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Smith: A remarkable football tale airs Sunday

No football on TV today? Oh, yes, there is.

It's not a game but a remarkable football tale that involves local ex-greats Bob St. Clair and Dick Colombini and possibly the best, most honorable college team ever to play the game.

At 4 p.m., ESPN premieres the documentary, '51 Dons. It stars the University of San Francisco team that went undefeated in 1951 and was invited to play in the Orange Bowl in Florida, but declined.

Bowl officials in the South had specifically excluded from the bowl invitation the Dons' two black players, Burl Toler and Ollie Matson.

The entire team, a clearly phenomenal squad that produced nine pro players and three inductees to the NFL Hall of Fame, responded that they would sit out the Orange Bowl rather than play along with the racist exclusion of two of its members.

"We pulled out of the Bowl bid because it was the right thing to do, and the only thing to do — we were a family," said Santa Rosan St. Clair, who went on to become a 49er and Hall of Famer.

Eight years ago, USF bestowed honorary doctorates on him, Colombini, the former president of Colombini Construction in Santa Rosa, and all other surviving members of the '51 Dons.

The documentary that airs across the country today is based on the book, "Undefeated, Untied and Uninvited," by Kristine Clark. She's also a great fan and friend of St. Clair and has chronicled his propensity to eat his beef before anyone can cook it.

PEN OR SWORD? The Horizon Airlines plane Sheila Montemayor very much hoped to fly to L.A. on Friday morning left without her as TSA agents questioned her about the "weapon" they found in her purse and then summoned a sheriff's deputy.


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