Mike House is not now, nor has he ever been a statistician.
When a spiraling pigskin soared into his arms for the final catch of his football career in 1979, House had no idea it eclipsed a landmark total for the University of the Pacific and he stayed in the dark for over 33 years.
On April 20, as he was being inducted into the UOP Sports Hall of Fame, the 1975 Oakdale High graduate and lifetime Oakdale resident finally discovered the significance of his immaculate reception.
“I’m very grateful to have made that last catch, because it brought me over 1,000 yards (two-year career),” House, 55, said with a laugh on Monday. “I didn’t even know until the banquet how many yards I had as a junior and senior (1,009).”
The final grab capped a brilliant college career for a towering athlete who led the NCAA in catches by a tight end in 1979, was drafted by the New England Patriots and went on to become the looming, but jolly face of OHS alumnus.
His April induction to the UOP Hall of Fame cemented his lore with the likes of Eddie LeBaron, Pete Carroll, Bruce Coslet and Mike Merriweather, and adds one more tribute to a fulfilled but unfinished life.
“I jokingly told myself that after being selected to the UOP Hall of Fame, there is nothing left do,” House said. “But I still want to accomplish things and I am not ready to be turned out to pasture.
“There are always a few challenges left, but it’s nice to know I have a few successes behind me.”
House is perhaps best known for his presence on the OHS sidelines, where he snaps photos of Mustang football players and closely followed the career of his children.
He was witness to the success of 2010 Oakdale Leader Athlete of the Year Tim House, who recently took a break in his own college football career to take part in a mission to Barranquilla, Columbia with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Tim was the last member of the House family to make an appearance at OHS. He’s a small branch of an expansive family tree that blossomed when Mike began dating a classmate and OHS cheerleader, Judy Valk, soon after their high school graduation.
Mike and Judy were married a year after departing Oakdale High, and Judy gave birth to their first child while Mike was in the midst of the biggest year of his career as a UOP junior.
The pair now proudly boast a brood that includes sons Tim and Kevin and daughters Jennifer, Kelly, Cortney and Brittany, along with eight grandsons and two granddaughters.
“My parents moved to Martinez from Idaho a few months before I was born, then down to Oakdale when I was a year old,” Mike said. “I wonder how things would have turned out if they had never come to Oakdale or California.
“It has been a charmed life living in Oakdale and I can’t say enough about the community and the way it supports schools and kids.”
House could have easily chosen a different path as well.
He visited Brigham Young University, Stanford, was asked to attend the American Naval Academy by Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill, and had College Football Hall of Fame coach, John McKay, in his living room with a pitch from the University of Southern California.
“When I look at it all, I see how differently things could have turned out, but I can’t believe it would have been better,” House said. “I am just really happy.”
House was drafted with the 208th pick of the 1980 NFL draft (eighth round). He spent 28 days as a Patriot and did workouts with the Broncos and Chiefs before departing the professional football world.
House said the recent trip to the UOP banquet was made alongside his former OHS coach, Dale Clipper, and former Oakdale athletic director, Norm Antinetti. He was honored with a Hall of Fame medallion, made a short speech and enjoyed a dinner with the UOP brass.
House made sure to recognize his former teammates and coaches who became a big part of his career and thanked all of his good friends for their support and advice.
“You just don’t get anywhere without a lot of help, and certainly God blessed me,” House said. “I was big, strong and fast, so I was born to it, but I also worked hard.”
He just never learned to take stats.