Saturday, October 10, 2009

Randy Meadows–Hometown Hero

Randy Meadows–Hometown Hero
by Bill O'Neill

There was a time, in that magical fall season of 1956, when I would have bet everything I owned that Randy Meadows was destined to become a college All-America running back, and go on to even greater fame in the National Football League. And I wasn't the only person who held that opinion. He was that good. What else could one think about a kid who ran over, around, and through the best high school football teams in California, scoring touchdowns in bunches and averaging 16 yards, every time he touched the ball?
While I never met Randy personally, I had a great personal interest in him, and as a Downey High alumnus who had suffered through some lean, losing years, I reveled in the success of his 1956 Viking team. I attended several of the team's games that season--blowouts of perennial powers Compton, Long Beach Poly, and Long Beach Wilson. And yes, I was there in the fog-bound Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, cheering lustily, that surreal December night when Meadows and his counterpart, Mickey Flynn of Anaheim, lived up to their press clippings in what may have been The Greatest High School Football Game Ever Played.
The fact that neither Meadows nor Flynn enjoyed great success at the college level does not diminish their accomplishments as high school athletes. Playing behind a slick, college-bound quarterback named Jack Trumbo and a superbly coached, lightning-quick line, Meadows was sometimes 10 yards down the field and sprinting for the end zone before defenders on the opposing team realized he had the ball. On and off the field, he carried himself with dignity and class, and a modesty that was rare in star athletes, even in 1956. He and his teammates brought back the pride in our school and in our town that had been missing for years. And Randy, in particular, epitomized that spirit.
High school heroes come and go. But only a rare few are vividly remembered, as Meadows and Flynn and those teams representing Downey and Anaheim still are, 50 years after their historic meeting on the Coliseum turf. It is well documented that Meadows' life after that magic season of 1956 was not what one would have wished for him. He walked away from college football after a couple of injury-plagued seasons, and never seemed to find fulfillment as a series of failed marriages took their toll. He earned a decent living but was a heavy smoker, and died of lung cancer seven years ago. To Viking die-hards, he will always be remembered with admiration and respect‹and, yes, with awe.
Paraphrasing what Dave Powers wrote of his boss, President John F. Kennedy:
Randy, we hardly knew ye.

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