Just Due For UCLA’s Jim Blewett

UCLA backfield coach JIM BLEWETT (left) and Bruins line coach RAY RICHARDS (right) help prize recruit JACKIE ROBINSON, the multi-sport sensation who rushed for 1,093 yards while scoring 18 total touchdowns in eleven games for Pasadena Junior College during the 1938 campaign, register for classes in the coming semester after transferring to the University of California at Los Angeles in January of 1939. ======================================================

Good ole’ Tom Sawyer has been doing some fascinating research on the MANUAL ARTS HIGH SCHOOL gridiron program in the mid-to-late 1910s over at his very fine blog specializing in UNIVERSITY of CALIFORNIA at LOS ANGELES football in the first half of the 20th Century :


Here at this blog, it has already been documented that no fewer than six Manual Arts High School products were on the two-deep depth charts of both the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans for the legendary clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in December of 1939 that was witnessed by the largest crowd ever to watch any football game west of the Mississippi River.

UCLA first-year head coach BABE HORRELL was widely credited by the contemporary sportswriters all throughout the 1939 season for having revamped the Bruins’ traditional Single Wing offense by installing the so-called “Man-In-Motion” feature. Unfortunately, history does not seem to record exactly how much influence UCLA backfield coach JIM BLEWETT, the longtime Manual Arts High School varsity head coach who was now in his first season as an assistant at the collegiate level, had over the design and implementation of the Bruins’ new tactics. However, Blewett’s background certainly seems to indicate that the first-year UCLA backfield coach would have had at least a little input, if not considerably more.

“Jim Blewett was the first great athlete produced at Manual Arts High School,” this according to the official transcript of the Los Angeles High School Sports Hall Of Fame Inaugural Induction Ceremony (June 5, 2011) :

As a track & field athlete, Blewett was recognized as the shot put champion of the City of Los Angeles as a sophomore in 1915 and again as a junior in 1916. As a senior in 1917, the future UCLA backfield coach became the shot put champion of the entire State of California. Blewett was also a standout football player for led powerhouse Manual Arts High School, the Vermont Avenue institution that celebrated the city championship title five times (1913, 1914, 1916, 1917 and 1919) in but a single decade alone.

As a senior on the gridiron in 1916, Blewett was not only named All-City fullback in Los Angeles but was also chosen to represent Manual Arts High School on the presitigous All-Southern California XI picked by contemporary sportwriter Jack Darroch from the San Diego Union newspaper.

Manual Arts High School fullback JIM BLEWETT is shown kicking left-footed in the lower right hand corner of this photo highlighting the 1916 All-Southern California XI. To Blewett’s immediate left is a teammate from the 1916 Los Angeles city championship squad, tackle Ken Brockman, with the other four players all hailing from San Diego High School, recognized as the champion of the State of California that season. The San Diego trio appearing in the top row of this photo displayed — from left to right, left halfback Bryan “Pesky” Sprott (far left, top row), right end Harold “Brick” Muller and quarterback Karl Deeds — all later starred on the University of California Golden Bears’ famous 1920 Wonder Team, the national championship title-winning squad that posted a perfect 9-0-0 record while outscoring its opponents by the overwhelming margin of 510-14 … http://www.partletonsports.com/?attachment_id=5895

Blewett went on to play football at the University of California at Berkeley under the legendary Golden Bears head coach ANDY SMITH but was hampered by injuries. After completing his education, Blewett stayed in the northern California area and got his feet wet as a head coach by filling the position at Fresno High School from 1921 until 1925. At this point, Blewett returned to his Manual Arts High School roots and set about the business becoming a California scholastic coaching legend.

The former Manual Arts High School fullback captured his first Los Angeles city championship title as a head coach at his alma mater in 1930. Three more city championship titles for the Manual Arts football team followed in 1934, 1936 and 1937 before Blewett accepted a job offer from new UCLA Bruins head coach Babe Horrell in December of 1938. Shortly thereafter, Blewett was rewarded with a raise and a four-year contract extension after UCLA finished the 1939 NCAA campaign with an unbeaten record of 6-0-4 and the # 7 ranking in the final Associated Press national poll.

Reportedly, continuing strained relations with Horrell led Blewett to resign from his position as backfield coach at UCLA in late December of 1940. Once again, Blewett went back to Manual Arts High School and resumed his duties as head football coach but only got in one season before going off to serve his country during World War II. After the hostilities had concluded, Blewett returned to his alma mater yet one more time in 1947 and would enjoy a highly successful seventeen-year run as head coach that included five more Los Angeles city championship titles in 1952, 1954, 1957, 1961 and 1962.


When Blewett finally retired in 1963, there was no other high school coach in the entire State of California who could match the impressive record (225 wins, 70 losses, 16 ties) that he had compiled over the course of his distinguished 36-year career (Fresno 1921-25, Manual Arts 1926-38, 1941, 1947-63).


During his long, if often interrupted, tenure as head coach at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, Blewett helped to develop countless numbers of collegiate players including a pair of would-be USC Trojans who also later became very high picks in the annual National Football League Draft. Passing specialist DOYLE NAVE, who gained 52 net yards rushing (4.0 avg) on the ground versus the UCLA Bruins team assisted by Blewett in 1939, was the sixth overall player chosen at the 1940 NFL Draft when selected in the first round by the Detroit Lions. Almost two decades later, exciting All-America halfback and kick returner JON ARNETT was the second overall player taken at the 1957 NFL Draft when tabbed in the first round by the hometown Los Angeles Rams.



Filed under UCLA Football

3 responses to “Just Due For UCLA’s Jim Blewett

  1. Very interesting, especially since I knew nothing about Jim Blewett. He is, however, pictured in my February 1916 “The Artisan.” He was shown as 17 years old, 5-10, 151 pounds. Kenneth Brockman is also pictured. I hope to post a couple of pictures of them on my UCLA football history blog. (Thanks for posting that link.)

    If UCLA had been around a little earlier, then maybe Babe, and the San Diego players, and the Manual Arts players, would have ended up at UCLA and changed the face of Berkeley’s teams (and UCLA’s).

    —Tom Sawyer

    • Classic UCLA Bruins, Rediscovered

      Excellent question! — What would have happened if the Southern Branch of the University of California had had its varsity football program ‘up and running’ sooner?

      I didn’t really go into it because the primary focus of this piece was about Blewett but seven players from that successful 1916 San Diego High School team went on to play for the University of California Golden Bears’ 1920 NCAA national championship squad under the legendary head coach Andy Smith. I identified five of the six players shown on that 1916 All-Southern California XI photo; the one player I did not mention (bottom row, lower left) is guard Cort Majors, who was a co-captain of the 1920 Cal Wonder Team … The USC Trojans definitely started to develop their own serious San Diego pipeline in the early 1930s; several prominent players from the 1939 USC Trojans squad came from San Diego including All-America blocking halfback Bob Hoffman, two-time All-Pacific Coast quarterback Ambrose Schindler and future National Football League guard Ben Sohn.

      According to the official 1920 Big Game Program that I reviewed, no fewer than four Manual Arts players were on the Cal team that ultimately blanked the previously unbeaten and untied Ohio State Buckeyes 28-0 in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day :

      Charley Erb ………. Quarterback – 5’8″ 153 lbs
      Charlie Toney ……. End – 5’10” 168 lbs
      Bob Berkey ……….. End – 5’11” 182 lbs
      Dan McMillan …….. Tackle – 6’1″ 176 lbs


      According to the post-game report from the Berkeley Daily Gazette (Jan 3, 1921), McMillan was Cal’s starting right tackle and Erb was the Golden Bears’ starting quarterback; the two ends from Manual Arts, Berkey and Toney, did not appear in the Rose Bowl contest … Erb recovered a fumble by Ohio State on Cal’s 5-yard line with the Golden Bears leading 7-0 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Erb gained eight yards on a pass reception on a drive that led to the Golden Bears’ third touchdown. Late in the third quarter, Erb caught two more passes for a total of 25 yards on a drive the ended with Cal scoring its fourth and final touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Erb also kicked the extra point that made it 28-0 and intercepted a Buckeyes pass late in the fourth quarter, as well … McMillan played the full 60 minutes on the right side of Cal’s line.

  2. Pingback: The role of assistant coaches in UCLA football . . . | Southern Branch, University of California! Unofficial notes on the early days of UCLA—when she went by a different name! The emphasis here is on pre-1955 football!