“TROJANS OVERWHELMING CHOICE IN PACIFIC 8, BUT UCLA COULD SURPRISE” read the headline in the 1973 STREET AND SMITH COLLEGE FOOTBALL ANNUAL. Why couldn’t UCLA surprise and overtake the 1972 National Champion and predicted repeat Numero Uno by every one of the wire services? Mark Harmon, son of Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon and eventual Hollywood heartthrob was the quarterback but the speed and power belonged to two Pasadena, California Blair High School teammates who matriculated at UCLA together, getting straight A’s in their football performances. Running back Kermit Johnson was a natural for UCLA, following his Olympic champion brother Rafer there. James McAlister saw no reason to break up his High School All America tandem with Johnson and together, they led UCLA to wins over almost everyone except USC. When it was revealed that the brand new Southern California Sun of the brand new World Football League had signed the two to what at the time were huge contracts, few outside of the NFL were shocked as these two boyhood friends had chosen to stay together as a successful duo. Cross-town rival USC kept a stranglehold on the top spot in the PAC 8 due to the passing of Pat Haden and the running of All Everything Anthony Davis. Personal protector for both of them was 270-pound Booker Brown, a solid block of muscle on USC’s offensive line and considered by many to be the best of 1973’s collegiate linemen. He too was an early signee of the Sun. That the Sun had assembled an extremely experienced and professionally respected coaching staff and then signed these three Southern California standouts sent shock waves through the complacent NFL. With Tom Fears as head coach and a staff of assistants with both playing and long time coaching credentials, the Sun came into WFL play far ahead of most of the other teams. MORE...
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