Glory Days, Part I

Glory Days - Part I
Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen sang about them – We all experienced them, and I have lived some of them too. Each one of us has something in our past that makes us feel special and good about ourselves - whether it’s from a good report card, a spelling bee championship, or an athletic endeavor. Allow me to explain my brief, but not forgotten (in my mind) claims to fame.

I waited very patiently for my senior year of high school to arrive. I’d finally get my chance to be the starting quarterback. A bout with mononucleosis and older, better athletes prevented me from all but spotty defensive appearances while an under classman. However, that was about to change (or so I thought) - until I got the word in homeroom about a transfer student enrolling in our school district.

Wouldn’t you know it? A quarterback to boot – and a very good one at that. His name was Jude Basile and he was schooled in throwing a football like no one I had ever seen before. He had gone to numerous summer football camps, and the coaches there gave him an edge that terrified me. I remember that spring day when I first saw him throw. I felt totally demoralized. He was awesome. Jude had transferred from Bishop Carroll High School in Ebensburg, close to the end of his sophomore year. The fact that he was only going to be a junior in the fall made me feel worse. How could I compete with a guy who would be back again the following year? Most coaches will play the younger prospect and have him back again, I concluded.

Dad was no help either. When I told him of Jude and the throwing camps he attended, my dad had this to say. “Well, just watch HIM and try to do the same things that he was taught to do.” That was the first and last time that the subject of summer camps that charged a fee was brought up in our house. In retrospect, I think that my dad was probably right. But I still didn’t want to lose a chance at playing quarterback during my senior year. So, I watched Jude and worked hard. What else could I do?

After throwing, lifting, cutting the grass with leg weights, and running all summer, the start of football camp came quickly. I also paid close attention to the throwing mechanics used by Jude. My hard work and preparation paid off…. I did indeed win the starting position that fall. My dad, in his own psychological way, had taught me another valuable lesson – work and determination will get you what you want and where you want to be. Like most of life’s meaningful lessons, this one stuck with me to this day.

Jude faired well too. In fact, we became good friends when we shared a summer job later on. He not only played his senior year, he was good enough to catch the eyes of some college coaches. After graduation, he went on to the University of Notre Dame, playing for Ara Parseghian. Transferring to Edinboro University the following year, he set numerous passing records there. Today he is a very successful lawyer, residing in the San Francisco area. His brother Brian still lives locally (Johnstown, PA) and is a business owner and football coach/scout for various semi-pro teams.

Now, how many people do you know, who can say they beat out another athlete who later played at Notre Dame? That is MY claim to fame (GLORY DAYS, part I).You see, before I gave up on a position and role that I had dreamed of, I decided to give it my best shot. And long before I knew the value of hard work, my dad instilled in me the fact that preparation and perseverance are sure to get you ahead. What amazes me to this day is that Dad did this without a formal education himself. He too learned that hard work will never hurt anyone, and he passed on that lesson to me. His philosophy was not only a great tutorial in my learning experiences it also allowed me to possess a tiny bit of personal fame.

Enjoy some Glory Days

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA