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Haden was legendary high school football quarterback; led team to Southern Section title

Pat Haden 

By John Gillis 

An amazing 43 years after the fact, Pat Haden still remains one of the nation’s all-time greatest high school football quarterbacks.

After concluding his three-year varsity football career at LaPuente (California) Bishop Amat High School in the autumn of 1970, Haden held numerous school passing records.

Among those, Haden completed 527 passes for 7,633 career yards. He also set school records for single-season passing yards (3,127), single-game passing yards (470) and single-game touchdown passes (7).

Within the state of California, Haden set California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section (CIF-SS) records for career touchdown passes (82) and single-season touchdown passes (42). He has also distinguished himself at the national level, as several of his performances have also been listed in the NFHS’ online National High School Sports Record Book.

However, his greatest accomplishment might have been how he led his Bishop Amat team to the CIF-SS championship game two consecutive years, where the Lancers came up just one point short in 1969, but in true heroic fashion came back to win it the following year. Both years, he overcame nagging injuries in the respective title games.

During the time that Haden was at Bishop Amat, California did not have a state high school championship in football (wasn’t established until 2006). As such, for those Golden State high school football teams, competing for a section title was the pinnacle of their football season.

As a junior, Haden led Bishop Amat to the CIF-SS finals. In that game played December 12, 1969, Bishop Amat lost to Pete Yoder-coached and undefeated (13-0) Pasadena (California) Blair High School, 28-27, in the CIF-SS AAAA title game in front of 28,169 fans in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Gary Marinovich-coached Lancers finished the season 11-2. Their only other loss was to Anaheim Servite, 7-5, in Week 8.

In that title game, Haden was 16-of-24 for 254 yards, threw for two touchdowns, and ran for another on a bad ankle. Haden connected with 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior receiver J.K. McKay for three receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns. However, Haden’s main target in that game was running back Manny Estrada, who caught seven passes for 117 yards.

Shown above is a newspaper photo of Pat Haden
playing football for Bishop Amat High School.

As a senior, Haden helped lead Bishop Amat to an 18-17 overtime CIF-SS AAAA championship game victory over Lakewood High School on December 11, 1970, in front of 31,012 in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The game was decided in overtime by virtue of the “California Tie-Breaker” method used at the time. That system put the ball at the 50-yard line for both teams with each running four alternate plays and the winner being determined by which team gained the most yards.

That game was also memorable for an interception by Bishop Amat’s John Sciarra that ended a potential Lakewood scoring drive. The Bishop Amat Lancers finished the year 12-1, while the Lakewood Lancers finished 9-4. Haden (who was playing with a bad shoulder) finished the night eight-for-16 for 119 yards and two touchdowns. McKay had seven receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

In addition, it was the first CIF-SS football championship to use the Dickerod measuring device instead of chains.

The 28,169 fans who attended the 1969 game represent the sixth-largest crowd for a CIF-SS football championship, while the 31,012 in 1970 is the third-largest crowd. The 1969 crowd count is the eighth-largest attendance at a CIF-SS football event – championship, playoff or regular season ‑ and the 1970 game had the fourth-largest attendance for that same category.

Exponentially magnifying the title game accomplishment for Bishop Amat (and for other CIF-SS schools) is the fact that the Southern Section is huge. At this time, it has 581 member high schools, the largest of which is Long Beach Poly with 4,754 students.

To place the Southern Section into national perspective, if it were a state, it would be the ninth-largest state in America in terms of number of member high school schools. As such, it could be said that winning the Southern Section title would be analogous to winning a state title in the ninth-largest state in the nation. After coming up short by the narrowest of margins against Blair as juniors, winning the Southern Section was particularly sweet for Bishop Amat the following year.

“It was really great to win it as senior after losing the year before,” Haden said. “We were really disappointed by that loss. There’s always luck involved with a championship game. After that loss our junior year, we saw it as a possibility to come back and win it as seniors. We ended up winning it that year, and the team also won it the year after I left.”

Among his high school recognitions, Haden was named Catholic all-America as a junior, was a two-time all-CIF-SS player, and was named all-America as a senior.

Following high school, Haden attended the University of Southern California (USC), where he led the Trojans to three Rose Bowl appearances and two national championships. A two-time all-America, Haden received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and later earned his law degree from Loyola (California) Law School.

Haden made it to the highest level, as he played in the National Football League for seven years, including six years with the Los Angeles Rams. In 1977, he was named to the Pro Bowl.

After being a general partner of Riordan, Lewis and Haden from 1987 to 2010, Haden went full circle when was named director of athletics at his alma mater, USC. In that capacity, he oversees 21 athletics programs with more than 600 student-athletes.

Having successfully played at all three levels and currently the head athletic administrator at a major university with a longtime rich athletic tradition, Haden has seen sports from all perspectives. Even with that varied and experienced background, Haden still regards the high school level as the best.

“Playing football in high school was pure joy,” Haden said. “It’s so uncomplicated in high school. You don’t have the other things that surround big-time football. It was a joyful game and I had a blast playing the game with great teammates.”

Pat_Haden3 John_McKay 
Pat Haden (left) and J.K. McKay (right) playing for the University of Southern California. 

From a very young age, Haden has been linked with longtime teammate and friend, John (J.K.) McKay. The two played football together in high school and college, and today are colleagues within the USC athletic department.

“John and I have been best friends since we met at age 14,” Haden began. “We played football together all those years, our kids grew up together, and he’ll be my best friend until the day I die.

“From a pure football perspective, John was an incredible receiver. He was really phenomenal as he never dropped the ball ‑ he caught everything. The corner route was our favorite route ‑ we used that a lot at USC.”

Although Haden has been recognized for numerous accomplishments both within and outside of the realm of athletics, one of his most gratifying recognitions occurred when he was inducted into the NFHS’ National High School Hall of Fame in 1995. The Hall of Fame is considered to be the greatest honor that can be bestowed an individual involved with high school athletics or performing arts activities. Indicative of the tremendous respect Haden elicited among his peers and his profound oratory skills, he was selected acceptance speaker for the 1995 Hall of Fame induction class.

“Being recognized at the high school level was remarkable,” Haden said. “I know that there are so many outstanding people in the Hall of Fame. To be included in that group is a high honor.”

Haden will have an opportunity to share his positive values with another audience of national high school athletic administrators when he serves as the Closing General Session speaker at the 2013 National Athletic Directors Conference at 1:00 p.m., December 17 in Anaheim, California.


Shown above is a newspaper photo of Pat
Haden (left) and J.K. McKay (right) when they
were students at Bishop Amat High School.

John Gillis is the associate director of development of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at 

See Also: All-Time Greatest;

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