1994 FOOTBALL INDUCTEE
Some people point to a single event or time when they made a decision that shaped their life and career. Billy Wayte can recite, day, time and year that happened to him. Wayte was a walk-on freshman for the Fresno State football team. In the first scrimmage, veteran All Conference tackle Nick Brown smashed Wayte in the face. “My nose was re-arranged, I had a cut from which I still have a scar and two black eyes,” Wayte recalled. “I was only 160 pounds and he was 200+. He really drilled me.” The next Monday, Wayte walked into Coach Clark Van Galder’s office. The head man and assistants Kenny Gleason and Bob Burgess were there. “I told the coach I didn’t think I was cut out for this. I was too small and I was getting beat up too much. Clark looked at me and said “We really don’t want you to quit.’ Burgess was more direct and pointed to the door. ‘Wayte! Get out of here. Go in and get your uniform on. I don’t want to hear another word from you.”
Wayte learned what many Bulldog players before already knew: you don’t monkey with Burgess. “I left the office, went to the locker and put my uniform on and that was that,” Wayte said. “Bob put the fear of God in me, but it might have been all over had Bob not got after me. Had I decided otherwise that very well could have ended my career before it started.” That career included three years as a starter for the Bulldogs and six years in the Canadian Football League, four with Montreal and two with Hamilton. He was a defensive backfield star when Hamilton won the Grey Cup in 1965. He knew he wanted to teach and coach and helped coach the Fresno State freshman team as a postgraduate.
Compounding Wayte’s problems of size were four very good lettermen tailbacks, L.C. Taylor, Bobby Garne, Hank Hernandez, and Hank Vasquez, so in his freshman year, Wayte was shifted to fullback behind Philpott and Don Aiken. The 5’8″ and 165 pounds Wayte was a fullback in name only. He showed potential by carrying the ball fourteen or fifteen times against Coalinga JC and their heralded quarterback, Willie Wood. The following spring, Wayte began to open eyes. In the annual spring game, he scored three times. “I was more quick than fast, but I did run a 4.5 for 40 yards; pretty good at the time” Wayte recalled. “1 started at tailback as a sophomore. In my junior year, Dale Messer transferred from College of the Sequoias.” Messer was a former state high school hurdles champion at Lemoore and a very elusive runner. Van Galder switched Wayte and Messer. One was the tailback and the other was a halfback or wide receiver. Van Galder left for the University of Wisconsin and Cecil Coleman arrived with his “Wing T offense. Wayte was installed at right halfback, Messer left halfback and Larry lwasaki fullback. It was a potent threesome.
Wayte’s senior year under Coach Cecil Coleman was hampered by a hip pointer which caused him to miss three games. He did receive honorable mention on the Little All-American team. He stayed a fifth year to finish his degree and cut his teeth in coaching. He and Harold Householder basically coached the freshman team.”We were in spring practice of my fifth year when Bill Herron (former Fresno City All-American and University of Georgia end from Sanger) came out to watch,” Wayte said. “Herron had been playing for Vancouver in the Canadian Football League.” Wayte was still eager to play, so Herron said he would talk to people in Vancouver. At that time, the CFL did not have a draft, but each team had a twenty player negotiation list. If you were on that list, no other team could touch you. Vancouver offered such a small salary that Wayte decided to stay home to teach and coach. He was dropped from Vancouver’s list and J.J. Albrecht, later an official for Dallas, then a personnel official at Montreal called him. The money was much better, so Wayte signed with Montreal. He was there for four years and finished his career with two in Hamilton all as a corner back. “My knees were beat up, so after the 1966 season, I decided to hang them up.” Wayte said. “I was almost thirty years old [and] it was time to get on to my career which was coaching and teaching. I was hired at Fresno City College as an assistant coach for football and track.” It was at Fresno City College that Wayte became a coaching legend, but surprisingly, in the game of tennis, not football. He was a football assistant in charge of defensive backs for Coach Clare Slaughter when the Rams won four state championships. Taking over men’s tennis in 1977, Wayte suffered through four lean years, then his team won eighteen straight league titles (1982-1999) and played in numerous state finals. He retired in 1999, but still travels with the women’s team and does budget and paperwork for both.
So how did tennis enter the picture? Wayte’s father, Ted, and brother, Larry, were members of the Fig Garden Swim and Racquet Club. He picked up a racket and was “hooked.” Ted Moranda was the men’s coach at FCC and Wayte started hanging around the school courts. The college wanted to start a women’s team in 1975 and Wayte volunteered to lead it. He had the women for two years. However, in 1977, Moranda announced that he was retiring from coaching and Wayte took over the men’s team. He won his first conference title in 1982. From that year until he retired in 1999, the Rams won eighteen consecutive league championships and several Northern California crowns. Many of his students went on to play for Division I or Division II. Several are still in the area in tennis-related jobs. Wayte has had surgery on both knees because of painful injuries. He can look back on a fruitful and rewarding career, but credits Burgess with makine it possible.