PHOTO: Dan Fouts with Jimmy Raye. Pro Football Hall of Fame/Rachel Gutting.
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By TOM SHANAHAN
Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts served as the Master of Ceremonies for the NFL’s inaugural “Awards of Excellence” presented June 30 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum in Canton, Ohio. He was a fitting choice for more than his gold jacket.
“When I was a kid, I was a ball boy for the San Francisco 49ers,” said Fouts, whose father Bob was a 49ers’ broadcaster. “I know what it was like to pick up dirty socks and put them in the right place.”
In other words, although Fouts was the face of the Air Coryell Chargers that focused the spotlight on him, he has long understood many people behind the scenes contribute an organization’s success. The “Awards of Excellence” was created to honor those behind-the-scenes figures. Five figures were honored in each of four categories, assistant coaches, trainers, public relations and equipment managers.
“It was an honor,” Fouts said. “It was well done, long overdue and emotional at times. I think everybody appreciated it. There was a good vibe — everything was so positive. It was a great idea for the Hall to start it.”
Among the honorees was Jimmy Raye for his career as an assistant coach spanning five decades, 1977 with the San Fransisco 49ers to 2013 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has continued to work for the league as a senior advisor to Troy Vincent, the NFL Vice-President of Football Operations. He was among the five long-time assistant coaches honored along with Terry Robiskie, Ernie Zampese, Fritz Shurmer and Alex Gibbs.
Raye was a pioneering quarterback at Michigan State as the South’s first Black quarterback to win a national title ij 1965 and 1966, a pioneering Black college assistant coach hired by Duffy Daugherty in 1972 and a pioneering Black NFL assistant coach. When the 49ers hired Raye in 1977, there were only seven other Black assistant coaches in a 28-team league. By 1983, Los Angeles Rams coach John Robinson named him as only the NFL’s second Black coordinator.
“What he went through as a player and as a coach speaks to his character, his toughness and his smarts,” Fouts said. “Everything about Jimmy Raye is a positive story. I said he set a personal example of perseverance.”
The five Awards of Excellence assistant coaches: Alex Gibbls, represented by his brother, David Gibbs; Jimmy Raye; Terry Robiskie; Fritz Shurmer, represented by his son Scott Shurmer; and Ernie Zampese, represented by his son, Ken Zampese (Pro Football Hall of Fame/Rachel Gutting).
NFL public relations executives selected are Joe Browne, Jim Saccomano, Charlie Dayton, Joe Gordon and Gary Wright. The athletic trainers were George Anderson, Otho Davis, John Omohundro, Jerry Rhea and Fred Zamberletti. The equipment managers were Sid Brooks, Ed Carroll, Tony Parisi, Dan “Chief” Simmons and Whitey Zimmerman
“These 20 outstanding assistant coaches, athletic trainers, equipment managers and public relations personnel not only helped to determine results on the field, but they also helped to promote the game’s growth, safety and popularity over several decades of devotion to their teams and to the National Football League,” said Jim Porter, the Pro Football Hall of Fame president.
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