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Defensive linemen easy to remember in prep top 10

09/08/2017, 7:40pm PDT
By John Maffei


For our list of the San Diego Section’s all-time top 10 football players by position, a number of readers have asked us to include each player’s final year in high school.

Starting this week, the year after the player’s name and school will be his final prep season.

Easy fix. Something we should have thought of. Glad you did.

Heard from Neil Tillman of Carlsbad saying El Camino’s Demetrius Spates, who led the Wildcats to an unbeaten season as a junior in 2000 and the Division 1A title with 1,592 yards total offense and 21 TDs, should have been included in the multi-dimensional quarterback category.

Spates went on to play in Oregon’s secondary. He was really good, but I don’t know which player he would have knocked off our list.

Martin Moss, a standout defensive lineman at Lincoln, emailed and asked that among all the Hornets greats of his era that we not forget him.

Hopefully, Moss will be pleasantly surprised when he reads today’s list.

Tommy Sablan asked that we remember his brother, Ray, who quarterbacked Castle Park to a title in 1968.

Ray Sablan, who sadly has passed away, was a fine player, but the quarterback category was loaded with great players.

This week we look at defensive linemen. Next Sunday, it’s offensive linemen in what was one of the hardest categories to narrow down to 10.


Third in a series featuring the San Diego Section’s all-time top 10 football players by position. The criteria is “body of work” with a player’s high school and post-high school careers counting equally. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Send comments to john.maffei@sduniontribune.com

Defensive linemen

Tamasi Amituanai, Vista, 1988: At 6-feet-4, 305 pounds, Amituanai was a mountain of a man. He was a Parade magazine All-American, a USA Today All-American and was rated as one of the 25 best players in the country as a senior at Vista, earning section Defensive Player of the Year honors. He started his college career at Colorado, bounced back to Palomar College, where was a JC All-American, then finished at Arizona.

Matt Brock, University City, 1984: A standout at Oregon State, Brock played 108 games in the NFL with the Packers and Giants. He finished his career with 332 tackles, 191/2 sacks.

William Gay, Hoover, 1973: Played at San Diego City College, then was part of USC’s 1976 Rose Bowl championship team and a consensus All-American in ’77. He started an 11-year NFL career as a tight end with the Lions, but was quickly switched to defense. In 151 NFL games with the Lions and Vikings, Gay had 441/2 sacks and was named to the ’84 Pro Bowl.

La’Roi Glover, Point Loma, 1991: Section Defensive Player of the Year in 1991, Glover was an All-WAC performer at San Diego State with 181/2 sacks as a senior. He went on to play 13 years in the NFL with the Raiders, Saints, Cowboys and Cardinals, piling up 551 tackles and 831/2 sacks. He played in the Pro Bowl six times and was named All-Pro four times. Led the NFL in sacks in 2000 with 171/2.

Ed Imo, Kearny, 1973: At 5-feet-8, 220 pounds, Imo is the smallest of this group. But he was a load on the nose, helping Kearny to the 1973 Division 2A championship, earning Player of the Year honors. After two years at San Diego City, he played two years at San Diego State, with the Aztecs going 20-2. He had 121 career tackles, 88 as a senior when he was named All-Coast. He’s a member of the Hall of Fame at Kearny and San Diego State.

Martin Moss, Lincoln, 1978: A standout on the great Lincoln teams in the late ’70s, Moss went on to play at UCLA. He appeared in 42 games in the NFL with the Lions.

John Richardson, Kearny, 1963: After a standout high school career, Richardson went on to play at UCLA, where he was an All-American in 1966. He played seven seasons in the NFL with the Dolphins and Cardinals, finishing his career with 240 tackles. He’s a member of the UCLA Hall of Fame.

Darrell Russell, St. Augustine, 1993: A high school All-American while playing for the Saints, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Russell went on to star at USC. He was the second pick of the 1997 NFL Draft and played in 84 games with 184 tackles and 281/2 sacks in seven seasons with the Raiders, Redskins and Bucs. He died in a car crash at age 29.

Joe Salave’a, Oceanside, 1989: A three-year starter at Arizona, he was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection. He played in 100 NFL games in an eight-year career, playing in Super Bowl XXXIV with the Titans. He is currently the associate head coach and defensive line coach at Oregon.

Danny Saleaumua, Sweetwater, 1981: He was the heart and soul of some great Sweetwater teams, going on to play at Arizona State. He played in 177 games over a 12-year NFL career with the Lions, Chiefs and Seahawks, finishing with 580 tackles and 351/2 sacks.

Best player before 1960

Charlie Powell, San Diego, 1950: A three-sport star, Powell was named the California Track Athlete of the Year as a senior, heaving the shot put 57-91/4. He signed a pro baseball contract with the St. Louis Browns, but gave up the sport and played five years of pro football with the 49ers and Raiders. He later became a pro boxer, fighting then Cassius Clay and Floyd Patterson. He died in 2014 at age 82.



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