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Jack Neumeier, 85; High School Football Coach Inspired Elway

September 03, 2004|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

Jack Neumeier, who coached NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway at Granada Hills High School and helped introduce the five-receiver spread passing attack, died Wednesday at his home in Camarillo after a three-year fight with cancer. He was 85.

Neumeier coached high school football in Southern California for more than 30 years. He coached at Granada Hills from 1960-86, guiding the Highlanders to the 1970 city championship.

From 1976-78, he tutored Elway in the passing game, teaching him the fundamentals that would help Elway have an impressive career at Stanford and then play 16 years in the National Football League, passing for 51,475 yards and winning two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

"He was the guy who made me fall in love with football at the quarterback position," Elway once told the Denver Post.

Despite deteriorating health, Neumeier was determined to attend Elway's induction ceremony to the NFL Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio. Cleared to travel only hours before he was scheduled to leave, Neumeier made the trip and heard Elway thank him in his speech.

"I know it wasn't easy for you to be here, but I'm glad you are," Elway said. "Thanks for showing me who I could be and how to get there."

Former Granada Hills baseball Coach Darryl Stroh traveled with Neumeier to Canton. "It was the highlight of his career to be there and see John," Stroh said. "He enjoyed every minute of it."

Born in 1919 in Van Nuys, Neumeier was the quarterback and Bob Waterfield played tailback at Van Nuys High School in 1936. Neumeier went on to college at Cal State Los Angeles and USC. Waterfield went on to have a Hall of Fame career as a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams.

While coaching at Granada Hills, Neumeier developed the spread offense that sometimes features no running backs and five receivers. Elway's father, Jack, who coached at Cal State Northridge and San Jose State, and current San Francisco 49ers coach Dennis Erickson were among those who adopted Neumeier's passing schemes at the collegiate level.

Neumeier is survived by his wife of 64 years, Elizabeth; a son, Larry; and a daughter, Jacqueline. A funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Padre Serra Catholic Church in Camarillo.

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