As Dan Fouts was introduced to a standing ovation, the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback experienced a trip down memory lane.
“To come back to where it all began, it was a surreal feeling,” said the 61-year-old Fouts, who was honored at St. Ignatius’ McCullough Gym on Tuesday as part of the Hometown Hall of Famers, a national program presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company that honors the hometown roots of the sport’s greatest players with a special ceremony and plaque dedication. “It was surreal because it wasn’t all that long ago — some 40 years — that I was sitting in those stands and feeling the spirit of St. Ignatius, and it’s still there.”
Fouts, who was wearing the distinct, yellow NFL Hall of Fame blazer, actually spent his first two years of high school at Marin Catholic before transferring to St. Ignatius. Fouts relayed a conversation he had with his father, Bob, in explaining why he transferred.
“My dad told me you’re not going to get a scholarship at Marin Catholic, you’re going to get it at St. Ignatius,” Fouts told the audience, which included his parents and a couple of his former teammates.
Two years after leading the Wildcats to the West Catholic Athletic League championship in 1967, his junior season, Fouts received a scholarship to play at the University of Oregon, the only Pacific 8 [now Pac-12] school to recruit him. Fouts went on to set 19 school records before embarking on a prolific 15-year NFL career, all with the San Diego Chargers.
Currently a color analyst for NFL games on CBS television and Dial Global Radio, Fouts was the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons [1979-81]. While Fouts put up some extraordinary numbers in an era when it was more difficult to throw compared to today’s passer-friendly NFL, he made even more of a statement with his mental and physical toughness.
“Mental toughness comes from a combination of success and failure, and the ability to handle both,” Fouts said.
And Fouts needed plenty of ability to handle failure in his first three seasons with the Chargers, who went 2-11-1 in Fouts’ rookie year, 5-9 in his second season and a dreadful 2-12 the following year, which included a 0-11 start, three of them shutouts.
While the experience would’ve ruined many careers, Fouts persevered into a Hall of Fame signal-caller. The 6-foot-3 Fouts said his San Francisco upbringing helped shape his life and sharpen his football acumen.
“It was an attitude thing [we had at SI], and that attitude got us a long way,” Fouts said. “It’s always nice to be recognized by your hometown and high school, and to be remembered.”