A true team player

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Re “Led Span­ish- lan­guage broad­cast­ing’s U. S. rise,” Obit­u­ary, June 21

The dis­qui­et­ing news of Danny Vil­lanueva’s death brought back mem­o­ries of our time to­gether at KNBC in the early 1970s.

He was unique in many ways: our first on- air Latino, an NFL star with a folder full of locker room sto­ries for boys only, and a cheer­ful pres­ence on the air and off, which made him pop­u­lar with the au­di­ence and col­leagues alike.

He was also my first draft pick when some friends from The Times chal­lenged the KNBC news­room to a touch football game. My sec­ond pick was Tommy Hawkins, re­cently re­tired from the Lak­ers.

On the ap­pointed Satur­day we met on a West­wood field. The Times team ar­rived with a game plan of plays and as­signed po­si­tions. The news­pa­per­men were dis­ci­plined and speedy.

Our team was mak­ing it up as we went along. I started as quar­ter­back and it wasn’t go­ing well, so Danny said, “Lemme take the snaps.” His first play called in the hud­dle fea­tured Hawkins. He said some­thing like, “Tommy, go long and go high.” Bingo. Touch­down. Danny was fa­mous as a kicker, but he could throw and he was very nim­ble as a scram­bler. We needed another score to se­cure a vic­tory, so Danny told one of our re­porters to act as if he were leav­ing the game but bolt for the side­lines on the snap.

The re­porter was Roger Sims, a very large African Amer­i­can and a grad­u­ate of the Air Force Academy. He was wear­ing a wind­breaker from his alma mater.

The play worked per­fectly and we won. Bob Abernethy, our lo­cal an­chor, said it was the first time a 6- foot- 6, 200- pound- plus black man, on a field of mostly white play­ers, suc­cess­fully be­came a phan­tom end. My friends at The Times were gra­cious — un­til we ran film of the vic­tory on the lo­cal news.

I didn’t see Danny much once I left Los An­ge­les, but I fol­lowed his ca­reer closely and I was proud of his busi­ness suc­cess and, es­pe­cially, his char­i­ta­ble cit­i­zen­ship.

It was an honor to be on his team, even a long time ago.

Tom Brokaw

McLeod, Mont.

Gina Ferazzi Los An­ge­les Times

DANNY VIL­LANUEVA was co- founder of the pow­er­ful Univi­sion net­work.

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