiving yardage and led the Indians to the Sierra Foothill League title.
He went on to play at Cal and was the hero of the 1979 Big Game between Cal and Stanford when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of the Bears' 21-14 victory.
Rose was then drafted in the seventh round by legendary coach Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins, and played seven years as a tight end in the NFL with Miami and the Los Angeles Rams from 1980-87.
After not catching a pass in the Dolphins' 27-17 loss to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena at the end of the 1982 season, Rose had his best season in 1983. He made 29 catches for 345 yards and three touchdowns that year, hauling in the first career touchdown pass from a rookie quarterback and future Hall of Famer named Dan Marino.
In January 1985, Rose played in the big game again and caught six passes for 73 yards in the Dolphins' 38-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.
Rose didn't play in 1986 but returned to play one game for the Rams in 1987, finishing his career with 112 receptions for 1,493 yards and 13 touchdowns.
After retiring from football, Rose became a radio broadcaster in the Miami area. He is currently the color commentator on Dolphins radio broadcasts and is a sports anchor for CBS4 in Miami. He was inducted into the Northern California Sports Association Hall of Fame in 2012.
"Our school mantra is 'Many paths, one journey,' and it just shows that a guy who goes to Kynoch and McKenney and Marysville High can accomplish anything they want," Cena said. "We believe every one of us on this earth is put here for a unique and special purpose, and when they're in high school, it's the student's mission is to discover what that purpose is.
"Whether it's a coach, teacher, counselor or custodian, it's our job to facilitate that process and encourage people to use their gifts to serve other people. Here's a guy from Marysville who embodies that. He's a down-to-earth guy."
Jim Watson was the first Marysville graduate to play in the NFL by playing center for the Redskins in 1945 before a concussion ended his career prematurely. He later went on to become the mayor of Marysville and was a key fixture in the community before his passing in 2004.
The second was Gern Nagler, who played wide receiver and tight end for the Chicago Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers from 1953-61 and scored 28 touchdowns in his career while making one Pro Bowl.