Athletics were the key to success for Anaheim High Class of ‘54 graduate Dean Philpott. From humble beginnings, Dean learned early in life that hard work and discipline, on and off the playing field, were necessary to attain a better life for himself and his family.
His character and determination helped him achieve his dreams and earn Dean the status of one of Anaheim High’s and Fresno State University’s most outstanding athletes. His considerable talents also led to a career as a pro football player. When Dean suffered a career-ending injury, he turned his energies and abilities to helping children though teaching and coaching.
As the eldest of six children, with an absentee father due to alcoholism, Dean earned money for his family by mowing lawns and hoeing weeds back in the 1950s when Anaheim was still a sleepy agricultural community on the verge of a population boom.
He became a father figure to his three sisters and two brothers and helped his mother however he could. Despite a reading problem that made school difficult, Dean worked hard and always gave his best effort. He became at stand-out student in auto shop, wood shop, metal shop and machine shop. He strived to be healthy and fit and to set a good example for his brothers and sisters. To this day he has never tasted alcohol and has never smoked. His discipline and hard work paid off.
From 1950 to 1954, Dean played sports for AUHS, starting with JV football, basketball and diving. In ‘52 and ‘53 he played varsity football, basketball and ran track. In 1954, his senior year, he played varsity football, basketball and baseball.
While successful in all sports at Anaheim, he was a standout in football, earning All Sunset League 1st Team honors in his junior year as a halfback and in his senior year, as a fullback. He was also named All CIF 1st Team fullback in his senior year and voted Most Inspirational and Most Valuable Player in his JV and Varsity years.
His success in football at AUHS was only a beginning. At Fresno State he was known as “The Anaheim Assassin.” He lettered all four years and became the Fresno State record holder in rushing, having gained 2,579 yards, and held the record for most points scored. In his senior year alone, he ran for 767 yards, scored 14 touchdowns and kicked 10 extra points.
In those days, players went both ways, so Dean played linebacker on defense and punted for a 36.8 average. He was awarded All Conference honors 1st team for three consecutive years. Other honors for his play at Fresno State included being named twice to California Collegiate Athletic Association 1st team and to All Coast 1st Team for four consecutive years.
Dean still holds the Fresno State Top 10 record of being No. 3 in total yards gained and for the most yards per carry, with a 5.4 average over his four years of play. He is tied for second in most touchdowns with 29.
Did he ever fumble the ball during his four year stint? Dean can’t remember fumbling except for once when the ball came loose and came right back to him. Shake hands with him and you’ll know why he held onto the ball so well. His hands are big and powerful.
Dean’s records at Fresno State stood for 38 years until they were broken by Ron Rivers and Anthony Daigle in 1996. Rivers needed 103 yards to break Dean’s yardage record and Daigle needed one more touchdown to break his scoring record. Fresno State alumni presented Dean with an airline ticket to attend the Utah State game so that he could be in attendance on the night his records fell and be part of a special on-field half-time presentation. Fresno State further honored Dean by inducting him into its Hall of Fame for outstanding play, for his character and for his academic achievements.
Following his senior year, Dean was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in the 11th round and played along side Ollie Mattson in the 1958-59 season. He sat out the 59-60 season to serve in the Army as an active duty reservist. Then in 1960, in a pre-season game as a prospect for the Oakland Raiders, Dean suffered a career-ending injury that brought his playing days to an end.
In his four years of college, while setting school records, he earned a secondary teaching credential. After football ended, Dean began a long teaching career, coaching and working with boys and girls in his main calling, auto shop. He was an outstanding teacher and earned a reputation for being innovative, encouraging girls to take his auto shop class because he felt important that they know more about the cars they would drive.
A story that well reflects his character is how he cared for his long-time friend and fellow Anaheim High and Fresno State team mate Bob Padilla. Bob opened many holes for Dean to run through both in high school and college. Bob later became Fresno’s head coach for the 1978 -79 season. Unfortunately, he suffered a major stroke in mid-life, which left him with serious limitations. Dean was a consistent visitor, frequently taking Bob to places he could enjoy. He showed love and compassion to Bob and his wife and children. Bob died several years ago but Dean’s friendship with his family continues today.
Now retired and having raised three children, Dean lives in Fresno, where he raises everything from orange to cattle. When not ranching or spending time with his wife, Ann, you’ll probably find Dean on the golf course. Because of his football career, he has had two hip and two knee replacements and appreciates the renewed freedom they have given him.
Dean was known for running through his opponents, as well as running over life’s obstacles to achieve his goals, yet while doing so, remaining humble, kind and respectful to others. Anaheim High School salutes Dean Philpott for his lifetime of achievements and for having made a success of himself while always remaining an example to others.