The e-mail from Ned came three days ago. It was not unexpected. Coach Wild Bill Dutton had just been called home by his maker. Hope his maker is one tough SOB, who is willing to buckle his chintrap and put his “head in there,” and is slightly hard of hearing, because Heaven just got tougher, and a bit louder as well.
I’m reminded of when Igor called a few years back. Wild Bill was going to visit him in Ione and he wanted me to put out the words that anyone who wanted to talk to Coach Dutton could give him a call.
Wild Bill warned Igor that he had a different lady than five years ago. As Ray Willsey used to say, Wild Bill was obsessed by two things—and one of them was football.
Who was Wild Bill Dutton? Son of a Buck, lad, if you have to ask that question you will never understand Cal football!
Just ask First Round Draft Choice and perennial All Pro Andre Carter (see his words below).
From his bio you might find that “He lettered as a player under Pappy Waldorf in 1953 and spent eight years as an assistant coach from 1964-71 under Ray Willsey.”
But that misses the point entirely. (Again see Andre Carter’s words).
Wild Bill was as unique a coach as Cal was a unique place to don pads.
You see, just donning the Blue and Gold at Cal is unlike football anywhere else in the world. Just like Cal is unlike any other College experience--running out of the tunnel in Memorial Stadium means you’ve experienced something very few athletes (at any talent level) have ever, or will ever experience.
(Do tree sitters, Mario Savio or Antifa ring a bell or two?)
ThrowBack is much too modern a word for Wild Bill. His personality was as straight forward as his flat top hair cut. What you saw was what you got—nothing froo froo about that man.
He was a patriot—true blue—and back in the 60’s had no time for those “long hairs” or that stuff kids were smoking, which he called “Mary Annie.”
His voice was so deep, he could have sung baritone for Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons. Like E.F. Hutton, when he spoke, people listened—and no one wondered who was thundering at them.
“Better you had died at child birth than to have fumbled inside the five” was one of his quaint expressions.
Wild Bill coached the grunts—the D lineman who made a living anonymously, grinding it out, play after play in the trenches.
Myrel More handled the linebackers and Wild Bill the D lineman. They championed the famous Bear Minimum Defense back in ’68. It was said that no team that played Cal (win or lose) that year won the following Saturday. They were just too physically beat up.
As Cosmic Ray (Willsey) said, we could have been national champs that year (we finished 16th) had we only played in telephone booths. We may not have been the quickest 22 in the country—but no one was tougher or hit harder.
Among the many D lineman he sent to the pros back then were perennial All Pro Ed White (moved to offense) Sherm White, and Dan Goich.
Wild Bill’s boys loved him. He actually came in contact with more kids than any other position coach, because he also ran the scout team (we called ourselves “The Green Weenies” in honor of the green slip overs we wore) against his first team defense.
Comedian Bob Sarlatte (a former green weenie like moi) has made a living out of imitating coach Dutton giving the scout team a “trap play” which would fool a Goich or White into over committing and getting burned by a blind side block. Alas, just as the “trick play” was about to unfold, Wild Bill’s voice would echo off the wall at Edwards Stadium (soon to be dorms) where we practiced. “I’m looking at you Ed White! Don’t get trapped by that pulling guard!” With that the kid’s helmet would be spun around on his head and he’d be peering through the ear hole, having received an unpleasant forearm “rip” from the 270 pound Ed White, who didn’t fancy looking bad in front of his coach.
When Craig Morton retired from the Denver Broncos and was made head coach of the start up Denver Gold, the first coach he hired was Wild Bill. Curly knew that Wild Bill understood young men and how they craved to become the best they could be.
We assumed Wild Bill was an anachronism when in the 90’s Tom Holmoe hired this 70 year old has been. Yet according to his bio:
After Cal's aggressive style of play on the defensive line helped Cal post a league-leading 125 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in '98, his group helped the Bears lead the Pac-10 in sacks with a school-record 51 in 1999 and another 44 last year. Among the players who have gone through his tutelage are 1999 Pac-10 sack leader Mawuko Tugbenyoh, two-time All-Pac-10 choice Jacob Waasdorp and first team All-American Andre Carter, the first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers this past April.
Here’s what Andre had to say in an e-mail upon heaing of Wild Bill’s recent death:
In 1998 following my freshman year Cal Football hired a crazy, politically incorrect, loud mouth, trash talking son of a gun coach named Bill Dutton. I didn’t know what to think of him at the time, except what did I get myself into. I never knew that over the next 3 years I would become one of the best defensive ends in the nation. My work ethic was there, my desire and passion was always in me, but every now and then there’s a coach that will drill you and drill you to the point where you have nothing left, and from there, dig some more fight . His terms “Gut Check”, or “ Dig deep in the gut bucket”, to this this day still resonate in my ears. He’s one of the main reasons why I’ve bled blue and gold. He taught me so much about playing the game with pride and passion, and embracing every moment on the field . I would run through walls for this man, destroy anything in my path, just to see that small smirk he would give from time to time. That’s the level of respect I will always have for him. My heart dropped when I heard the news of his passing, but God bless this man, if anyone is going to leave this world fighting I knew he would do it with his football cleats on. I’m proud to be one of Dutton’s Boy. His stance on life lives through me, and I establish that same mindset with my family and the players that I coach today. Enjoy the Heavenly skies coach. From myself and the rest of the Hit Squad, we will see you on the 50 yard line when it’s our time to check out. Till then Coach FIRE UP AND FIRE OUT!!!!!!!! Forever Respected, Forever Loved, Forever Our Coach.
Apparently these kids loved the loveable luddite and none of us where surprised. The kids that played for him back in the 60’s still remember and admire him today.
If you never met him, but like Cal football, maybe you just want to say a quiet prayer and thank the powers that be that exposed him to us—twice—over the years. He took care of many mothers’ sons—in ways no other coach ever was able to do.
Wild Bill: they broke the mold when they made you. We were blessed to have come under your orbit. You shan't be forgotten.