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Celebrity Status : Jim Gleed Is Remembered for Record-Setting Game in 1979

October 14, 1994|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MISSION VIEJO — Jim Gleed leads a rather normal, oatmeal-kind-of-a-life.

At work, he's a nose-to-the-grindstone type. A hard worker, a real hustler. At play, he surfs, he runs, he has a good time. He also spends quality time with his daughter.

He's one face among a thousand, maybe a million. A poster boy for anonymity.

Yet, there is one glitch in that ordinary Joe bio. One moment that surfaces from time to time.

"About a month ago, I was at the gym and some guy I didn't even know stops and says, "Hey, do you still hold the record?' " Gleed said.

Ah, the record. The one night that makes Jim Gleed different from every other high school running back who has ever played in Orange County.

On Nov. 18, 1979, Gleed went out to play football for a winless Dana Hills team. He came back a local legend.

He gained 418 yards against Laguna Hills, still a county record. He scored six touchdowns and ran for a two-point conversion, giving him 38 points. He had a game like no one has had in the county, before or since.

It makes him different; it makes him special.

"I think that game altered my life," Gleed said. "It was a religious experience. Doors opened up for me. I was a superstar overnight."

Well, a star at least. He rode that for a while.

His football career continued, from Dana Hills to Saddleback College. He finished at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where his career began with a tryout and finished with all-conference honors.

Then it was time to get on with life, time to find a job.

"That's the only thing I regret," Gleed said. "I didn't see myself playing in the pros. I didn't look past college. I was into school, partying and being the big man on campus.

"I didn't take myself as serious as I should have. I'm into that now."

Gleed is serious about cars, or rather servicing them.

He was a car salesman, a job he has had on and off since leaving San Luis Obispo in 1987. It was a hand-to-mouth existence sometimes, living on commission alone.

Now comes some stability. He was promoted to service adviser two weeks ago. A steady job and a regular paycheck.

It was one of many positive markers that have popped up recently.

"I had some problems in my life and I've worked them out," said Gleed, who lives in Mission Viejo. "Everything has been going great. Customers started tipping me. I get this promotion. I found this a great place to live."

And, strangest of all . . .

"All of a sudden, people are coming up to me and saying, "Aren't you Jim Gleed, the guy who ran for 400 yards?' " he said. "A kid walking by on the street said that the other day. It's been getting weird. But I have a feeling of euphoria."

He had it once before.

"It's been just like that night," he said.

*

Don DeGroote, former Dana Hills football coach, checks the Southern Section record book every year to see where Gleed stands. He was still sixth in section history for yards in a single game when the 1994 season began.

There was nothing about Gleed to suggest anything special. He was a good player with good speed. Football was important to him, but his life did not revolve around the game.

"He had a surfing class at 7:30 a.m.," said DeGroote, who resigned as coach in 1981. "I kept telling him, 'Hey, don't go surfing.' But he would anyway. Finally, we agreed he wouldn't surf on game days."

There also was nothing about that Dana Hills team to cause concern. The Dolphins had not won a game. The closest they had come was a 7-7 tie with Irvine.

"Laguna Hills tried an onside kick to start the game," DeGroote said. "I don't think they respected our offense."

The Hawks did in the end.

Gleed, then a 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior, scored on a 25-yard run on the game's third play. He also scored on runs of 1, 2, 85 and 19 yards before being pulled out of the game in the fourth quarter. By then, he had 324 yards.

"I went to the bench and this little voice kept saying, 'One more play, one more play, " Gleed said. "It drove me into a frenzy. I ran over to coach and begged him to put me back in."

When the Dolphins got the ball back, Gleed returned. He went 94 yards on the first play.

"There was one guy right in front of me and he had the angle," Gleed said. "I just turned it on. I felt his hands slide all the way down my back. I kneeled in the end zone and prayed. It was beautiful."

The Dolphins won, 54-13. The last run pushed Gleed past La Quinta's Rick Curry, who gained 326 yards in a 1971 game. Gleed's six touchdowns are also a county single-game record that he now shares with five others.

Gleed was named high school player of the week by a Los Angeles television station and was awarded the trophy live on TV. He met O.J. Simpson, through his girlfriend, who was Nicole Brown's sister. He even spent a weekend at Simpson's home in Brentwood.

Heady stuff for a kid who had gained only 465 yards in the eight previous games.

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