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Pleasanton Preps: Repaired Foothill football blocking sled a symbol of John Madden's local legacy

Also: Remembering Jimmie McClure, former Falcons coach and school staffer
Foothill High School athletic staff recently repaired the program's blocking sled, which was contributed years ago by former freshman coach Mike Madden, son of late Hall of Fame pro coach and Pleasanton resident John Madden.

Foothill High football is all about the legacy the program has created.

John Madden was also about the legacy he created when he coached the Oakland Raiders.

Those two things being said, it seems only natural the legacies created by both the school and the man blend.

In this case, it's in the form of a seven-man blocking sled the Falcons use to begin practice.

When Madden retired from coaching, he had a seven-man sled in the parking lot of his office complex in Pleasanton.

When his son Mike started coaching freshman football at Foothill, he got a similar sled for Foothill and a new tradition was started.

"Mike got the same type of sled for his team," former longtime Foothill coach Matt Sweeney said. "John had started every practice using it. That was classic John -- there's no substitute for driving the sled. We always wanted that type of persona."

The sled is still in use today, but there was one problem heading into this season. The pontoons were in dire need of repair, and it was becoming a worry for some of the Foothill coaches.

Enter Foothill athletic director/site coordinator Paul Faris.

"Jorge (Quero) had some concerns that with the pontoons wearing out it may harm the track," Faris said of the Foothill track coach's concern. "I agreed with him and knew we needed to fix it."

Faris got hold of someone at Rae Crowther Co., the company that built the sled, and found that they could buy new pontoons.

"We bought four new pontoons and three pads," Faris said. "We had four pads that we could still use. We put $3,000 into the parts."

Getting the parts wasn't even half the battle.

"Paul getting the parts helped us save at least 50%," said current Foothill coach Greg Haubner. "But it was a legit project. There were rusted-on bolts -- it was not easy."

Not easy, but it was accomplished. Faris and assistant football coach Greg Chandler had the tools needed to get the bolts cut off, including the 1-1/8 inch bolts.

"We got a crew together and got it done in three to four hours," Faris said. "It actually was quicker than I thought it was going to take us."

And done before the official starting date of Aug. 7 to begin football practice.

"It's 100% another of John's legacies," Sweeney said of hitting the sled. "It teaches the kids not to use their head but their shoulder to block. It's about teaching and being physical."

Which is something Haubner embraces.

"With the way the practice rules are now, it's important to hit the sled," Haubner said. "You can beat the heck out of an inanimate object."

For Faris it was almost personal getting the sled fixed.

"Being a former lineman, we hit the sled every day when I was at Amador," Faris said. "It excites me that another generation of kids gets to hit the sled."

Remembering Coach McClure

Jimmie McClure, the longtime Foothill counselor and coach, passed away in May of this year at the age of 81. The family has a celebration of life planned for this Saturday (Aug. 12) from 2-5 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street.

After growing up in Oakland, McClure took his baseball skills to college and eventually ended up playing for both the Los Angeles Dodgers' and New York Mets' minor league organizations.

Once his playing days ended, he returned to Oakland and began teaching and coaching.

McClure moved his family to Pleasanton in 1971, and he started at Foothill as a counselor in 1975. In the 20-plus years at the school, he coached football, basketball, track and field, and baseball.

As the girls' basketball coach, he led the Falcons to their first-ever East Bay Athletic League championship.

Shortly before retiring from Pleasanton, McClure returned to the classroom at Harvest Park Middle School, teaching P.E., biology and coaching the girls' basketball team.

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email

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