Sal Aunese Colorado Quarterback

I am not melancholy, but I will run across a bit of bad information from time to time regarding people that I had almost forgotten about. If I am a hardcore football fan and I had almost forgotten about some of these guys, then most people also don’t remember.

Every human life is important and I don’t want people to be forgotten, because human life should matter.

Years ago when times were hard, I took a part time job with a surveyor to make extra money because our business was small and we were hard up for cash.

I wound up enjoying the job very much and it was only a couple of days a week on most weeks which gave me plenty of time to do my own thing.

My boss and I surveyed a large ranch and he did his field work and he needed me to come be his grunt. I have always been a country boy at heart, so anytime I get to go out into an almost wilderness situation, I really enjoy myself.

This was a long time ago when our kids were small and I don’t clearly remember all of the details anymore about the ranch. But, one thing did happen which I very clearly remember and I probably always will.

As I was walking across this huge ranch with a surveyors ranging pole in hand to do exactly as my boss had instructed me, I ran across a tiny graveyard.

It just had a few graves in it, but they were from the beginning of the last Century. One of them

caught my attention and also captured my heart.

In this grave, there lay a girl of 4 years of age. Her name had been Carrie, and I clearly have no idea what happened to her to take her at such an early age. If she had lived, she would have been the same age roughly as my grandparents had been.

My heart ached for her. Here these people had come out to what was still the wild, wild West only to lose their little girl. The saddest thing for me is that nobody ever knew who she was other than maybe her mom and her dad. Nobody knows anything about her and why she was ever here or why she was taken so young.

I wanted to know her short story even if it had been only a page long. It hurt me deeply that she had been born and then had passed and nobody will ever know she lived as her parents lay in graves right beside her. Whoever had filled the last grave, had done it and hit the road some time after because there were no old homes nearby. There was only grass and a few small trees and an almost empty graveyard. There was a gravel road nearby, but no trails or any recent sign of human visitors to the small cemetery.

Four year old Carrie had been forgotten.

That’s how I feel when I think about a Sal Aunese of Colorado or a Brandon Burlsworth of Arkansas. I want to tell the story of Freddie Steinmark of Texas, or Cole Pittman also of Texas. Matt Hartl of Northwestern just wanted to play ball and be a living person just like the rest of us.

These people had lived and they died, and they gave everything that they had in between, and people should not forget about them.

That is why I have written about Freddie Steinmark, Matt Hartl, Cole Pittman and Parade All American high school player, Clark Broaddus.

I also plan on writing about Brandon Burlsworth soon.

Sal Aunese was American Samoan and grew up in Oceanside, California.  He lead his Vista High

School football team to the California state championship and earned the attention of college recruiters nationwide.

An intense battle broke out between Nebraska and Colorado. Nebraska’s Tom Osborne wanted him badly to run his offense.

Colorado wound up winning somewhat due to the intense efforts of Buffalo assistant coach Les Miles.

But, the problem for Aunese and Colorado was that he did not have the grades.

He would just have to sit out his freshman season and he would be eligible for his second year. It was called Proposition 48 back then and each school was allowed to take a Prop 48 guy.

Bill McCartney was the Colorado coach then. This was his first head coaching job and he was in a battle.

His first team at Colorado went 2-8-1 in 1982. 4-7 in 1983 was a step up, but everything fell apart in 1984 with a 1-10 record. Fans want coaches fired if they have a terrible season like that. But, the program had hit bottom and they bounced back in 1985 with a 7-5 record and a bowl berth.

This was apparently an up and coming program and the school that recruited Sal Aunese.

Sitting out the 1986 season, the Buffaloes continued struggling somewhat when they finished with a 6-6 record.

For the 1987 season, the Buffs returned starting Quarterback Mark Hatcher and he was the starter at the beginning of the season. Aunese took over the job as the season progressed.

Colorado ran a run based option offense that threw the ball sparingly. Aunese only threw for over 300 yards as a freshman and he ran for over 600 yards. Not huge numbers, but this was a transitional

season for Colorado and they finished 7-4.

The 1988 season was kind of the beginning of good times for the Buffaloes. They still lost games, but Aunese threw for over 1,000 yards and Eric Bieniemy at Running Back ran for over 1,200 yards. The Buffaloes lost to highly ranked Oklahoma State with Heisman winner Barry Sanders. They also lost to #8 Oklahoma by 3 points and #7 Nebraska by 7 points.

They finished the season 8-3, but then they lost in the Freedom Bowl to Brigham Young and 8-4 didn’t look much better than the 1987 season on paper.

The Colorado Buffaloes and their Quarterback Sal Aunese were about to put some good teams on the field.

The controversy during this time period was Sal Aunese and Bill McCartney’s daughter were having a relationship behind the scenes and she got pregnant.

Bill McCartney, to his credit, never hated his Quarterback.

But, things got worse for Aunese. After the season, he was diagnosed with an inoperable rare  stomach cancer. He was given 6 months to live.

In April of 1989, his son was born and was named Timothy Chase.

On September 23rd, 1989 Sal Aunese passed away.

The Colorado Buffaloes players dedicated their season to their former Quarterback. Their new Quarterback, Darian Hagan, was spectacular and the Buffaloes went 11-0 before losing to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Orange Bowl.

The following season, Colorado had their revenge over Notre Dame and won the national championship.

The Colorado Buffaloes had gone from doormat to champions in a few short years and Sal Aunese had been an instrumental piece in turning that around.

As sad as this story is, the difference between some of the others I have written about and Sal Aunese is that he left a son behind.

Timothy Chase McCartney lives on and goes by T.C.

He was a walk-on Quarterback at LSU and earned his degree. After college T.C. McCartney got into coaching and he is currently an Offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.

 

After an 11-1 season in 1994, Bill McCartney stepped down as the head coach at Colorado to run the Christian organization he had started called Promise Keepers. He had inherited a really bad team in Boulder and turned them around and he finished with a 93-55-5 record. Most of those 55 losses came in his first few years at Colorado.

Recruiting young and talented men like Sal Aunese turned this program around. Aunese, in reality, was not as good as his replacement Darian Hagan, or later Buffalo Quarterback Kordell Stewart. But, Sal Aunese was a huge part in turning this program around.

 

 

Just like Cole Pittman, Matt Hartl, Brandon Burlsworth, Freddie Steinmark and Clark Broaddus, Sal Aunese deserves to be remembered.

 

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