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Catching up with: Al Irwin

February 18, 2001

Tony Altobelli

Al Irwin wakes up every morning at 5:30, hops on his bike, rides

10-plus miles a day, comes home and walks his two dogs four times a day,

hits the YMCA pool three times a week and still finds time for other

hobbies and pastimes.

Did we mention he just turned 83 years old? Once a jock, always a

jock.

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Irwin, who began his legacy on the football fields at Newport Harbor

High in the 1930s and used his sports knowledge to coach the Sailors and

Orange Coast College in the 40s and 50s, is still fit as a fiddle after

all these years.

"It keeps me busy," Irwin said in his usual humble tone. "I'm really

not doing all that much these days, so I keep myself active whenever I

can."

Always on the go, Irwin and his wife of 59 years, Lois, remain active

and helpful members of the Newport Beach area.

"We both volunteer at the Newport Beach Library whenever we can,"

Irwin said. "Lois is down there all the time and I try help out down

there, too."

Irwin was a hard-nosed fullback for the Sailors. Upon his graduation

in 1936, he played at the College of the Pacific, where he played under

legendary Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.

After his playing career ended, Irwin served in the Navy during World

War II and was a flight deck officer aboard the USS Lexington in the

South Pacific.

From there, Irwin returned to Newport Harbor and coached football and

swimming from 1948-1955. His 1949 football squad went 8-1 and scored an

astounding 323 points.

"I still have fond memories of coaching at Newport," Irwin said. "The

classes were much smaller than they are today, so you could really get to

know the students and make a difference."

From Newport, Irwin coached one season at Orange Coast College before

retiring due to an illness. He helped guide the Pirates to a 7-1-2 record

and an Eastern Conference title.

Eventually, Irwin would land at UC Irvine as the school's athletic

director.

"I even went back there recently for the baseball stadium

ground-breaking ceremony," Irwin said. "It's great to see them improve

their athletic standards."

Nowadays, Al and Lois spend time traveling to either Hawaii once a

year or to Stockton for UOP functions.

"I also attend Newport's homecoming football games every year," Irwin

boasted. "It's my old school and I'm proud to be a part of it."

When he's not on the bike, in the pool or avoiding Lois' dog house,

Irwin likes to keep in touch with old friends. "I go to a lot of class

reunions," he said. "Either to see former teammates, classmates or even

to see some former players I coached. I still keep in touch with a good

percentage of them."

For some quiet time, Irwin spends his time in the garage with his

hobby. "I'm into wood carving," he said. "I make sea shells, fish, all

sorts of different things."

One-of-a-kind fixtures made by a one-of-a-kind guy.

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