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Ripon Unified honors Indian football great
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RIPON – Who was Duke Tornell?

Mike Fisher, Ripon Unified’s school board president, was a three-sport athlete at Ripon High in the 1980s. He had fond memories of Tornell as a revered assistant football coach back then.

“Duke knew more about on football than I’ll ever know,” said Fisher, who helps coach the youth football Ripon Chiefs. “He was a great man and a great mentor.

“We were blessed to have had him here.”

According to Trustee Ernie Tyhurst, Tornell was a graduate of RHS in the late 1930s and an all-district player on the football team. He went to San Jose State, where he converted from tackle to fullback while helping lead the unbeaten Spartans to the 1939 and 1940 CCAA titles.

In the 1941 National Football League draft, Tornell was selected by the Washington Redskins in the 14th round.

During the 1980s, he returned to Ripon, where he was an assistant coach for the Southern League champion Indians.

Last Monday, the Ripon Unified school board voted to put together a naming committee, specifically, for the newly remodeled and relocated field house at Stouffer Field.

Trustees deemed Tornell’s name to the building rather appropriate since the football equipment would be housed there.

“It’s in better condition now,” said Stephanie Hobbs, president of the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation. “It would be a great honor to name it after Duke Tornell.

“Maybe we should look at making (the field house) more appealing?”

Hobbs will also be part of the naming committee.

The board policy calls for proposals for naming facilities to be accepted from the community or district staff.

The plan is for the facility to eventually become the “Deward B. ‘Duke’ Tornell Field House.”