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Placer High alum attending his first Hillmen game in 71 years

Norman Ayres is the most interesting man in the world
By: Matthew Kimel / Journal sports editor
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Norman Ayres has lived a fruitful life. The 90-year-old Placer High School alumnus served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as an electricians mate in San Francisco, has hunted in numerous countries and become a master gardener. On Friday, he’s going to do something he hasn’t done in 71 years: attend a Hillmen football game. Ayres has been selected to be a special guest when Placer (6-0) hosts Bear River (6-0) in a Pioneer Valley League game and will be introduced to the crowd at halftime. “It’s quite an honor,” said Ayres, a 1940 quarterback for the Hillmen, who last saw his alma mater compete on the gridiron when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House. Though Ayres hasn’t seen Placer play in decades, he’s followed the team closely by reading this newspaper. “They’re pretty good this year,” he said. “… One of the better teams they’ve had. Especially that (Eddie) Vanderdoes.” Ayres prefers to watch games on television than in person but said he would “definitely” watch the Hillmen regularly if they were on TV. He’s noticed a lot of changes in the game of football since his playing days, and from his memories he doesn’t miss playing the game much. “When I was playing football we didn’t have masks,” Ayres said. “We had just a helmet and they were like a hard hat. You get hit in the mouth a few times and you lose interest real quick.” He feels the game has changed for the better. “The kids have more protection, better outfits, and they have new procedures and medical practices,” he said. “It’s quiet a different program.” Ayres has always had a passion for hunting. He killed his first deer when he was 12 and has hunted throughout the western United States, British Columbia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. He quit hunting in 2001. “Physically, it’s not worth it – beating yourself to death,” he said. In 2000, he killed a 2,200-pound bison in the Big Belt Mountains in Montana. Ayres was born in Auburn, and lived in a two-room cabin when he was a youth on Ayres Holmes Road, named after his grandparents. He currently resides in Christian Valley with his wife, Martha, where he grows more than 20 different vegetables throughout his backyard. He’s been a member of the Masonic order since 1947. He was honored by his recreational club for retired men by being named SIRS (Sons in Retirement) of the Month in September. Ayres is looking forward to Friday’s football game and will be rooting for the Hillmen. Would it be disappointing to see them lose since he hasn’t seen them play since 1941? “I’m sure it would be,” Ayres said. He isn’t sure what will be expected of him Friday night at LeFebvre Stadium, but he’s pretty sure he won’t be singing the national anthem. “I don’t think so,” Ayres said. “I’m not a song bird.” Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel for live updates from tonight's game. Or tune into KAHI 950 AM