Tag Archives: Staples football

Honoring Greg LaValla

Greg LaValla is a much-loved PAL football coach.

He’s also involved in a tough battle with cancer.

Some of his young players made a video to let him know how much he means to them, and how much they miss him on the field.

They’ll also honor him this Friday night (September 12). At halftime of Staples’ opening game of the 2014 football season, Greg will be added to the distinguished list of names on the Wreckers’ Wall of Fame.

His players will be there, wearing their game uniforms. They’ll sit together.

They’ll be tight and together. Just like all the other teams Greg has coached, so well and for so long.

Chris Coyne’s Concussions

Chris Coyne’s story is well known in Westport sports circles.

Chris Coyne

A star football player at Staples, his playing career ended as a Yale freshman during pre-season, when he suffered his 6th concussion. (Not all had occurred on the football field.)

Though at first this one seemed mild, Chris’ symptoms — severe memory lapses and an inability to concentrate — soon made him realize that the cumulative effects were dangerous.

Since then, Chris has spoken out strongly on the need for concussion awareness. His latest forum is the popular “Goodyblog” on Parents Magazine’s website.

The story is factual, and hard-hitting. But even more impressive is the link to a 5-minute video.

In it, Chris describes in compelling detail exactly what concussions have done to his life.

But he also talks about how much he loved football — and still does.

The game has taught him respect and responsibility, and given him a strong work ethic, he says.

He’s shown telling Westport PAL players the importance of recognizing — and reporting — concussions.

“I wish I knew then what I know now,” he tells Westport — and the world.

“If I did, I’d still be playing.”

(The Scholastic video was written by Staples grad Lauren Tarshis. And a tip to alert “06880” reader Pippa Bell Ader, the mother of a child with a severe concussion, for sending the Scholastic story along.)

Remembering Joe Murray

In 1967, Stamford Catholic was the Connecticut high school football power.  Winner of more than 30 straight games, averaging over 30 points every Saturday, they were the prohibitive favorites in the FCIAC championship contest.

No one gave Staples a chance.

Head coach Paul Lane may not even have believed the Wreckers could win.  But he prepared the team well — tactically, physically and mentally — and they were ready.

Joe Murray played a key role too.  A captain, linebacker and offensive guard, his intense spirit, positive attitude and great sense of humor helped convince his teammates they could pull off an upset for the ages.

They did.  On that memorable November day at Stamford’s Boyle Stadium, Staples won 8-0.

“He didn’t have a lot of size,” Lane recalls.  He was about 5-7, 160 pounds — small even for that era.

“But he was a great tackler, a real student of the game,” Lane says.  “He was a real leader.”

“He led by example,” former teammate Tommy Nistico — now the owner of the Red Barn restaurant — adds.  “A wonderful guy.”

“Joe was one tough kid!” marvels another ex-teammate, Nick Albertson — a longtime teacher and coach at Deerfield Academy.

Joe didn’t get a lot of glory.  But without him — and teammates Nistico, Albertson, Bobby Lynam, Buddy Lynch and Brad Steen — there would have been few Steve Booth and Dave Lindsay heroics that year.  Especially that day.

After college Joe moved south.  He became a very successful businessman — he was CEO of several small companies — and a loving father.

He called his former teammates regularly, to check up and make sure his guys were okay.  It’s what a good captain does — long after he stops playing.

He never spoke about any of his own health issues, like diabetes.  He preferred talking about his wife Jean, their children, and hunting and fishing.

Joe Murray died a few days ago in Columbia, South Carolina, from complications during gall bladder surgery.  His ashes will be commingled with those of his beloved dog Blue, and spread across the Gulf of Mexico.

His teammates already miss him dearly.  “He was a special person,” said longtime friend and former Wrecker Bobby Lynam.

“I know his passing has left a hole in your heart as it has in mine.  But as long as we remember him he lives on.”

Don’t worry.  No one can forget that special 1967 championship team — or its heart and soul, Joe Murray.

Calling All Football Fans

“o6880” reader — and Staples football fanatic — Steve Rubin sent this along:

If there is enough interest, the Gridiron Club can charter a bus for Saturday night’s state championship game against Cheshire in West Haven. The cost $15 per seat; it would leave Staples at 5 p.m., and return after the game. 

Interested?  E-mail Dan DeVito (DDevito@westportct.gov) as soon as possible with your name and contact information.

Go Wreckers!