Three Pro Bowls
MERRIWEATHER was named to the NFL
1980's all-decade team.
Times-Herald continues its countdown to March
6, when the inaugural class is inducted into
the new Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame.
By KEN HART, Times-Herald sports editor
Merriweather's NFL career was a successful
With a 12-year career in the NFL, three Pro
Bowls and a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team
under his belt, the former linebacker is
easily the envy of many.
But even he was starstruck when he finally met
fellow Vallejo native Dick Bass while playing
golf in Palm Springs just one year ago.
"I'm 43 years old and I'm like a little
kid in a candy store," Merriweather
recalled. "Last year was really the first
time talking to him on a personal level."
Well, Merriweather will have another chance to
talk to Bass when the two will join other
players and coaches as they are inducted into
the Vallejo Sports Hall of Fame.
While Bass is arguably the best athlete to
ever come from the City of Vallejo,
Merriweather is pretty high on the list
himself. But not even he is downplaying being
a part of the inaugural class of inductees.
"When you're recognized for some of the
things you have done on and off the field,
it's always an honor," he said in a
telephone interview from his home in Stockton.
"But it's always special when your
hometown, your friends recognize you."
The NFL recognized him, too. The 1978 Vallejo
High School graduate replaced future Hall of
Famer Jack Ham at outside linebacker and never
looked back. A third-round draft pick by
Pittsburgh in 1982, Merriweather earned three
trips to the Pro Bowl while with the Steelers.
Not bad for a 6-foot-3, 212-pounder, small by
even 1980s standards.
"You got to have that David mentality
taking on Goliath," Merriweather said.
After holding out for more money during the
entire 1988 season, Merriweather was traded to
Minnesota and spent the next four seasons with
the Vikings. He ended his career after stints
with Green Bay and the New York Jets.
Football wasn't the only sport Merriweather
starred in at Vallejo. Also a basketball and
baseball standout, he had the chance to be
selected in the 1978 baseball draft, but
signed a Letter of Intent to play football at
the University of the Pacific instead.
Merriweather credited his late father with his
success. John Merriweather, who died two years
ago, would often drive his son to football
practices, buy him any equipment and bought
him a car when he went off to play at Pacific.
"If you don't know my father and you know
me, then you know my father," said
Merriweather, now a father of three himself.
"He taught me if you want to do
something, do it well and you can always do it
"It just helped me play those 11 years
through the pain and all that stuff."
Merriweather also said his coaches played a
role in his development. They kept him off the
streets and out of trouble.
"I had coaches that said, 'Merriweather,
you're something special.' They made me
compete," he said.
One was football coach Jack Renfro. Renfro
recalled that Merriweather played with great
"He loved to compete and he was totally
committed to what he was doing," Renfro
said. "Football, baseball and basketball,
he was an excellent athlete in that
Merriweather has also been busy since
retiring. His schedule involves motivational
speeches, autograph signings and other
activities. Last year, he established the John
Merriweather Athletic Scholarship for worthy
students at Vallejo High.
He still has plenty of fond memories of his
days in Vallejo.
"It's not as big of a place like Frisco
or Oakland," he said. "It's a family
place. Everybody goes out and supports each
other and that's what you need."
Coaching may be another activity he may take
up in the future. He was an assistant coach
for St. Patrick-St. Vincent in the 1990s and
was a defensive coach in last year's East-West
Shrine Game at Stanford University.