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Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008:|The Chargers of 2008 get another chance to the chase the Super Bowl, thanks to the Buffalo Bills upsetting the Denver Broncos to set up a Denver-San Diego showdown for the AFC West title Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
But an Air Coryell Chargers player saddled with lugging around three decades of heartbreak from chasing Super Bowls doesn’t have to wait another day.
Ralph Perrretta’s Super Bowl moment — or at least the best substitute possible for a father — is tonight when No. 9-ranked Boise State plays No. 11 Texas Christian in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Ralph, a Chargers offensive lineman from 1975 to 1980, will be in the stands of the Mission Valley stadium to watch his son Vinny, a Boise State star senior wide receiver from La Costa Canyon High School.
“There’s some good karma for Vincent to play in a big game on the same field I played on,” Ralph said. “I had my day, but it’s hard to compare to the thrill of watching your son follow in your footsteps.”
In the 1979 season, the Chargers held the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs but were upset 17-14 in the first round by the Houston Oilers.
In the 1980 season’s AFC Championship game in San Diego, the Oakland Raiders upset the Chargers 34-27 with the help of a lucky tipped pass that bounced off the hands of one Raiders receiver to tight end Raymond Chester for a 65-yard touchdown.
That was Perretta’s final NFL season, although in the 1981 season’s AFC Championship game, the frigid elements of the “Ice Bowl” helped deny the Chargers again when they lost at the Cincinnati Bengals.
“After the tremendous regular seasons we had, we would lose in the playoffs,” Perretta said. “It’s something we never got to rectify as athletes, but you have to move on. I’m one of the luckier ones to have my son take up the game and have an affinity for it.
“The thing I’m most proud of is he plays the game with such passion, enthusiasm and respect for the game. It makes me proud; it really does. Yeah, it eases the anguish of never playing the Super Bowl after being that close.”
Vinny is Boise State’s do-it-all, 5-foot-10, 190-pound offensive weapon.
He’s third on the team in catches with 34 for 500 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. But he also plays as a running back/slot back role and has carried 17 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He’s even thrown a touchdown pass on an option play.
And he’s forever known in Bronco lore for taking a direct snap and throwing a touchdown pass that led to the game-winning two-point conversion when Boise State upset Oklahoma 43-42 two years ago in the Fiesta Bowl.
Vinny’s versatility even allows Ralph to daydream about how his old coach, offensive genius Don Coryell, would have viewed him.
“Coach Coryell loves his receivers and quarterbacks,” Perretta said. “The way he coached, I think he’d have an affinity for Vincent. I think he would lay awake at night dreaming about how we can out-fox the other guys and get this guy the ball.”
Vinny is on the bubble for the NFL draft, but he’s drawn enough interest from scouts that he likely will be in a training camp this summer as a free agent.
This will be Vinny’s first game at Qualcomm, but he’s the third Perretta to take field. Ralph’s older son, Nick, was a senior offensive lineman at Santa Fe Christian in 2001 when head coach Brian Sipe led the Eagles to the CIF San Diego Section Division IV title at Qualcomm.
Funny, but when Nick and Vinny were younger, Ralph’s concern was that his sons somehow got down on the field to experience a game day. When Ralph took part in Chargers Alumni Day introductions, he would skirt the rules by sneaking Nick and Vinny along with him on the field.
“They (security) would say I can’t do that,” Ralph said. “I said I was breaking these guys in. I wanted them to be on the field.”
Ironically, if Ralph and Vinny had had their way, Vinny would have long ago played at Qualcomm for San Diego State. But when then-head coach Tom Craft spurned a request to walk-on, although Vinny would have been reunited with quarterback Kevin O’Connell, a La Costa Canyon alum.
Vinny subsequently walked on and earned a scholarship at Boise State.
Ralph was watching Boise State on a Thursday night ESPN game, giving the Broncos added exposure, when he realized Boise State was a good fit for overachievers like Vinny. He contacted the Broncos, who were then coached by Dan Hawkins (now at Colorado) with current head coach Chris Petersen serving at the offensive coordinator.
The rest, as Vinny can tell you, is history.
Just about any kid experiences a time when he decides his dad doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but it must be a tough conclusion for Vinny to come to. How could he when his Dad planted him at a college program where coaches recognized his talent and allowed him to thrive?
“This is great opportunity to come home and play in the stadium I grew up watching games,” Vinny said. “It’s going to be fun to go out there and give it my all.”
And in return, Vinny is providing and an old Air Coryell offensive lineman with a long-lost Super Bowl moment.
Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org‘s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions and an occasional writer for Chargers.com. You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Or send a letter to the editor.