Hometown Report

Hometown Report: Cosumnes River College great Johnny Ware still talks a fast game

The CRC hall of fame induction ceremony started with a moment of silence for Arthur Ayers, a football star for Cosumnes River College in 1976. He was paralyzed early that season making a tackle on a kickoff, the darkest moment in the school’s sports history. Ayers died in February in Fresno at 58 from health issues related to his injury.
The CRC hall of fame induction ceremony started with a moment of silence for Arthur Ayers, a football star for Cosumnes River College in 1976. He was paralyzed early that season making a tackle on a kickoff, the darkest moment in the school’s sports history. Ayers died in February in Fresno at 58 from health issues related to his injury. Ayers family

Johnny Ware can’t run like he used to. Age and extra pounds are the culprits.

Ware insists he would need to “stretch for days” just to race out of a burning building. But in his day, no one was faster. Funny thing is, no one can keep up with Ware’s quick wit even now.

Last Saturday night, Ware was inducted into the Cosumnes River College Athletic Hall of Fame, where he thanked former teammates and family for attending, adding: “Great people, all of you. Average athletes, but great people.”

Ware delighted in the story of how he was, in a sense, recruited away in 1976 from USC to the small South Sacramento community college campus “in the middle of nowhere.” It’s a true story. After winning the CIF State 440-yard dash in 1975 for Sacramento High School, Ware headed to USC on a track scholarship. At a meet during his freshman season, Ware was approached by CRC football coach Coit Conant. Ever the charmer, Conant said CRC was there waiting for him should Ware ever want to come home – never mind the acres of farm land that surrounded the campus, decades away from the urban clutter of today.

Ware came home. He was the CRC football MVP in 1977 and ’78, and he holds still-standing CRC track marks in the 100-, 200- and 400-meters. Ware ran on scholarship at UNLV before injuries reduced him to a crawl. He worked 25 years for the Sacramento County Public Defender’s office while coaching track at Johnson, Sacramento and Franklin high schools before retiring last decade. He now operates McAfee Trucking, which he created in 2006.

The Ware name still resonates. His niece, Jasmine Ware, was The Bee’s 2012 girls’ basketball Player of the Year from Sac High and is now playing at UC Santa Barbara on scholarship.

“A good life,” Ware said with Conant beaming from the back row.

Remembering Arthur Ayers – The CRC hall of fame induction ceremony started with a moment of silence for Arthur Ayers, a football star for CRC in 1976. He was paralyzed early that season making a tackle on a kickoff, the darkest moment in the school’s sports history. He died in February in Fresno at 58 from health issues related to his injury.

Ware was in on that fateful play, just feet away. A photo of Ayers was on display at the CRC Hall of Fame, next to his battered orange helmet. The face mask remains dislodged, in part due to the severity of the collision.

“It was sad, and it hit all of us, even now,” Ware said. “But no one had a better attitude than Art.”

The other CRC inductees were basketball players Benji Garnett, Mark Hunter and Michele Lipelt, volleyball player Shana (Groff) Wood and baseball coach Rod Beilby.

Rios roams – Cornerback Marcus Rios of Cosumnes Oaks has sparkled in spring drills for UCLA and may have secured a starting job entering summer camp.

The chance to compete has been a victory in itself for Rios. The redshirt junior endured a 28-day stay his freshman season in a hospital that overlooked the UCLA facilities. He battled a rare, life-threatening fungal infection that had crept behind his eye, to the base of his brain. His weight plummeted to 130 pounds. Doctors told Rios that he may not survive. He vowed to return to football, pushing his IV tree down the hospital hallways to build up strength. Rios is back to a muscled 190 pounds.

Schromm death – Dick Schromm, who officiated college basketball games for more than 20 years and reveled in sharing stories about coaches and fans, died April 19. He was 81. Schromm worked as a counselor in the San Juan Unified School District for 33 years, everything from counseling personnel. Schromm earned notice for his officiating duties in refereeing basketball games in the old Pacific-8 Conference, Big Sky and Big West Conferences.

Said Schromm once, “I never T’d (technical foul) a guy unless he really wanted it, and a lot did.”

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.

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