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Kurt Altenberg, 61; Ex-Bruin's Touchdown Beat USC in 1965

April 05, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Kurt Altenberg, a former UCLA football player remembered for his game-winning touchdown catch against USC in 1965, has died. He was 61.

Altenberg, a heart-replacement recipient in 1994, died of cancer Sunday afternoon at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

After a celebrated prep career at Gardena's Serra High School and one season at El Camino College in Torrance, Altenberg played three seasons for the Bruins, leading the team in receiving in 1964 and 1965.

His fourth-quarter 48-yard touchdown catch from Gary Beban that gave UCLA a 20-16 upset of USC in 1965 was voted 35th on the Los Angeles Sports Council's "100 Greatest Moments of Los Angeles Sports History" list in 2004.

"It still amazes me," Altenberg told The Times in November 2003 about his touchdown that knocked the heavily favored Trojans out of the Rose Bowl game and instead sent UCLA, under Coach Tommy Prothro. "And the funny thing is, it's usually the USC people who remember first. They usually say, 'Aren't you the guy who made that catch?' "

At 6 feet 2 and 196 pounds, Altenberg was bigger than most of his UCLA teammates, known as "the gutty little Bruins." In his first season with the Bruins in 1963, he set a single-game record for yards receiving, 166 against the Trojans, and was co-winner, with teammate Byron Nelson, of the John F. Boncheff Jr. Memorial Trophy as UCLA rookies of the year.

In 1964, Altenberg led UCLA in scoring with 36 points and finished with a team-high 31 catches for 428 yards. In 1965, he led the team with 32 receptions for 599 yards.

Altenberg graduated from UCLA with a political science degree in 1966 as the school's all-time leading receiver and still ranks high on the Bruins' list, 16th with 87 catches for 1,446 yards.

"He wasn't a braggart at all ... but the type of guy you could really rely on in the clutch," said Nelson, who had played against Altenberg in grade school and high school before they became Bruin teammates.

After a successful career in sales, Altenberg worked as an assistant football coach under his son, Scott, at Serra High.

In addition to his son, Altenberg is survived by his companion, Debbie Axlerod; and two daughters, Heidi and Kristin.

Donations in his name may be sent to the Kurt Altenberg Memorial Fund at Serra High School.

Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. John Fisher Catholic Church, 5448 Crest Road, Rancho Palos Verdes.

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