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Families enjoy trial and error and tinkering Saturday at PopUp Science in Homewood

Wes Hamilton was an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1970s and ’80s, but on Saturday, June 25, he played quarterback, making a hand off to Homewood-Flossmoor School District Superintendent Von Mansfield.
 

  H-F District 233 
  Superintendent Von 
  Mansfield, right, takes the 
  handoff from H-F alumnus 
  Wes Hamilton, who played 
  in Super Bowl XI for the 
  Minnesota Vikings.
(Photos 
  by Eric Crump/H-F 
  Chronicle)

The golden football he put in Mansfield’s hands was a token of appreciation from the NFL. In 2015, the league started a program to honor the 2,000 high schools that produced the nearly 3,000 players and coaches who were members of Super Bowl teams during the first 50 years of the league’s title game.

During the presentation, Hamilton (H-F class of 1971) reminisced about two of the most memorable games in his football career. 

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The first was Super Bowl XI, where he helped protect Vikings’ Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Although the Vikings lost, he said the experience was etched into his memory. The second was his first varsity game as an H-F Viking as the team prepared to take on Rich East High School. 

He recalled legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant’s last words before the team took the field to face the Oakland Raiders. It was a reminder that if each player focused on doing his job well, the team would create something greater than the sum of its parts.

“It occurred to me later that I knew that already,” he said, noting that his high school coach, Robert Lombardi, had conveyed the same message to the team prior to the game against Rich East. “That was one of the lessons I learned when I played football here at H-F.”

Lombardi was in the audience for the presentation, along with H-F staff, school board members and a number of Hamilton’s H-F classmates. He talked about how Hamilton discovered football. 
 

  Former H-F football coach 
  Robert Lombardi, right, 
  hands the NFL golden 
  football to former pro 
  football player Wes 
  Hamilton following the 
  presentation Saturday.

“I was coaching wrestling, too. He was on varsity as a freshman, out there on the mats throwing people around,” Lombardi said. “I said, ‘Wes, how come you’re not playing football?’ And he said, ‘Nobody ever asked me.’ I said, ‘Well, I’m asking you.’ That’s how it all started.”

Hamilton thanked him for the nudge.

“It’s a good thing you did,” he said. “My life would sure be different.”

Hamilton said he enjoyed his football career and still loves the game. He played offensive guard for H-F and went on to the University of Tulsa, graduating in 1975, according to H-F officials.  He was selected in the third round of the 1976 draft and played in 116 games with the Minnesota Vikings.

“I wish I could still play. I wish there was a team that would hire 60-year-old players,” he said, adding that he is proud to have played for both Vikings teams, the professional and the high school. 

“I want to thank the NFL for their recognition of the connection between the Super Bowls and the high schools that have been a part of producing those players,” he said.

Helping make that connection Saturday was Booker Donelson (H-F class of 2016), who played nose guard on recent H-F Vikings teams. Donelson said meeting Hamilton gave him a better sense for the history of the school’s football program.

“I’ve seen his jersey all the time in the hallway,” he said, referring to a display just outside the gymnasium honoring H-F players who made it to the professional level of their sport. “But I didn’t know who he was, and I didn’t know he was in the Super Bowl. It brings a special meaning to the school.”

Donelson will be attending Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this fall.

Ann Cherry, H-F director of development and alumni relations, said the golden football would be displayed in the trophy case in the North Building.

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