"He also was very demanding. Our practices were brutal but whatever we did offensively and defensively we executed very well. At Navy (where Szabo also played on three consecutive national championship lacrosse teams) they were a piece of cake."
That being said, high school football in that era was a reflection of the times. There were fewer distractions. A school's activities calendar frequently evolved around football. And as Szabo alluded to, "toughness was at a premium."
"Our team was very tough, physically," he said. "Back then football was a tough person's game. It was all about hit and be hit. The track guys who didn't like contact didn't play, and normally speaking the tougher teams would win in the end.
"When you go through that as a high school kid it helps develop mental toughness which you need later on."
Szabo developed something at Navy that helped him during a coaching odysseywhere he's worked at colleges like Iowa, Syracuse, Ohio State and Boston College before moving to the NFL with Jacksonville in 1992: discipline.
"You develop tremendous organizational skills and find out that you're capable of doing a lot more than you think," he said. "The assignments you would have a double over load 25 hours (of classes) and playing football. You learn never to sell yourself short."
Throughout his career Szabo has sold the team concept, which is often omitted from playbooks regardless of the level of competition.
Tom's right. I and a few of my freshman classmates snuck into the stadium by climbing around a wrought-iron fence on the east side. We huddled under blankets and there were a lot of empty seats. I lived in Calumet H.S.'s district and all my friends were needling me about how Calumet would trounce Mendel. Luckily, we pulled it out with a desperation pass with 2 sec. left. We had a lot of free Mondays that year due to winning big games including St. George by blocking punts, the last one by tackle Mike Wolfe.
I was at that championship game in '57. It was a frigid day, and Mendel won on a hail mary pass to Gallagher on the last play of the game. But there was no where near 100,000 people there that day. The truth is probably close to 25000. Soldier Field then at capacity could hold a 100.000 with seats placed on the field. The old field had a good bit of seats that extended behind the end of the football field at one end. No one sat in those seat for football games.
Send your comment
If you were logged you could send a comment. If don't have a login, why don't you register? It's free!