Byron Strickland (Roosevelt, 1963) remembers life during his Roosevelt High days as low-tech but high-fun. Technology in the early 1960s couldn’t rival what kids today are blessed to own or operate. Things to do weren’t lacking, however, as Strickland became a football and basketball star for the Roughriders before graduating in 1963.
A 2008 PIL Hall of Fame inductee, Strickland went on to play football at the University of Idaho, spent one year of pro ball in the Continental Football League and then launched a lengthy and successful business career.
He retired in 2004, then spent three years in culinary school and now has a family organic microgreens business in Southern California, where he lives on a 20-acre ranch outside Los Angeles with wife Mina.
“I love it here,” he says from the digs in Lake Hughes, Calif., which is near Palmdale in northern L.A. County.
Strickland spent most of his work career in California, either in the Bay Area or L.A.
He makes it back to Portland on occasion and has closely followed the exploits in particular of nephew Pat Strickland, a PIL Hall of Famer who was the highly successful boys basketball coach at Jefferson High before recently stepping down.
Byron’s younger brother Dwain also is in the PIL Hall of Fame.
Pat Strickland graduated from Wilson (now Wells) High in 1989, also having played football and basketball. Dwain competed in football, basketball and track and field for Roosevelt, and graduated in 1968.
All three Stricklands were quarterbacks.
Byron also played defensive back, was an all-PIL guard in basketball and earned three varsity letters in track and field.
Byron received all-PIL honors on offense and was more of a passer than runner.
“I got teased about not being that fast,” he said. “But we did have a good running game.”
He remembers Roosevelt in those days as “a pretty mixed bag,” culturally, with “a lot of diversity.”
Not as much of it as today, though, as “most of the guys I played with were white.” But that ultimately “made it pretty easy for me to fit in later at Idaho, where we had nine or 10 African-Americans on the football team.”
Growing up, Strickland admired other area high school stars such as Mel Renfro and Terry Baker, who went from glory years at Jefferson to great things at Oregon and Oregon State, respectively.
And Richard Sue, who became a standout professional boxer, was one of Strickland’s best friends growing up and at Roosevelt.
Strickland had five brothers and one sister. They grew up in North Portland and could walk to Roosevelt. Byron played football for coach Gene DeSylvia.
“I’m still in touch with a lot of guys I played with,” he says. “It’s funny, the bond you build.”
Weekends were fun because Strickland and friends would go all over Portland to play pickup games in different gyms. “They stayed open till 9 p.m.,” he recalls.
Strickland got a basketball scholarship to Idaho, but “football was my passion,” and he wound up playing four years on the gridiron for the Vandals.
The roly-poly but very tough Dee Andros was his first coach there, before Andros moved on to several big years and a long stint as “The Great Pumpkin” and head football coach at Oregon State.
“Dee was in the mold of the SEC coaches. He came from the Bear Bryant stable (at Texas Tech in the 1950s),” Strickland said.
Idaho was NCAA Division I and had a formidable schedule. The Vandals played Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, Missouri, Iowa and others.
Strickland was an all-Big Sky Conference safety, and he had nine teammates drafted into the NFL.
Home games in Moscow, Idaho were outdoors – and could be cold – in those days before the university built its Kibbie Dome.
Strickland earned a degree in business administration, which he put to good use after his one season with the CFL Spokane Shockers, who had Kenny Stabler at quarterback.
“I was one of the first African-Americans hired by IBM in the western region,” he says.
Strickland worked for IMB and Xerox.
The family’s organic microgreens business today is tended to primarily by the children – he and Mina each have four.
The couple went to the renowned Le Cordon Bleu culinary school together, too. Both received degrees from there in culinary and baking, each 18-month programs. He was the oldest student.
“I always liked cooking,” he says.
Mina is “a great chef,” and he specializes in proteins.
Come to their ranch and he’ll whip you up one of his favorites.
“We’ll have a big pot of baked beans and Texas-style barbecue,”