Fullerton College adds 12 to athletic hall of fame
Story by Tim Tuttle/Fullertonstories.com --
Photos by Ricardo Zapata
Fullerton College inducted 12 former athletes and coaches into its Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday, April 7, with an on-campus dinner and ceremony attended by 300 including nine of the inductees.
Two of the inductees, Dave Wilson and Steve Kiefer, reached the highest levels of professional sports in the United States and credited the coaching and experience gained at Fullerton in with key roles in them playing in the NFL and Major League baseball, respectively.
Wilson played quarterback at Katella, where he set single-game (278 yards) and season (1,358) records. He was overlooked by colleges and decided to attend Fullerton, which had a history of producing outstanding quarterbacks like Steve DeBerg, Jim Fassel, Brig and Marv Owens.
“I was an underachiever coming out of high school,” Wilson said. “I learned leadership and character from the coaches at Fullerton.”
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Wilson, blessed with a strong arm and quick release, also overcame injuries at Fullerton. He suffered a season-ending wrist injury on his first play in 1977 and a serious broken ankle in his eighth and final game in 1979. The immediate on-field response by Hornet trainer Bill Chambers likely saved his career—and perhaps permanent damage—and the follow up work by Dr. Phil McFarland, the team doctor, had him ready to play the next season at Illinois.
“I have to thank Bill Chambers and Dr. McFarland for what they did for me,” Wilson said.
Wilson passed for 2,902 yards, completing 219 of 362 (60.5 percent), and 15 touchdowns in his two seasons at Fullerton. He was named a second team JC All-American in his second year despite playing in only eight games.
Illinois had hired Mike White, known for his dynamic passing attacks, and he recruited and signed Wilson. Late in the 1980 season, Wilson completed 43 of 69 passes for 621 yards and six touchdowns against Ohio State. They were all NCAA records later broken.
Wilson played one season at Illinois, ruled ineligible by the Big 10 for not having another year of eligibility. He entered the NFL Supplemental Draft in June and was taken in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. He played eight seasons, completing 551 of 1,039 for 6987 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Kiefer graduated from Garden Grove High in 1978 and joined the Hornets in 1981. Playing shortstop, he batted .355, had seven triples and stole 28 bases. Kiefer was the 16th pick in the 1981 amateur draft by Oakland and joined the A’s for the first time in 1984. A utility infielder who played shortstop, second and third bases, Kiefer played six seasons in the Major Leagues with Oakland, Milwaukee, the New York Yankees and Mets. He had seven home runs and 30 RBIs in his big league career. He played seven seasons in AAA and batted .266 in 704 games with 103 home runs and 403 RBIs.
Kiefer played a final professional season in 1991 in Italy. He credited Fullerton coach Mike Sgobba for his development.”
“I went from not being drafted out of high school to a first round pick in one year,” Kiefer said. “It’s a great lesson to learn. Listen to your coaches.”
Danny Rogers, a basketball star at Fullerton from 1952-54, football tight end Dennis Dixon, water polo and swimmer Bob Frojen, baseball first baseman Ron Johnson and softball player Julie Poulos were athletes inducted. Debi Woelke was inducted as a basketball player and coach. Coaches inducted were football’s Howard Black, Glenn Thomas and track and field and strength’s Dr. Robert Ward.
Floor leader Rogers led the Hornets to their first state championship in 1954. He became the first Fullerton athlete to make first team all-state and was the state tournament’s most valuable player. The 6-foot-6 Rogers moved on to USC for the next two seasons and was a first team All-Pac 8 selection as a senior when he averaged 16.5 points per game. He broke Bill Sharman’s Trojan single season scoring record in the 1956-57 season with 463 points, a record that stood for 42 years.
“I loved being a Hornet,” Rogers said. “I’m very grateful for this honor.”
Dixon, inducted posthumously, was a first-team JC All-American in the 1966 season. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Dixon was a member of Fullerton’s 1965 Junior Rose Bowl and national championship team and was the team’s most valuable player on the 9-0-1 team in 1966. The Hornets went 21-0-1 in Dixon’s two seasons.
Dixon started for two seasons at Alabama, recruited personally by the legendary coach Bear Bryant. Dixon coached as a graduate assistant at Alabama, was an assistant football coach at Troy High and Golden West College. After 16 seasons, Dixon became head coach at Golden West. He took a leave of absence in 1996 for health reasons and died in 1998 at the age of 50.
Frojen was also inducted posthumously. He was the state champion in the breaststroke and freestyle and played on two state championship water polo teams for the Hornets from 1948 to ’50. Playing at Stanford from 1950 to ’52, Frojen led the Cardinal to two Pac-8 titles in water polo and was the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke champion in 1952.
Frojen was a member of the United States Olympic water polo team at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia, which finished fifth. He was inducted into the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame in 1981. Following his athletic career, Frojen became an executive in advertising, marketing and business consulting in Los Angeles before passing away in 2005.
Johnson led Fullerton in batting in 1976 with a .393 average and his eight RBIs against Los Angeles City College still stands as a school record. He had been recruited to play football by UCLA and Fresno State coming out of Garden Grove High and played two seasons at defensive tackle for the Hornets. Johnson transferred to Fresno State to play baseball and became a first team All-American. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 24th round in 1978.
Johnson, primarily a first baseman who also played catcher and the outfield, played 22 Major League games from 1982 to ’84 for the Royals and Montreal, batting .261. He played eight seasons in the minor leagues, hitting 74 home runs and batting in 429. Johnson moved into pro baseball coaching, including two years as the first base coach with the Boston Red Sox, and is in his seventh season managing the Norfolk Tides, part of the Baltimore Orioles organization. It is his 24th season as a manager.
Poulos, a Sunny Hills High graduate, was a first team all-state selection in 1987 and 1988 and the Southern California Player of the Year in 1988. She batted .507, the highest in Fullerton history, in 1988, and is the career leader in stolen bases with 74. Poulos played two seasons at UCLA and was a member of the Bruins’ 1990 NCAA championship team.
Woelke was a member of Fullerton’s 1978 state championship team and was head basketball coach from 1997 to 2012 and head golf coach from 2012 to 2014. Woelke’s basketball teams won six Orange Empire Conference titles Story bnd was the state runner-up in 2010. She began her coaching career at Valencia High, her alma mater, in Placentia, and was the head coach at UC Riverside from 1990 to 1997 prior to taking the Fullerton job.
“It was the best day of my life, no doubt about it,” Woelke said. “When I came to Fullerton, I told coach (Colleen) Riley that I wanted to became the coach who replaced her.”
Black had been the head coach at Troy when legendary Fullerton coach Hal Sherbeck hired him to become his offensive line coach. Black also was an assistant coach for the Hornets’ swimming and water polo teams. He coached at Fullerton from 1966 to 1972 and went on to become head football coach at Cypress and Santa Ana Colleges.
Thomas replaced Black at Fullerton. He had been the head coach at Anaheim’s Magnolia High. Thomas coached at
Fullerton from 1973 to 1997.
“We really had fun,” Thomas said. “We were the team that you had to play through to win the conference championship. It was a point of pride with us.”
Jespersen was an assistant football coach who helped organize the team’s strength and conditioning program from 1980 to 2016, He was Fullerton’s defensive coordinator for many years including the 1983 national championship team.
Ward was Fullerton’s head track coach from to 1974. The Hornets were state champions in his final season. Ward, an expert in strength techniques, was hired by the Dallas Cowboys in 1976. He designed the ProTrain Computer Program and developed over equipment for training athletes. He stayed with the Cowboys until 1989 and continued his work in the strength and conditioning field. He was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003.
The 12 inductees in the Class of 2017 raised the number in the Fullerton College Hall of Fame to 82.