John Ralston (American football)

Last updated
John Ralston
Biographical details
Born(1927-04-26)April 26, 1927
Oakland, California
DiedSeptember 14, 2019(2019-09-14) (aged 92)
Sunnyvale, California
Playing career
1948–1950 California
Position(s) Linebacker
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1953–1954 San Lorenzo HS (CA)
1956–1958 California (assistant)
1959–1962 Utah State
1963–1971 Stanford
1972–1976 Denver Broncos
1978 Philadelphia Eagles (OC)
1981 Toronto Argonauts (assistant)
1983–1984 Oakland Invaders
1993–1996 San Jose State
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1979–1980 San Francisco 49ers (VP of admin.)
1997–2013San Jose State (special asst.)
Head coaching record
Overall97–81–4 (college)
34–33–3 (NFL)
9–12 (USFL)
Accomplishments and honors
2 Skyline (1960–1961)
2 AAWU/Pac-8 (1970–1971)
Sporting News College Football COY (1970)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1992 (profile)

John R. Ralston (April 26, 1927 – September 14, 2019) was an American football player, coach, and sports executive. He served as the head football coach at Utah State University (1959–1962), Stanford University (1963–1971), and San Jose State University (1993–1996), compiling a career college football record of 97–81–4. Ralston also coached the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL) from 1972 to 1976, amassing a record of 34–33–3, and the Oakland Invaders of the United States Football League (USFL) in 1983 and part of the 1984 season, tallying a mark of 9–12. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1992.


Early life, education, and playing career

Born in Oakland, California, Ralston and his family moved to Norway, Michigan when he was eight years old. [1] Upon graduating from Norway High School in 1944, he went to the University of California, Berkeley and played linebacker there on two Rose Bowl teams before earning his physical education degree in 1951.

Coaching career

Ralston began his coaching career in 1952 at San Lorenzo High School in San Lorenzo, California, just south of Oakland. He subsequently was an assistant coach at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, California. in 1953 and 1954. He then spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Cal from 1955–1958. Ralston was then named head coach at Utah State University in 1959. In four years there, he compiled a 31–11–1 record and won two Skyline Conference championships. Ralston moved to Stanford University in 1963 and, over nine seasons, built a mark of 55–36–3. In his last two seasons, 1970–1971, Ralston's teams won two Pacific-8 titles and notched back-to-back Rose Bowl victories over Ohio State and Michigan, both of whom were undefeated coming into the Rose Bowl game. Under Ralston's tutelage, Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy in 1970.

In 1972, Ralston departed the San Francisco Bay Area again, this time for the Rocky Mountains and the Denver Broncos. The Broncos finished with a 5–9 record in 1972. In 1973, a year which included the "Orange Monday" game played in front of a prime-time national television audience in which the Broncos came from behind to earn a tie on Jim Turner's 35-yard field goal, Ralston coached the team into first place with a 6–3–2 record. With their first winning season in franchise history under their belt and with the AFC West title on the line, the Broncos' season ended with a 21–17 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Ralston was the UPI's choice as AFC Coach of the Year after Denver achieved its first-ever winning season at 7–5–2. In 1974, Ralston coached the Broncos to a 7–6–1 record for their second consecutive winning season. In 1975 the Broncos finished with a 6–8 record, but the following year the team improved and finished with a 9–5 record. The record was not, however, good enough qualify the Broncos for the playoffs. In five seasons with the Broncos, Ralston guided the team to winning seasons three times and an overall record of 34–33–3; despite this, he never went to the playoffs during his Bronco (and NFL head coaching) tenure.

After leaving the Broncos, Ralston held several assistant coaching jobs which included the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers, the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, and as a head coach in the USFL with the Oakland Invaders. Ralston also coached in Europe. He was the head coach of the Dutch Lions, the national football team of the Netherlands. With the Lions, Ralston won the bronze medal in the European Championships in Helsinki, Finland in 1991. After being inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992, Ralston came out of retirement in 1993 to be head coach at San Jose State University. After the 1996 season, Ralston resigned from the position to become special assistant to athletic director Tom Brennan. [2] Ralston later became special assistant to the football team, where he remained until the 2013 season. [3] He died on September 14, 2019 at the age of 92. [4]

Head coaching record


Utah State Aggies (Skyline Conference)(1959–1961)
1959 Utah State 5–62–5T–5th
1960 Utah State 9–26–1T–1stL Sun
1961 Utah State 9–1–15–0–1T–1stL Gotham 1010
Utah State Aggies (NCAA University Division independent)(1962)
1962 Utah State 8–2
Utah State:31–11–113–6–1
Stanford Indians (Athletic Association of Western Universities)(1963–1967)
1963 Stanford 3–71–46th
1964 Stanford 5–53–45th
1965 Stanford 6–3–12–3T–5th
1966 Stanford 5–51–48th
1967 Stanford 5–53–4T–4th
Stanford Indians (Pacific-8 Conference)(1968–1971)
1968 Stanford 6–3–13–3–1T–3rd20
1969 Stanford 7–2–15–1–1T–2nd1419
1970 Stanford 9–36–11stW Rose 108
1971 Stanford 9–36–11stW Rose 1610
San Jose State Spartans (Big West Conference)(1993–1995)
1993 San Jose State 2–92–4T–6th
1994 San Jose State 3–83–3T–5th
1995 San Jose State 3–83–4T–6th
San Jose State Spartans (Western Athletic Conference)(1996)
1996 San Jose State 3–93–5T–5th (Pacific)
San Jose State:11–3411–26
      National championship        Conference title        Conference division title or championship game berth


TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
DEN 1972 590.3573rd in AFC West----
DEN 1973 752.583T–2nd in AFC West----
DEN 1974 761.5362nd in AFC West----
DEN 1975 680.4292nd in AFC West----
DEN 1976 950.6432nd in AFC West----
DEN Total34333.50700-

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  1. "Hometown Honors John Ralston". Iron Mountain Daily News. July 30, 2008. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011.
  2. Associated Press (October 21, 1996). "San Jose State's Ralston calling it quits". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. p. 3B.
  3. "Staff directory - football". San Jose State Spartans. Archived from the original on February 16, 2014.
  4. "John Ralston, former Stanford, Broncos coach, dies at 92". September 15, 2019. Retrieved September 15, 2019.