VIEW FROM ABOVE: Alvin Walton still the only Pass area player to suit up in the Big Game … Derron Smith launching hopes for NFL return … Collins, Billick, Lott among area elite to play in Super Bowl.
Anyone can see why Derron Smith wants to keep playing in the National Football League. If the ultimate goal is reaching the Super Bowl, well, it’s the grandest stage in American sports.
Banning High’s Alvin Walton, an alumni mate of Smith’s, not only had that dream, but it came to life. Walton’s still considered a legend around these parts because he got to play in Super Bowl XXII, the one where he sacked Broncos’ quarterback John Elway in helping the Redskins beat Denver, 42-10, in Jan. 1988.
Walton is remembered by local old-timers. The guy could hit. Part of the legend is that Walton’s Mt. San Jacinto College coaches limited his practice reps.
Word was, the guy hit so hard that it was too much for his teammates.
The Redskins probably figured that out when he was playing safety at Kansas. They drafted him in 1986. Third round. Seventy-fifth pick. Seventy-seven NFL games. 12 interceptions. Truth be told, Walton was also part of the Redskins’ 1991 roster, the season when they beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XVI.
Plenty of American cities across this nation have their connections to pro football’s biggest game. This week’s LIII is no exception. It’s a geographical bingo card for players and their cities.
Joe Namath from Beaver Falls, Pa.
Tom Brady from San Mateo, Calif.
Mean Joe Greene from Temple, Texas.
We could go on, seemingly, forever.
In 52 previous Super Bowl championships, think of the hundreds of cities, like Banning, that have produced players that have lined up on America’s biggest sports stage.
You think those cities aren’t celebrating their native sons’ participation in a game that’s grown massively each year since it was first played in 1967?
Not every city has a Super Bowl player, either. Neighboring communities like Yucaipa and Beaumont haven’t yet made contributions. Those city’s high schools have had plenty of good players; just not fortunate enough that any of them reached the NFL or the Super Bowl.
Redlands, on the other hand, has had more than a handful of NFL players, three of which have won Super Bowl rings.
Around these parts, Walton is part of a stunning collection of players who’ve played in the Super Bowl from cities from Banning westbound on Interstate 10 to, say, Ontario.
Redlands: Defensive end Jim Weatherwax played in the first two Super Bowl games for the Vince Lombardi Packers in 1967 and 1968. Throw in Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick in the 2001 Super Bowl, a game in which another former Terrier Patrick Johnson caught a pass.
Rialto: Hall of Fame CB-S Ronnie Lott (Eisenhower High) has four Super Bowl rings in his trophy case during a stalwart career, mostly with the 49ers.
Colton: Jimmy Smith played cornerback for Baltimore in the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl triumph.
San Bernardino: Cornerback Mark Collins (Pacific High) might’ve been the best 1-on-1 cover guy against Jerry Rice during the S.F. receiver’s entire 20-year career. Collins likely played a role in knocking off the 49ers twice in the playoffs en route to Super Bowl titles.
Widew receiver Charles Johnson (Cajon) wound up in a Pittsburgh uniform, playing in a 1997 loss to the Cowboys.
Ontario: This city has one Hall of Famer, Cincinnati Bengals’ lineman Anthony Munoz (Chaffey), and, quite possibly, another on the way. Seattle Seahawks’ linebacker Bobby Wagner (Colony) has one Super Bowl ring and was a Malcolm Butler (Brady) interception away from winning another.
Fontana: Curiously enough, Fontana — perhaps the top football community on that I-10 stretch between Banning and Ontario — has apparently never produced a Super Bowl player.
Walton, then, is in good company with some of pro football’s most elite players.
He was teammates with NFL Hall of Famers like cornerback Darrell Green, tackle Russ Grimm and wide receiver Art Monk; impressing head coach Joe Gibbs, another Hall of Famer, enough to make the team.
I’ve long wanted to get hold of Walton for an interview, but it’s been near-impossible to penetrate his private life while he’s living, apparently, in Las Vegas.
Six days after the Super Bowl concludes, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) season kicks into gear. Smith, the Banning High Hall of Famer, is with the San Antonio Commanders.
Those AAF guys have one goal in mind: To make an NFL roster. To play in the Super Bowl. No wonder Derron wants back in.
Two guys from Banning in a Super Bowl?