Jerry ''Beaver'' Mathers was thrown around by an Oakland Raider

Super Bowl winner John Vella barrelled over the Beav.

Sheesh, and you thought Eddie Haskell was a bully... That guy's got nothing over the brawling brutes that make the gridiron their home. We'd throw a flag on the field if we saw the beating the Beav took from this future NFL offensive lineman. 

When Leave It to Beaver wrapped up its six-season run in 1963, its star, Jerry Mathers, was 14. So, with much more time on his hands than he was used to, Mathers did what most kids his age do.

"I went to high school then," Mathers told the Arizona Daily Sun in 1982, "and I had a very happy and very normal adolescence."

This, of course, will come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the biographical details of many child stars. Many in Mathers' position have failed to transition from kid actors to well-adjusted young adults. There are tons of child stars who do not have a happy, normal adolescence. Acting on TV or in the movies as a kid is something that ruins lives. Mathers, however, is an exception to the rule.

Even though all the other kids knew who he was, Mathers maintained that he was never bullied for being the Beaver. In his estimation, Mathers was never teased because when he got to high school, he immediately tried out for, and was accepted on, the school's football team. It seems that even TV stars are susceptible to the archetypical high school hierarchy. Football, and the people who play it, have been at the top of the pyramid for a long time. Mathers played linebacker and center, even though he wasn't very big. His position on the field gave him an in with the football crowd and raised his social standing on campus.

"I thought about trying to keep up with football," Mathers recalled, "until my senior year when a big freshman really knocked me around on the practice field, so I realized I'd better find something else."

It might have eased Mathers' bruised ego to learn that this big freshman, John Vella, went on to have a big career in football. Vella played tackle at the University of Southern California and was part of the school's baseball team when it won the 1970 College World Series.

After college, Vella was a second-round draft pick for the Oakland Raiders. He began his professional career on an offensive line that included four future NFL Hall of Famers, including Bob Brown and Art Shell. Together, the team would dominate the '76 Minnesota Vikings at Super Bowl XI. Vella would join the Vikings for the final year of his football career in 1980.

While Beaver's football aspirations may have been mowed into the dirt, he was still grateful to have grown up with a normal high school experience.

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20 Comments

Suzies1952 7 months ago
I still watch beaver sometimes when the news gets too disturbing!, it was a wholesome family show, wish I would of had a mother like beaver had!, my childhood was a terror, yes I would like to know more about beaver when he was in high school by the people that were in school with him let’s hear some stuff 😁
ficksit 9 months ago
The high school was Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks, California.
I went there too and had a class with Jerry Mathers.I remember John Vella, he looked about 30
in his junior year.Tim Foli went there too and was the 1st guy picked on the 1968 baseball draft ( mets).
WGH ficksit 8 months ago
I'm a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan and remember Tim Foli fondly. Great shortstop!

Tell us more about what kind of student Jerry was, etc. Not asking for embarrassing things or personal details, just curious
boreso 9 months ago
I'm a year younger than Jerry Mathers and I grew up watching "Leave It To Beaver". It was great to see the interview and the things he had to say.
CoreyC 9 months ago
Unlike Jay North Jerry Mathers' had supportive parents who allowed him to retire from LITB to have a normal high school experience.
Runeshaper 9 months ago
I'm glad that the Beav had a normal high school experience. The knock around by Vella only adds to that!
Rick 9 months ago
Cool story. I've recently decided to become a "Leave it to Beaver" completist. Although it's regarded as very lightweight and almost vapid, I think the writing on it is extremely intelligent.
cperrynaples 9 months ago
Ironically, if Vella had stayed with the Raiders in his final season he would have gotten a second Super Bowl ring! In SB XV they beat the Eagles!
LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Interesting story. Wonder if Jerry Mathers is aware of John Vella's career after their High School Days?

Jerry Mathers did an interview a few months ago. Although a lot of the information has been mentioned in other interviews over the years, it's good to see he is doing well.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Yep, with Tony Dow's death, he is the last surviving Cleaver!
tootsieg LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Thanks for posting the video. I enjoyed the interviewer’s questions and the pace of the interview. Very nice.
harlow1313 9 months ago
Way Off Topic: Maybe I need to stop watching Metv. The commercials upset me. Thanks to the latest bombardment, I now fear I've got the Neuropathy!

Sigh...
harlow1313 harlow1313 9 months ago
Addendum: But I will say this. I dearly love that surreal and rhythmic "Bonanza" commercial. You know the one, it has the repeating backslap, Ben laughing, and Wayne Newton crooning in the background.

I think it is art.
McGillahooala harlow1313 9 months ago
I love that commercial. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but I laugh every time I see it.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 9 months ago
It's a good commercial on the whole. More a fan of Wayne Newton's later crooning like when he crooned to Beverly D'Angelo. She had quite the vocal range as well.
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Beverly D'angelo had a featured role in the film version of "Hair." I own and love this movie. When I watch it, I feel a little better.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 9 months ago
If you want to see a surreal Newton performance watch The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane with Andrew Dice Clay! Believe it or not, Dice is the hero and Wayne is the villian! I should also point out that the male lead in Hair was Treat Williams who died last month!
tootsieg harlow1313 9 months ago
I just saw that commercial and it is different. I said to myself “Is that Wayne Newton singing?” Ben laughing?? Wayne singing?? Very surreal.
WGH cperrynaples 8 months ago
The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is not for everyone. It's filled with sexist and homophobic type jokes. Lot of F words too! I'm no prude and I enjoyed watching it. Found it very funny. But some May not.
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