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Sports at Lunch, Karl Dorrell


UCLA football coach Karl Dorrell, a Helix High alumnus, spoke at Sports at Lunch on May 18 at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.

By Tom Shanahan, San Diego Hall of Champions

Officially, it was Sports at Lunch with Karl Dorrell, the UCLA football coach. The monthly events are an opportunity for San Diegans to listen and visit with a San Diego sports figure.

But it wasn’t long before Dorrell’s appearance at the Hall of Champions on May 18 took on the added touch of a Helix High reunion. Dorrell reflected on growing up in the San Diego area and playing football at the La Mesa high school football powerhouse.

Many of Dorrell’s coaches and teammates from his senior season in 1981 — among them coaches Jim Arnaiz, Donnie Van Hook and Ed Davis and players Jim Plum and Alan Durden — were in attendance.

“I feel like ‘This is My Life,’ “ said Dorrell, comparing the afternoon to the old television series as he spoke to his old friends and UCLA fans. “I reminisce about a lot of different things when I look at the friends I played with.”

Dorrell choked up a bit at this point, stopping for a moment to collect himself before continuing.

“I remember the things we did together,” he said. “It seemed insignificant at the time, but it touches my heart to see so many friends in this room. It makes my life that much more meaningful to do what I do – influencing young players who have an opportunity to play this game and get a great education at UCLA.”

Dorrell also recognized the 10 Navy sailors who attended the luncheon, compliments of Viejas, a Sports at Lunch sponsor.

“Thank you for all you do for our country,” Dorrell said. “My father was a Navy officer for 26 years. That’s how the Dorrell family came to San Diego.”

Dorrell spoke about the direction he has tried to take the UCLA program as he prepares for his fourth season as the head coach at his alma mater. After an up-and-down start the first two years, the Bruins were 10-2 in 2005 with a win in the Sun Bowl.

He believes his team has more talent and overall depth returning this year despite the loss of running back Maurice Drew and tight end Mercedes Lewis to the NFL.

UCLA’s goal, of course, is a Pac-10 title and trip to the Rose Bowl or a Bowl Championship Series bowl game. But Bruce Binkowski, director of the Holiday Bowl, couldn’t resist asking Dorrell what a homecoming would mean to him if UCLA placed as the runner-up in the Pac-10, a finish that annually receives a Holiday Bowl bid against a Big 12 school.

Dorrell has twice participated in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium as an assistant coach at Colorado and Washington. But when he was in high school, the Mission Valley stadium was known as Jack Murphy Stadium.

“That would be special,” Dorrell said. “You can call it Qualcomm, and I hope I don’t disappoint anybody, but to me that’s always ‘The Murph.’ That is a goal to be in the Holiday Bowl. I love San Diego. I’ve played in the bowl with two great universities, and that’s a great bowl game. If we fell short of the Pac-10 title, that would be great for us.”

What else did Dorrell say about college football, San Diego high school football, fellow Helix alumnus Reggie Bush and the NFL? You should have been at Sports at Lunch.

Tom Shanahan can be contacted at 619-699-2334 or [email protected]

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