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How about Paul Wiggin Stadium?
Support grows to name Lathrop High field after football great
Paul Wiggin, left, as a Stanford University player and, right, later as the Stanford head coach. - photo by Photo Contributed

• Born in Modesto on Nov. 11, 1934
• Attended Lathrop Grammar School and Manteca High School
• Named Most Outstanding Athlete at Manteca High in 1952
• Played in the inaugural Shrine High School All-Star Game at the Los Angeles Coliseum
• Received scholarship offers from USC, Cal and Oregon, but attended Modesto Junior College and transferred to Stanford University. He would earn his undergraduate degree in 1956 and his Masters of Arts in Education in 1959.
• Was a three-year starter for the Indians as a defensive tackle and earned All Pac-10 and All-American honors in 1955 and 1956. He also played rugby while at Stanford.
• Drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Indians in 1956. He would be with the team for 11 seasons and played in 146 consecutive regular season games – a record that stood when he retired. His 18 fumble recoveries still ranks 2nd in Browns history.
• Won an NFL Championship in 1964 when Cleveland defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Colts – led by quarterback Johnny Unitas.
• Pro Bowl starter in 1956 and 1957, the Browns’ Player of the Year in 1966 and Cleveland’s Pro Athlete of the Year in 1967.
• Started NFL coaching career in 1968 as an offensive line coach with the San Francisco 49ers, and became the team’s defensive coordinator in 1974.
• Became the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1975 and was at the helm of the team through 1977 before rejoining former 49ers head coach Dick Nolan in New Orleans as the defensive coordinator.
• Returned to his alma mater to head the Cardinal football program from 1980 to 1983. With John Elway at the helm, he watched in horror from the sidelines as the Cal Bears pulled off the impossible in the 85th “Big Game” in 1982 – turning a five-lateral kickoff return into “The Play” and cost the team a trip to the Hall of Fame Classic.
• Joined the Pro Personnel staff of the Minnesota Vikings in 1992 and has been there ever since.
• Wiggin’s parents owned a local business and were heavily involved in the community – his father was a volunteer firefighter and was on the board of Lathrop Grammar School.

LATHROP – Arnita Montiel doesn’t think it’s right that Lathrop High School’s football stadium is without a name.

And the longtime Lathrop resident and community servant thinks she knows just the name worthy enough to grace the field that has become a community center of sorts since its construction.

While the City of Lathrop will close its open nominations for suggestions that they’ll turn over to the Manteca Unified School District on Monday, Oct. 31, Montiel has been out gathering signatures to support naming the stadium after Paul Wiggin. He’s the Lathrop product and Manteca High graduate that went on to dominate college football at Stanford University and move on to an 11-year career in the National Football League.

Wiggin – a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Manteca Sports Heroes Hall of Distinction – spent more than a decade as part of the Cleveland Browns and was a member of the 1964 team that upset Johnny Unitas and the heavily favored Baltimore Colts to win the NFL Championship.

He went on to serve as an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers under Dick Nolan before leaving to take a job as the head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. He would later join Nolan’s staff again in New Orleans as the defensive coordinator for the Saints.

And he would return to his alma mater as the head football coach of the Cardinal during John Elway’s tenure at the University. Wiggin was dealt a crucial blow when in 1982 he watched the University of California execute “The Play” – the five-lateral exchange on the game’s final kickoff that led Cal to a 25-20 victory in The Big Game.

He is currently a personnel consultant for the Minnesota Vikings.

Having the stadium named after somebody with such a rich football history would serve as a fitting tribute for a native son while showing the youth of the community what they can become through hard work and dedication.

“I think that the kids need somebody that they can look up to,” Montiel said. “I think that they can look and say, ‘If he did it then I can do it too.’ It gives them a fitting role model.

“If the school was older and we had a coach that had been here for a long time then maybe that would be the best way to go. But it hasn’t been there that long so we’re not really in that position – I think that this is the best thing for the community.”

Montiel was the driving force behind the Lathrop Lions Club’s effort to officially name the gymnasium at the Lathrop Community Center after former NBA guard and current Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.

Brooks – an East Union High graduate – used to play basketball in that gym when he was younger, and came back to town for the ceremony honoring him for his achievements and his contribution to the community.

While Montiel extends an invitation every year to Wiggin for a gathering of “old timers,” it always falls in early September right when the NFL season is getting under way.

But that doesn’t prevent him from making a phone call to tell her that as soon as he retires from the game he’ll be there to socialize and mingle with all of his old friends.

“I talked to his brother, and he told me that he’s semi-retired now – he’s only working 60 hours a week instead of 80 or 100,” she said with a laugh. “He’s been back for class reunions and I’m sure if the stadium name comes through that he’ll be back for that as well.”