TASTY TIDBITSHeisman winner George pays visit to Union City HS

Character No. 16 calls to say he’s not dead; comments about last week’s SPU column

Eddie George remembers the day that he first met a National Football League player.

“I grew up in Philly, so I had the chance to meet [All-Pro wide receiver] Harold Carmichael and got his autograph,” said the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State and former NFL great running back with the Tennessee Titans. “I’ve always been a big football fan, so it meant the world to me to meet him.”

Union City High School head football coach Wilber Valdez got the chance to meet one of his idols Derrick Brooks when Brooks played for Florida State and was playing in the Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands. Brooks went on to have a stellar career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I just remember him being so humble,” Valdez said of that 1993 encounter, when Valdez was a standout player at Hoboken. “It was amazing.”

So when George paid a visit last week, courtesy of Russell Athletic, to Union City, it was a thrill for the current members of the Union City football squad.

“I got the chance to step onto the same field with a guy who won the Heisman,” said Jacob Gonzalez. “He explained a lot of different things, including life lessons.”

“He was a really good guy,” Harrison Fernandez said. “I appreciated it a lot. He overcame the odds. If he can do it, then so can we.”

George talked to the team after they went through a light workout with Russell Athletic personnel initiating the “Team On” program.

Instead of honoring champions, Russell has decided to honor teams that lost the state championship by a touchdown or less. Exactly 101 teams had that distinction and the Soaring Eagles were one of the six teams that Russell decided to partner with.

George made his appearance as part of that “Team On” program.

“It’s on you,” George told the team. “It’s in your blood. That loss is something that sticks with you forever. It lasts your entire life. Championships are won right here, right now, with hard work and dedication. You have to make the most of every single day.”

The message certainly hit home with lineman Elyezer Oliviery, who a week later was giving a verbal commitment on a scholarship to Delaware State.

“Speaking to a Heisman Trophy winner is an amazing experience for me,” Oliviery said. “He gave an inspiring speech. Together, we’ll go on this season and realize that the process is the most important thing. It helps you in football, but also in life. Quitting is a bad habit. We can’t quit in anything. We have to push through.”

Fernando Breton thought it was cool to meet George for a totally different reason.

“He’s one of the players I use in [popular video game] NCAA ’12,” Breton said. “He was pretty good, very fast and strong. I was very excited to meet him.”

George said that he speaks to about 10 teams per year. It’s hard to do more once the season begins, as George is a college football analyst for Fox Sports.

“It’s an opportunity for me to share my story and share my experiences,” George said. “Anything is possible. It’s all possible if you build a platform to get to another level. It’s not about having a Plan A or a Plan B. You just have to know where you’re heading.”

George is also a professor at his alma mater, teaching the basics of professional sports management.

“Don’t let anyone tell you differently,” George said. “Keep dreaming the dream. That’s basically the message I had for them.”

Valdez couldn’t put a price tag on George’s appearance and messages.

“All the things he has accomplished and the message he delivered to the kids hit home,” Valdez said of the four-time All-Pro running back. “He talked about getting one inch away from winning the Super Bowl [XXXIV, a 23-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams in 2000] and although it was a loss, there was a life lesson to be had. It was an awesome day for our kids. It’s certainly a big deal to have someone of his caliber coming to talk to our kids.”…

In the EXTRA INNINGS article last week about the Hoboken 9-year-old All-Stars, one player was overlooked. “Dylan Jensen is an all-around player who played the infield and outfield,” said Hoboken head coach Ben Rotondi. “He could also pitch if needed. He has a good bat and got some key hits for us.” We apologize for leaving Dylan out of the article…

We also got a ton of calls and e-mails (and comments on hudsonreporter.com) about the St. Peter’s University situation involving new athletic director Belinda “Boe” Pearman.

Many of the calls, e-mails were supportive of the column, but from people who did not want to speak on the record. I received calls from former athletic administrators and coaches at SPU who reiterated what was written. One, however, pointed out an error.

That e-mail came from former Maryland women’s basketball coach Chris Weller, who was the coach at Maryland from 1975 through 2002 and coached Pearman when she was a player. The e-mail read:

“Boe was a student athlete and an assistant coach at Maryland for many years. She spearheaded the nomination process that ultimately resulted in me being inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She never attempted to get me fired. She left Maryland to be part of the formation of the first professional women’s basketball league serving as the Associate Head Coach to the Boston Celtics legendary coach, K. C. Jones.

Actually many of her colleagues recommended that she not take the St. Peter’s job. I was one that encouraged her to take the job because she is an exceptionally strong and dedicated professional who would make a significant contribution to a struggling program. That is exactly what she is trying to do. Boe cares about the values of athletics and is dedicated to providing a beneficial and positive environment to all student athletes. She believes in the importance of athletics being connected to the goals and values of the entire college experience.

I am confident that in a few years, the St. Peter’s athletic program will experience great growth and the student athletes past and present will be proud to be a Peacock.”

So apparently, the information I had about Pearman asking to have an investigation into Weller was not true. We apologize for the error…

The apologies continue. Last week, we introduced Charlie Brema as the No. 16 character in the Top 25 Sports Characters over the last 25 years and we called him “the late Charlie Brema.”

Last Saturday afternoon, the phone rang, and who was on the other end? Charlie Brema. He wasn’t calling long distance. He was in Seaside Park, N.J. He retired a few years ago and moved down the shore. Brema said that he received a few phone calls from readers who were worried that he might have passed on without them knowing. Brema said that he was flattered to be included in the list, but he is definitely not dead. We apologize to Charlie and his family for the insane mistake….

Now, here’s No. 15, and it’s the late Charlie Straub of Jersey City. And we can attest to the fact that unfortunately, Charlie has indeed passed away, because I attended the wake last summer.

But Charlie was indeed a character, including during his days as an unofficial assistant coach/scorekeeper at Dickinson, but more importantly, as a dedicated volunteer coach in the Pershing Field Little League and Babe Ruth.

Anyone who knew Charlie knew he was a character, but he was a kindhearted soul who loved the kids of the Jersey City Heights and they loved him. He’s sorely missed. – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com

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