“I am honored to be part of the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame. My accomplishments are all due to tremendous coaching and teammates I’ve had, and all the love the city of Sacramento has given me from the very beginning.” To be recognized is a true honor for me.”
High School: Rancho Cordova
College: American River, San Jose State
* NFL Career: 7 Years (Denver)
* 2 Time AFC Champion (1986, 1987)
* 2nd Team All-Pro (1986)
* 3455 yards Rushing and Receiving
Gerald Willhite is one of the most unique athletes to came from our area. Born in Sacramento, Gerald was raised by his mother after his father died when he was nine years old. His mother raised him and the family of six children. They moved to Rancho Cordova when Gerald was 10. He was a small child and liked to cook and play sports.
When Gerald entered Cordova High School, he was 5’2” and weighed 95 pounds. He was too small to play football so he concentrated on wrestling and track and field. In the winter he wrestled and was one of the best in the city. He went undefeated one season with a 24-0 record. He ran track in the spring and was one of the best sprinters and long jumpers in the state.
Gerald attended American River College. Tired of having to diet in high school to make weight for wrestling, he focused on track and field. In between his freshman and sophomore years, he grew seven inches and gained 90 pounds. He excelled on the track, running the 100 and 200 meters along with the long jump and triple jump. Now weighing 175 pounds, he decided to try football.
Gerald knew all about football but never had a love for it. His brother Kevin was one of the best ever at Cordova High and was the national player of the year. Gerald took to his new sport just like he did with the others. He was dominant as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his two seasons at American River while also catching at least 50 passes each year. He was named Sacramento Area Athlete of the Year two straight years.
He then took his talents to San Jose State where he played for two legendary coaches. Jack Elway was the Head Coach and Dennis Erickson was the Offensive Coordinator. Gerald put up incredible numbers for the Spartans, rushing for 1,200 yards with 500 yards receiving each season. He was the Pacific Coast Athletic Association Player of the Year both seasons. Gerald made such a name for himself he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
In 1982, Gerald was a first round draft pick, being selected 21st overall by the Denver Broncos. He played for the Broncos his entire career from 1982 to 1988 with Hall of Fame Quarterback, John Elway. The Broncos were one of the best teams in the NFL, winning the AFC West in three of those seasons.
He played a key role in one of the greatest games ever played. It was the 1986 AFC Championship game known as “The Drive”. Just before halftime, with Denver facing a crucial 4th and goal from the one yard line, Gerald scored a touchdown giving the Broncos their first lead of the game. Later on, in their final possession of regulation, Elway led the 15 play 98 yard drive to tie the game with Gerald being the main running back on the historic drive. The Broncos went on win 23-20 in overtime. At the time, it was first AFC Championship Game to go to overtime.
Gerald played on two AFC Championship teams and in Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXII. He was one of the best dual threats running backs as both a runner and receiver. He totaled over 3,400 yards in his career with 22 touchdowns averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He was a second-team All-Pro selection in the 1986 season.
He played in a brutal era of professional football and suffered numerous injuries during his career but always playing though the pain and never wanting to come off the field. Since retiring, he has been a successful business owner and has flourished in restaurant management and ownership for over 30 years. He also is a motivational speaker telling his unique story.
For someone who never played high school football, he was one of the best running backs to ever come from Sacramento. He is remembered as being one of the most athletic and talented athletes our area has ever seen. He is a proud Sacramento native who played with heart and did it quietly and with class.