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Tuesday, August 22, 2023

FOR SALE - Rare Antique Vintage Football 1956 - 1957 Mater Dei High School Henry "Hank" Enriquez CIF Champs Football Award / Letter Jacket

Researching this jacket has been a fun little side project for me.  As the story goes my buddy purchased the jacket from a kid at the Long Beach Flea Market early one Sunday some months ago.  The kid had originally picked it up (rescued the jacket) at/from the Santa Ana Goodwill Bins.

My friend knew Mater Dei history, steeped in Football tradition (the only high school in the USA to produce three Heisman Trophy winners) and that it was an early jacket from their glory days, but at the time neither of us knew the jacket was named.

Fast forward, after a couple months of unsuccessful showings at the Long Beach Flea, Ryan S. handed me the jacket to list on Ebay and research.  Well, to make a long story short, the findings are listed below:

·         Jacket is named to Henry “Hank” Enriquez, leather tag sewn on the inside right bottom with his name (Jacket has H.L. Whiting Co. Los Angeles garment tag with left breast chainstitiching and leather chainstitched ’56 – ’57 patch).

·         Enriquez played for Mater Dei in 1955, 1956, and 1957 as fullback (graduated in ’58), he was lightning fast and that’s likely why he was also on the Varsity Track Team, but in 1957 he, along with Hal Tobin or Coronado, were named Co-All CIF Players of the Year.  Mater Dei won CIF titles in both 1956 & 1957, which the jacket commemorates, and the 1957 CIF win was the first for famed football coach Dick Coury (coached at Mater Dei from 1957 – 1965, then at USC, and finally in the NFL).  Helm’s Athletic Foundation states: “Henry Enriquez, star of Mater Dei’s Southern Group CIF Champions, gained 1,235 yards on 122 carries for an average of 10 yards per carry.  He has been starting fullback at Mater Dei for three years and his coach Dick Coury makes no bones calling him the best back in California.  This year he scored a total of 84 points on 14 touchdowns and in the CIF Finals against Claremont, he gained 234 yards on 20 carries and scored three TDs as the Monarchs triumphed, 39-14.” In a simple statement, the football prowess and accolades of Mater Dei started with their first All Star, Henry Enriquez and Coach Dick Coury, a legacy that still continues today.  Enriquez’ #1 football jersey is retired by Mater Dei High School.

·         On July 30, 1958 Enriquez played fullback for the South All Star Team, in the Seventh Annual Al Malikah Temple Shrine All-Star North-South Football Game and Pageant, held at the Los Angeles Coliseum.  South won 49–20.

·         Enriquez was picked up by the University of Utah for the Fall 1958 season where he played fullback and halfback for the Ute’s Frosh (Freshman) squad.

·         In Fall 1959 Enriquez, sometimes referred to as Hank, was halfback for the Orange Coast College (OCC) Pirates football team.  As a Buc (Buccaneer), he received the Lions Club Pirate of the Year Award and was their star player.

·         Not sure if Enriquez played in 1960, as my research came up as nil, but in 1961 he was Varsity fullback under another famed coach, Don Coryell, at San Diego State University, for the Aztecs.

After that, Hank Enriquez got his Masters Degree in Education at San Diego State University, graduated in 1964, and was a 1965 lower levels football coach at Mater Dei, and is quoted in Phil Ross’ 2013 book, entitled:  Once a Trojan, Always a Trojan, where he coached a young Joe Obbema, whom the book is about. 

Enriquez, in 2004 after his retirement as an Orange School District High School teacher and Varsity Football coach co-founded Mater Dei’s “Letterman’s Club”, which has the important purpose to “give back to the Monarchs” as a way of saying thanks to the Mater Dei Staff and Coaches for everything they did for the players during their formative years at the school.

Thus far a call into Mater Dei and several emails to the school about the important historical jacket have fallen on deaf ears.  This jacket is definitely a meaningful piece of sports history for Santa Ana, CA and Orange County Football and truly belongs in a museum, in Mater Dei’s trophy room, or with a major fan/football collector.

Enriquez appears to still be alive today, likely born in 1939 or 1940, making him 83 or 84.

The jacket is currently FOR SALE on Ebay and I have a 3/8” stack of history on him including yearbook info, newspaper articles, press releases, and photos.

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