Sweetwater loses a football legend in Ringo Leomiti

Sweetwater High School lost a football legend when 1983 San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year Ringo Leomiti succumbed to COVID-19 (coronavirus) on April 14.

Leomiti, 53, leaves a legacy at the National City school.

Current Sweetwater boys basketball coach Jesse Aguirre knew Leomiti well as a student-athlete.

“Ringo was a year ahead of me,” Aguirre said. “He was a leader on campus and everyone looked up to him. The virus hit home when it took Ringo’s life. It just broke everyone’s heart that day.

“He was an amazing person. He always had a smile on his face. He was one of those guys who treated you like family for life. His ex-teammates all posted on Facebook and all had great stories of Ringo. SuHi lost a legend that day. It’s just sad.”

Leomiti played football for the Red Devils during their glory years in the 1980s. He played varsity from 1982-84 and was a member of Sweetwater’s illustrious 1983 and 1984 San Diego Section Class 3A championship teams.

The Red Devils set a CIF record with a 36-game winning streak from 1983-85. Leomiti was a key part of that history-making streak.

“Ringo played middle linebacker next to Ronnie Cortell and, in my opinion, they were the best combo in history as Ronnie was the CIF Player of the Year the next year,” former Sweetwater head coach Gene Alim said.

“Ringo was definitely a team leader on the field but a quiet leader. He led by example. He was also very generous. He was always trying to help his teammates. He took a lot of pride in the team. It was his defense.

“He was on our first team that went 13-0. He was a big part of that. He was a very intelligent player. He excelled on the field with his mental skills.

“He took on as many responsibilities as he could. He made tackles; he ran down running backs.”

Sweetwater defeated Mira Mesa, 21-13, to win the 1983 title and topped Vista, 28-13, to win the 1984 championship.

“Ringo was a legend in the early 80s, often a man among boys and helped lay the foundation for some dominant Sweetwater football teams,” San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp said. “He also was a good man and will be missed by many.”

The entire Red Devil family is mourning Leomiti’s loss.

“The Sweetwater community is very sorry to hear about the passing of our alumnus, Ringo Leomiti,” said current Sweetwater High School principal Maribel Gavin, a 1991 Red Devil alumna. “SuHi alumni are part of one big family and it’s never easy to know we have lost a family member. Our deepest condolences go to Ringo’s family.”

“Ringo embodied what it meant to be a Sweetwater Red Devil football player,” SuHi football coach Ervin Hernandez underscored. “He was one of the best linebackers in San Diego County, and our prayers go to his family and friends during this challenging season. He left a strong legacy for the next generation and we hope we can continue to carry the tradition of what it means to be a Sweetwater Red Devil football player.”

Leomiti went on to play football at Southwestern College.