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Hugh McElhenny recalled as humble hero by fellow NFL stars

Pro football lost one its all-time greats when Hall of Fame running back and longtime Henderson resident Hugh McElhenny died June 17 at age 93.

The closest thing he had to contemporaries in Southern Nevada lost an all-time great friend.

Fellow Hall of Famer Tom Mack said those who are awarded the yellow blazers emblematic of NFL immortality tend to fall into three categories: shy, arrogant or salt of the earth.

“You can usually sort it out by the positions they played, but Hugh was never that way,” said Mack, who started his career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1966 — two seasons after McElhenny’s spectacular career as one of the NFL’s most elusive ball carriers ended.

“He treated me as well as anybody has ever treated me. That’s what you fall in love with, not that he was a great football player.”

Added George Kunz, Mack’s fellow offensive line battering ram who made the Pro Bowl seven times during a nine-year career beginning in 1969: “The thing about Hugh is he was so modest. But when he wore that Hall of Fame ring, he never had to say a word.”

McElhenny spent his final 20 years in Henderson and was a regular at UNLV football luncheons when John Robinson coached the Rebels. Dan Raley, a former Seattle sports writer, wrote that McElhenny and his wife, Peggy, loved spending time with their grandchildren and watching the sun set over the Red Rock mountains.

During a 2004 visit to Henderson, Raley said McElhenny confirmed the rumor often told about the flashiest member of the San Francisco 49ers’ Million Dollar Backfield (Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, John Henry Johnson, all Hall of Famers) of the 1950s — that he had to take a pay cut when he left the University of Washington to play on Sunday.

“I got a check every month … Peg and I made more in college than I made in pro ball,” McElhenny said when he was 75 and beyond reproach.

“I’m too old to give a (bleep).”

Around the horn

Las Vegas might be a Golden Knights town, but it’s far from being a hockey town, in general, if one goes by local TV ratings that saw Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final rank fourth behind “Jeopardy!”, “Wheel of Fortune” and “Gutfeld!”

Perhaps the NHL should consider adding an exclamation mark to improve viewership in the valley.

Furian Inferrera, a seventh grade quarterback who attends Las Vegas’ Game Changers Sports Academy, has received a scholarship offer from Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been following them for a while,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They’ve got a lot of legends like Tony Dorsett and Aaron Donald … it’s a great program.”

Dorsett’s last season at Pitt was 1977 — some 31 years before Inferrera was born. So one can add “student of the game” to his list of credentials.

— Kris Bryant did not rejoin the Colorado Rockies as expected this weekend. According to manager Bud Black, the former Bonanza High standout and National League MVP thinks he needs more time to regain his form after injuring his lower back in late April.

Bryant is 1-for-10 with a double and five strikeouts in a rehab assignment with the Albuquerque Isotopes against the Aviators this past week at Las Vegas Ballpark.

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Though Bruton Smith spent untold dollars in transforming Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his other NASCAR tracks into polished, profit-turning jewels, LVMS president Chris Powell said he also had a frugal side.

Before the Earnhardt Terrace went up in Turn 4 at the local speed plant, Powell said he and Smith — who died Wednesday at age 95 — were touring the track when his boss heard a persistent hum. He told Powell to stop the car so he could flip the lever on a circuit box that was causing the irritating noise.

“I said, ‘Bruton, you might have just turned off the electricity to the entire speedway,’ ” Powell recalled.

They continued their journey and talked at length in Powell’s office before Smith said he was heading back to his hotel. But about 30 minutes later, he poked his head back in Powell’s office where the lights still were on.

“He said, ‘Hey, boy, I think I saved you some money on your electric bill today.’ ”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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