Laurel football legend Waller passes away at 85

Laurel High’s Ron Waller was the first downstate inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.

Countless Delaware high school football players have dreamed of making it to the NFL.

But Ron Waller was one of the first Delawareans to actually live that dream.

A star running back at Laurel High, Waller was a standout for the University of Maryland before lining up in the Los Angeles Rams’ backfield in the mid 1950s.

On Sunday, Waller passed away in Sussex County at the age of 85.

In 1977, Waller became the first downstater inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame. Along with playing in the NFL, he was the interim head coach of the San Diego Chargers for the last six games of the 1973 season before coaching the WFL’s Philadelphia Bell in 1974.

Waller later worked as an NFL scout.

“I saw Ron Waller play high school football in 1950 and I saw at lot of other outstanding backs over the next 50 years or so,” said former Seaford coach Ben Sirman. “There is no one who compares to him. I refer to him as the ‘incomparable Ron Waller.’ He was simply the best.”

According to ‘The Great Delaware Sports Book,’ “If Delaware ever had a mythical “Golden Boy” it was Ron Waller.”

Along with playing for the Rams from 1955-58, Waller married actress Marjorie Merriwether Post, who was also an heir to the Post Cereal fortune. The book describes their wedding as the “highlight of the social season” in Washington, D.C. in 1955.

It all started on the playing fields of Laurel, where Waller earned 12 varsity letters as a multi-sport athlete.

In football, Waller scored 464 points in just 22 career games for the Bulldogs. In 1950 alone, he tallied 213 points (30 TDS, 33 extra points) in only eight contests — which is still a state record for the most points in the fewest games.

He was twice named the state’s Athlete of the Year by the Wilmington Sportswriters Association.

“His trademark was blinding speed (he ran a 9.8 second 100), tremendous cut-back ability, and he was a master of the lost art of the stiff-arm,” said Sirman.

Waller was an all-ACC halfback at Maryland, averaging nine yards per carry and also making a name for himself as a punt returner. He was actually taken in the second round of the 1955 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins before being traded to the Rams.

In his rookie season, Waller was named to the Pro Bowl and UPI All-Pro team after finishing fourth in the league in rushing with 716 yards. He also averaged 27 yards on kickoff returns.

Injuries eventually took their toll on Waller before the Rams released him in 1958. He made a brief comeback with the Chargers in 1960.

For his pro career, Waller ran for 1,569 yards with eight touchdowns on 294 carries. He also caught 44 passes for 443 yards and another TD.

All told, Waller started 20 times in his 44-game pro career.

When he was done playing, Waller stayed in California, producing some TV shows and even acting with Marlon Brando and David Niven in the movie ‘Bedtime Story.’

Over the next few decades, Waller returned to Delaware for a while, played some minor-league football and eventually got into coaching in the 1970s.

In 1973, Waller took over the Chargers when head coach Harland Svare was fired with six games remaining. The Chargers won one game under Waller.

After working with the Kansas City Chiefs and then the USFL’s Chicago Blitz in the 1980s, Waller returned to Delaware.

Along with going into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame, Waller was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

Sirman said Waller was still dealing with the impact of his football injuries later in life.

He underwent three knee surgeries, with a replacement in 1992, two back operations and a shoulder surgery.

“Like many athletes,” Sirman would tell people, “he now pays the price for the glory he enjoyed.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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