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Lemo Ferritti

Remo Ferretti

Physical Education

"Remo Farretti”. For two terrible football seasons that name fuelled many of my nightmares, both on and off the field. Even years after hanging up my cleats, I remembered him yelling disparaging comments at his backs, questioning their techniques, their fortitude, and on occasion their parentage . I played 3rd string guard in 1960 on a mediocre team(2-2-5), all the more disappointing because the teams we followed had made Oroville a SFL power for decades. Guys like Dean Newby, the Belser Boys and Carl Overstreet were legends in Palermo where I grew up. But at 165lbs. I was light for a high school guard, but my inexperience and lack of enthusiasm were my biggest liabilities. The only upside for me in my first year of ball was that, as a lineman, I had lettered, which would get me into “Block O” and that Mr. Ferretti took no notice of me and I mostly avoided his wrath. Till, one day in which he and Mr. Johnson decided to toughen up the tackling of his defensive backs. He gave the ball to a few linemen who were allowed to run with it at full speed into the defensive backs. Because most of us linemen were bigger than the backs, we enjoyed trying to run them down and it gave the backs a real challenge to bring us down, in spite of our lack of elusiveness. It was mostly our bulk against their grit. I especially enjoyed it, as none of the lighter, smaller backs could handle my low profile running stance. I had short, strong legs and large chest and shoulders. I was hardly elegant, more like a cannonball coming at them, but I had some success. Mr. Ferretti now paid attention to me for first time away from P.E. class. He then asked me to join the running backs in the same drills against the linemen. While, I had simply been bigger than the defensive backs, now I was up against seasoned defensive linemen, most considerably bigger and taller than I was. But, my short legs still kept my center of gravity much lower than theirs and made my bulk a bit harder to cleanly tackle than the backs they were used to facing. My mobility, or lack of it, plus my lack of velocity were drawbacks, however. For the next few weeks, since I wasn’t a starter, I split time between the linemen and the backs. Mr. Ferretti drove all the backs hard and did not suffer fools easily. His energy was boundless and he was relentless in preparing us for excellence. His stare could stop you in your tracks, but his smile was almost as disconcerting. He never failed to point out that I was a terrible blocker, totally devoid of speed or agility and appeared to have two left feet when I ran. He was no harder on me, he treated even the starters equally harsh. But, he also explained exactly how we should follow our blockers, how to keep our heads down going through the line, how to effectively catch the tells of prospective tacklers to avoid their grasp and how to keep spinning and keep our balance and keep the play alive. He was a teacher. We feared/hated him, but respected him above all. I learned a lot, but figured I’d still be playing guard the next season.

Then, just before we left school the following summer, Mr. Johnson called me into the office. Mr. Ferretti sat next to Coach’s desk. “Well, Davis do you want to start at guard in the Fall?” “If I’m good enough coach.””Well, Davis you’ll have about 6-7 guys to beat out. Most are bigger. A few are tougher. But, you work hard, maybe.... This was your first year of organized ball, right?” “Yes” Then he totally surprised me. “Mr. Ferretti thinks you might make a good Fullback, we need a Fullback. It might be you, if you get bigger, faster and learn to block from that position.” I stood there stunned. “Put on 20 lbs., take a full half second off your 100 yard dash time, get twice as tough as you are now, and I’ll make you a running back. You do that and you’ll start at Fullback against Chico the 1st game of the year.” Mr. Ferretti had spoken for the first time and had made me a promise, which I knew he hadn’t made lightly. I mumbled something to show my agreement, thanked them and walked out of Coach’s office filled with equal measures of elation and fear. Twenty pounds was no problem I thought, and maybe I could get tougher over the summer. But sprinting speed is mostly genetic. But in four years of P.E. and a season of football, Mr. Ferretti had never spoken directly to me except to chastise me or to explain something in which he found me ignorant. If he thought I could become a Fullback, I believed it too.

I took a job that summer working for the Forest Service at a small station high in the mountains called “Coyote Gap”. We had few fires that summer and plenty of boredom, which I filled by eating(the job included meals) and running up and down steep mountain roads in my heavy boots, fully dressed. Another player and I stepped off 100 yards of straight, flat logging road and ran sprints for hours, nearly every evening. He was a linebacker who had started part of the previous season and didn’t want to lose out to anyone. By the end of August I was as fast, lean and buff as I would ever be again. True to his word Johnny Johnson started me at Fullback against Chico and every other game (except ) in the 1961 season. I exchanged my #67 for #30 (the same as Jimmy Taylor the Hall of Fame Fullback of the Green Bay Packers). I dreamed of going to Cal or U.C.L.A. , scholarships, football glory and college co-eds.

But, sadly, that was never to be. Mr. Ferretti would never coach me as a running back. He left that summer become the new head coach at the new High School, Las Plumas. The last Oroville High team to represent all of Oroville limped to an ignoble 1-9 record (even losing an exhibition game to the all-11th grader Thunderbirds in the first ever Liberty Bell Game). With the new high school diluting the area’s pool of players, only 35 of us finished the ‘61 season. We lost over half our games by less than a touchdown, mostly in the last quarter. The age of platoon football had begun without us. The last Tiger team coached by both Johnny Johnson and Remo Ferretti had been in 1960. He would soon mold a friend of mine, Benny Woodson, into a great running back, who went on to a distinguished career at Utah State. And just as he had for years with Oroville, at Las Plumas he turned out good teams, and great running backs and a few big time college players. Separately, neither he, nor Coach Johnson, ever again fielded the kind of juggernauts that they had at Oroville, with crushing defenses and offenses capable of overwhelming all opponents. Not many year later Coach Johnson retired from football to become the Principal at OHS. I lost track of Coach Ferretti, but he was long gone by the time my brother suffered through four winless seasons in the late 70’s.

I finally made it to U.C.L.A., to get a B.A. and M.A. in History. I never played college football.

Jim Davis,  Class of "62

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