From the time I was old enough to follow pro football, I was a San Francisco 49ers fan and I saw several of their games at the now-defunct Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. I adored their long string of quarterbacks, starting with Frankie Albert and continuing with Y.A. Tittle, Bill Kilmer, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young.
After growing up in northern California and eventually finding my way to Minnesota, I soon adapted to the Vikings and Packers. I was drawn to the Packers because they are owned by the two-fisted, hard-drinking fans and not a bunch of money-grubbers.
Getting back to the point, I think the Niners erred when they turned loose quarterback Alex Smith, who threw for 30 touchdowns with only 10 oskies and a 65 percent completion average.
Smith was leading the NFL in passing and had San Fran on the right track when he suffered a concussion in mid-November.
Enter Colin Kaepernick fresh out of the U of Nevada and Smith was never heard from again as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl. There’s no doubt that Kaepernick will bring many fine seasons to the Bay Area, but he’s not there yet.
Smith was great at the U of Utah and was getting to the top of his pro game prior to the injury that sidelined him. I watched Smith lead his team on impressive drives and at age 28 he has his best years ahead of him.
I thought the Vikings should have sniffed him out. Hey, Christian Ponder hasn’t exactly proven himself, but he did make strides last season.
The perception of Smith in Sonoma County is that he is a fine, moral character with a strong arm and leadership qualities. I admit that I only talked to a few when I was out there in February, but they agreed with me so it must be right on.
Next year, Smith will line up with an extremely inefficient team called the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kaepernick looked good until the Niners had first-and-goal on the Ravens’ 4-yard line — nothing good happened after that, as you recall.
Here’s one for the books with quarterback Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys just signing a six-year contract extension worth 108 million clams. Now get this, $55 million of that is guaranteed. This guy at age 33 is the highest paid in franchise history — a list that includes Roger “the dodger” Staubach and Troy Aikman.
Those two gentlemen led America’s Team to no less than five Super Bowl titles. What has Roma done that’s worth $18 million per season? Why do players even get contract extensions, anyway? What’s wrong with the original one they signed?
I think Smith will be a gem, but not Romo.
Ponies are top shelf
Kudos to the Stillwater Ponies football team for lending a helping hand at the Valley Outreach Food Shelf earlier this week. Led by organizers Eric and Patti Olson and captains Jake Olson, David Peterson, Mitchell Schertz and Trevor Tillett, the Ponies unloaded three-quarters of a 50-foot semi-truck filled with four tons of food — that’s 8,000 pounds, sports fans — on Tuesday. The group also helped sort the items.
Other players who chipped in to help included: Joe Knapp, Ryan Peltier, Oliver O’Keefe, Peter Palacek, Jordan Phelps, Zach Knox, Johnny Randazzo, Josh Markert, Cal Rorabeck, Caleb Fick, Ryan Floen, Mark Houle and Ben Gualtieri.
Today’s Sports Trivia
Name the former Ponies all-state basketball player who went on to all-conference stardom at St. Cloud State University?
In the huddle
It looks like a busy week ahead with Jerry Foley and moi attending a retired football coaches reception on Friday at the Double Tree Hotel in Minneapolis and Foley getting inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday. The
late, great Gene “Taco” Bealka will receive the Distinguished Service Award from Humboldt High School at its hall of fame banquet on Tuesday night at the Prom Center in Oakdale. About the same time that Foley gets inducted, Ponies assistant grid coach Mark Elmer will receive the Butch Nash Award at the same site…. Well, last Saturday afternoon just when I wanted to get some work done they appeared on CBS. In this case, “they” were tennis players Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova going at it tooth-and-nail in the finals of the Sony Open. Serena won 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, with Sharapova grunting on every volley…. Shelby Ahrendt has been selected MVP by the section champion Stillwater girls’ Nordic ski team. The academic all-stater joins all-conference performers Haley Beech, Vessa Pearsall, Cela Peterson, Anya Nelson, Megan Weaver and Sofie Wicklund. All of the above qualified for state, where the team placed fourth for the second year in a row. Morgan McBride and Sammi Potts were honorable mention all-conference. Captains for next year’s outfit are Beech, Pearsall, McBride and Weaver. All-state Sean Bjork was the MVP ace for the boys’ Nordic squad. He led the all-conference contingent of Sam Hanson, Paul Larson, Luke Richie, Linder Wendt and Kellen Wessels. Captains for next winter will be Davis Gray, Reis Jones, Stefan Nelson and David Ross. Honorable mention all-conference types include Gray, Mike Gilleo and Matt Trumper…. Ten cents used to be a lot of money, but dimes have changed…. The answer to Today’s Sports Trivia Question: she’s none other than Sarah (Howard) Thompson ’84, who starred for the Ponies and later was an all-conference star and captain at St. Cloud State U…. Psst, a little birdie tells me that John and son Jim Gagliardi will be the speakers at the M.V.P. (Men. Value. Purpose.) get-together at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on April 23. The birdie also chirped that the Ponies boys’ hockey team will play Elk River outdoors as part of Hockey Day Minnesota next winter…. The Ponies boys’ swim team has voted junior Thomas Windett its Most Valuable Athlete at its banquet at The Grand Ballroom in Stillwater on March 3. Stillwater compiled a 6-3 record to place fourth in the Suburban East Conference, but rebounded to win the Section 4AA title. The locals placed no less than a dozen on the all-conference team, including: Windett, Brady Anderson, Lucas Magilke, Alex Burback, Marcus Green, Jesse Busse, Jon Busse, Isaac Swanlund, Max Larson, Liam Gibb, Anthony Shanley and Colin Eason. Captains for next year are Anderson, Windett and Riley Hollerbach. Honorable mention recognition went out to Alex Percival, Brennan Rosell, Dominic Jankowski and Sam Larson…. Stillwater look-a-likes: Rich Cummings and Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak…. A boy was born on March 17 to former Ponies alpine skier, cross country and track runner Emily (Bunce) Wanning ’97 and her husband Peter Wanning. The
husky Timothy Marshall (9 pounds, 5 ounces and 21.5 inches long) joins his sister, Whitney (age 4), and bulldog Hubert at the Wanning home in St. Paul…. Why would Gophers AD Norwood Teague fire Tubby Smith without a great replacement firmly in hand? Smith couldn’t win in the Big Ten, but don’t feel sorry for him. The guy will collect $2.5 million for not coaching at Sky-U-Mah. Just like the guy he replaced — who also got a golden parachute — the Gophers are still paying on Dan Monson and grid coaches Glen Mason and Tim Brewster. Current grid coach Jerry Kill received a salary increase during a previous 3-9 season that included losses to North Dakota State and New Mexico State. Teague pulled the plug on Smith, who earned $250,000 in bonuses. What happened to Shaka Smart (VCU), Buzz Williams (Marquette), Brad Stevens (Butler), Fred Hoiberg (ISU) and last, but not least, Flip Saunders? Smith was apparently fired without a sure-fire replacement. Enter Rich Pitino, who win or lose will definitely leave here a much richer man…. Together we build character, courage and loyalty…. finis
Today’s rumination #612
Rainmaking isn’t all that difficult, just wash your car or plan a picnic.
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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]