Around The Horn

The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) designated April 29-May 6 this year as its 5th Annual Play It SmartWeek to highlight the community service aspect of its mentoring program.

This year, National Play It Smart Week events include hospital and nursing home visits, food banks, Rebuilding Together, neighborhood clean-ups, preparing meals for the homeless, Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, reading to elementary school students and more.

Here in the Valley, Chandler High School and Cesar Chavez High School are among the participants listed among the 136 schools that are participating in the program nationwide. Both schools participate in the Habitat for Humanity programs, while Chandler HS also holds a Youth Carnival for local elementary school students and Cesar Chavez HS works with a local food bank to gather food for the underprivileged.

During the 2004-2005 academic year, Play It Smart teams averaged 468 hours of community service, tallying nearly 60,000 hours of service among the 128 schools that participated last year. Launched in 1998 and currently in 136 high schools (listed at in 35 states with 11,000 students, Play It Smart trains “academic” coaches to work with high school football teams in underserved areas during the entire school year, taking the transferable life skills learned on the field and applying them in the classroom and the community.

The NFF recently announced that NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott has agreed to serve as chairman of the organization’s National Advisory Board, for the Play It Smart program. Lott played 14 years in the NFL and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

New, but familiar, faces

Local football fans will feel even more of an attachment to football at ASU in 2006 since Coach Dirk Koetter has loaded local talent onto his coaching staff.

Former Hamilton High School athletic director and head football coach John Wrenn has been hired as Running Back Coach. Wrenn compiled a 223- 46 record during 23 years of coaching high school football, both at Hamilton and in the state of Illinois. He has been Coach of the Year in both states and his Hamilton teams competed in the state playoffs 19 times and won three state championships.

Koetter has also brought aboard former McClintock High School and UCLA star, Grady Stretz, as Defensive Line Coach. Stretz, who was born and raised in Tempe, just finished eight years on the University of New Mexico coaching staff. Add to that another recognizable name from the local high school coaching ranks, Charles Ragle. Ragle was the varsity defensive coordinator at Chaparral High School the last two years and held the same position at Moon Valley High School prior to that. He will be responsible for the entire defensive coaching staff, as well as coaching the secondary.

Deuce started here

Since he came by way of California (two years at USC), it’s easy to overlook the fact that one of the Cardinals’ recent draft acquisitions climbed the local ladder to get to the pro’s.

Taitusi “Deuce” Lutui, a 6’4”, 330 lb. offensive lineman drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals, got his start at Mesa High School, played in the Arizona Football League and at Mesa Community College, and then moved on to USC.

AzFL league director Kevin Pakos remembers Deuce: “Deuce joined the Globe-Miami Sting right out of high school. His jersey had to be enlarged; even then, he was a big man.

“He was thrust into games against a lot of older men that had already finished their college careers. He was a team player and a s p o r t s m a n , respected by all for his athletic ability and his kind spirit. We at the AzFL know that he will do well in the NFL and wish him a long, injuryfree career.”