There’s gold in the trophy cases of a few Mid-Columbia high schools this week.
In celebration of Sunday’s landmark 50th Super Bowl, the National Football League marked the occasion by mailing about 3,000 golden Wilson NFL footballs to over 2,000 high schools around the country.
If an athlete or coach was on an active Super Bowl roster from the previous 49 games, the high school that player or coach graduated from was sent a football.
In the Mid-Columbia region, that added up to five footballs.
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Two went to Pasco High School for former players Anthony Davis and Ron Howard. Kennewick High received one for ex-Steeler Ray Mansfield. And Connell High got a ball for former Redskins tight end Clint Didier and Walla Walla High for former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
The footballs have the player’s name and the Super Bowl they played in.
The athletic directors at the four schools said they were completely surprised with the deliveries.
“I received word last Tuesday night when I was supervising a basketball game at Hanford High School,” said Pasco Athletic Director Jake Davis. “These things are legit. They come in their own case.”
I received word last Tuesday night when I was supervising a basketball game at Hanford High School. These things are legit. They come in their own case.
Jake Davis, Pasco High athletic director
Jake Davis said he has talked to both Anthony Davis, no relation, who played in Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens as a linebacker; and Ron Howard, who was a tight end for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s and played in Super Bowl X in 1976.
“They are both so gracious,” said Jake Davis. “Both of them said none of this would have been possible without their mentors at Pasco High School. Pasco High and the school district, in fact the whole community, is very honored. People feel they had a part in it.”
Jake Davis wants to get both former players back to the school as soon as possible. “So they can talk about their journey,” he said.
Their footballs will be on display in the foyer to the main gym.
At Kennewick High, it took a few days to see Mansfield’s football.
“It got sent to the school, but it was addressed to former Principal Van Cummings,” said Lions Athletic Director Ronny Coleman. “He came in a few days later and opened it up.”
Mansfield, who died in 1996, was the Steelers’ long-time center from 1964 to 1976. He played in Super Bowls IX in 1975 and X in 1976 — coincidentally against Pasco’s Howard.
Coleman said the football is currently displayed in the front office at the school. But it will eventually move to their hall of fame display.
Students have been drawn to the football.
“Our kids have been interested in it,” said Coleman. “They’re not old enough to know who he is. They’ll ask ‘Who is Ray Mansfield?’ And we explain that he is a former Lion. It’s been cool.”
Our kids have been interested in it. They’re not old enough to know who he is. They’ll ask ‘Who is Ray Mansfield?’ And we explain that he is a former Lion. It’s been cool.
Ronny Coleman, Kennewick High athletic director
Steve Frucci, athletic director at Connell High School, said Didier’s football is displayed with the high school football team’s state trophies right now.
“We got the trophy last week and we had an announcement at our basketball game last Friday night,” said Frucci. “Clint knew about it too.”
Didier played on two Super Bowl-winning Washington teams, winning XVII in 1983 and XXII in 1988.
In Walla Walla, Blue Devils AD Jack Mehn said he was notified three or four weeks ago about Bledsoe’s football.
“It’s sitting in our trophy case,” said Mehn. “It’s there in the case with Drew’s helmet, his jersey and a picture of him with (former Blue Devil star and ex-NFL linebacker) Peter Sirmon.”
Bledsoe was a member of two Super Bowl teams for the Patriots: Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 and XXXVI 2002.
The football has drawn a lot of the students’ attention, said Mehn.
“Not just our students, but last week at a basketball game, students from the other school were huddled around it.”
Not just our students, but last week at a basketball game, students from the other school were huddled around it.
Jack Mehn, Walla Walla High athletic director
As an extra bonus, the NFL is going to award a $5,000 grant to a lucky school that applies for it.
Frucci said he applied “and Clint had to apply from his end.”
And the Connell athletic director already has plans for the grant if the school gets it.
“We would replace our scoreboard,” he said.
Jake Davis is also applying for the grant.
“I think we’ve got a great chance to get it,” he said. “We’re a play-for-free district, while most of the other districts are not. So we have to fund raise to get a lot of our equipment.”
Jeff Morrow is the retired sports editor for the Tri-City Herald.