Tuesday February 17, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIKE MERRIWEATHER was named to the NFL 1980's all-decade team.
File photo
Three Pro Bowls for ex-Apache

- The 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

Mike Merriweather's NFL career was a successful one.

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 better.

"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 intensity.

"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 regard."

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.

 

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