Klecko gets to be an Eagles fan again
By: Terry Toohey, firstname.lastname@example.org
TINICUM - Rooting for the Eagles was not an option for Joe Klecko during his all-pro career with the New York Jets.
It was tough for the Chester native and St. James graduate to cheer for the Birds when his son, Dan, was winning Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.
Klecko, though, won't have that problem this year. Dan recently signed a free-agent contract with the Eagles which means Joe can be an unabashed Birds fan once again.
"Anywhere we go we're Dan Klecko fans," Joe Klecko said, "but it's going to be fun rooting for the Eagles because of all the ties we have to the area. Dan went to Temple, like I did. My family is from here. My wife's family is from here. Dan's wife's family is from the area. It's going to be fun."
Joe Klecko was having fun in Delaware County once again Sunday night. He was one of 16 people honored during the Delaware County Chapter, Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Ramada Inn.
It's safe to say that this class is one of the best in the 28-year history of the organization.
The class includes Wisconsin men's basketball coach and Chester grad William "Bo" Ryan; West Chester football coach and Archbishop Carroll product Bill Zwaan; former Chester basketball coach Fred Pickett Jr.; Chester native Joe "Chief" Iacono (baseball and basketball); Springfield assistant lacrosse coach Kathleen Geiger (field hockey and lacrosse); Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach and Chester grad Richard Curl; the late Sandy Nagle, a legendary girls coach at Darby-Colwyn and Penn Wood; bowler Leigh Allvord; the late Allison Cornog, who coached three sports at Haverford High School; sports historian Hal Wilson and sports journalists Harry Chaykun and Rich Westcott.
Three special awards were also handed out during the ceremony. Kennett Square native and University of Illinois athlete Amanda McGrory received the Eddie Coyle Award for physically challenged athletes.
McGrory lost the use of her legs from a viral infection when she was 5 years old, but has not let that stop her from becoming one of the top Para-athletes in the world. She's the top women's wheelchair marathoner in the world and won the wheelchair 800 meters at the 2006 Para-Olympics.
Kimberly Watson was the winner of the Special Olympics Award. She competes in swimming, volleyball, floor hockey and bowls in two leagues. She also plans to take up golf.
Penncrest's Karen Shump was the winner of the Charles J. Tomasco Scholar Athlete Award. Shump is a nine-time All-Delco selection, a four-time Daily Times Female Track Athlete of the Year and three-time Daily Times Female Athlete of the Year.
Pickett also received the Doug Connelly Memorial Award which is given to the person who has given his/her time or money to the development of youth through sports.
"This is an impressive class," said board member and Widener assistant football coach Mike Guille.
Klecko's career speaks for itself. He is the only player to earn All-Pro honors at three positions and is just one of three New York Jets to have his number retired. He lives in Colts Neck, N.J., where he represents people in the construction industry.
"I still love coming back to Delaware County," Klecko said. "This is my life. This is where it all started."
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Nagle was the girls coach at Darby-Colywn from 1962 until the school merged with Yeadon and Lansdowne-Aldan to form Penn Wood High School in 1982. She coached the three sports the school offered for girls, field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. She went on to coach the same sports at Penn Wood.
"Sandy was unbelievable," said former Darby-Colwyn boys basketball coach Ralph Naimoli, who accepted the honor for Nagle. "Her focus was family, teaching and coaching. She was a great coach in all three sports and a heck of an arts and crafts teacher."
Geiger, who went on to international fame after an All-American career at Temple, discovered just how good a coach Nagle was when the two coached together at Penn Wood.
"She knew how to motivate people," Geiger said. "I still use what I learned from her today. Times change, the athletes change and the sport changes, but you still have to be able to motivate your athletes and she was one of the best at doing that."
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Bill Zwaan grew up as the son of a coach, but did not think about coaching until his father, Bill, died while the younger Zwaan was a student at the University of Delaware.
"I remember all the people who came to his funeral to honor him and I was very moved by that," Zwaan said. "It was obvious that he had made an impact on so many people and that's when I decided that I was going to be a coach."
Zwaan's son, Bill, is continuing the family tradition. The former West Chester University quarterback is an assistant coach at Lycoming.
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It was only fitting that Pickett and Ryan go into the Hall of Fame together.
"Bo played in the first Chester High game I saw," Pickett said. "My father (Fred Sr.) took me to see them against Steel High (in the 1965 Eastern Final).
"It makes me feel kind of old," Ryan said.
Ryan has been a huge booster of his alma mater. When the team ordered rings to commemorate winning the 2008 PIAA Class AAAA title, Ryan made sure that Pickett's ring was made of gold.
"That's the spirit in Chester," Ryan said. "Once a Clipper, always a Clipper. I could not be at the team's banquet, but I knew that if we were going to get him a gift, I wanted to make sure it was something nice. I was just glad to help out."
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Iacono played baseball for the legendary Jess Brewster at Chester High School in the 1950s and still remembers the lessons Brewster taught him.
"He was the best coach I ever had," Iacono said. "He taught you everything from fundamentals to how to wear your uniform. He always told us to fold our legs at the knees so the umpire could see where your strike zone ends and begins."
What does he think about how today's baseball players where their uniforms with the pants legs tucked over the heels of their shoes?
"It looks like they're wearing pajamas," Iacono said.
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Hall of Fame inductions are nothing new for Allvord. He's a member of the Delaware County Athletes, the Delaware County Bowling and National Bowling Halls of Fame.
This ceremony, though, was special for the veteran of nearly 50 years of competition.
"It's the state Hall of Fame and that kind of hits home," Allvord said. "It means you're recognized with the best in the state."
Terry Toohey is the assistant sports editor of the Daily Times.