Saturday, August 7, 2010

28 legends get a (football) Hall pass

Dom Denio (right) and George 'Butch' Byrd (second from right) celebrate with family members upon their induction into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame Saturday evening at the Colonie Elks Lodge in Latham. (Photo by J.S. Carras - The Record).

LATHAM -- Put 28 of the greatest players, coaches and officials in Capital Region football history in the same room and what will they do?

Kick back and watch television, of course.

Joe Grasso dug through his collection of video tapes and found the Holy Grail: a recording of the 1978 Section II Class A Super Bowl between Bishop Maginn and Bethlehem, something he was proud to show off at the first annual Capital Region Football Hall of Fame induction banquet at the Colonie Elks Lodge.

Grasso coached the Golden Griffins in that game and his star players were Tim Linehan and Joe Burke. The officials for the game were Dom Denio and Willard Doran. In the WNYT announcer’s booth was a young Brent Steuerwald, doing the color commentary. And who handed Grasso the championship trophy after Bishop Maginn won, 28-0? None other than longtime Saratoga Springs head coach Blase Iuliano.

All of those individuals and 21 more were inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday evening. Video clips from that game seemed like a perfect backdrop to the night’s proceedings. 

"I knew I had the tape somewhere and Nick (Fitzgerald, a member of the Section II football committee) was looking for pictures and I started to play it," said Grasso. "I’m going, ‘wow, I forgot Brent did this.’ I remembered that Brent and Blaise were involved somehow, but I certainly didn’t remember that Denio and Doran were involved. On the voiceover, on the penalty calls, you can hear Dom over the loudspeaker."

Those inductees mingled with former coaches and teammates prior to the official ceremonies. Each was invited to give remarks to the crowd and received a plaque noting their accomplishments.

A permanent display will soon be installed on the concourse of the Times Union Center in Albany. The Capital Region Basketball Hall of Fame, which welcomed its first class last summer, also has a display there.
Fitzgerald also mentioned that local football fans should exercise patience as the football hall expands its ranks. With over 90 years of history in the area, it will take some time for all of the local legends to be recognized.

Tim Sherwin, a Watervliet native who went on to star at Boston College and with the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants in the National Football League, gave credit to one of those who will certainly be a member of a future induction class, current Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute head coach Joe King.

"I owe my whole career to coach King," said Sherwin. "Coach King came into Watervliet and built the program. He has such a great program at RPI.

"But we have a great legacy of coaches at Watervliet," Sherwin continued. "I really have given a lot of the success that Watervliet has had to coach King coming into Watervliet and starting the program."

Sherwin, who still lives locally, has been married to his high school sweet¬heart for over 29 years. He has worked in mortgage banking for two decades and has also served as the NFL’s Upstate New York alumni chapter for the past 17 years.

As a youth, Sherwin became friendly with another Watervliet native, George ‘Butch’ Byrd, who played at La Salle Institute in the late 1950s before moving on to Boston University and the Buffalo Bills. Byrd has often appeared in local celebrity golf outings that Sherwin has helped organize.

All living members of the first induction class were on hand Saturday except for Glens Falls native Jim Duggan, who had a previous commitment. ‘Hacksaw’ had already scheduled an appearance at a professional wrestling event.

"I never knew Hacksaw Duggan was in the area, so that was kind of cool," Sherwin laughed. "I was looking forward to him showing up with a 2x4, but I guess we’ll get a little video clip of him tonight."


Members of the inaugural Capital Region Football Hall of Fame class

Players
Joe Burke
Butch Byrd
Dick Cassiano
Tom Ciaccio
Joe Cocozzo
Leroy Collins
Dave DeCamilla
Jim Duggan
Chuck Dukes
John Dunn
Charlie Leigh
Tim Linehan
Rich Romer
Tim Sherwin
Justice Smith
Ernie Stautner
Eric Torkelson
Paul Vellano

Coaches
Ken Baker
Joe Grasso
Blase Iuliano
Bud Kenyon
Brent Steuerwald

Officials
Bernie Cronin
Dom Denio
Willard Doran
Paul Shaver

Service to Football
Bob Ford

Of course, you can also check out our special section, which was published in Friday's newspaper, by clicking on the box below.

Football Hall of Fame  

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