Friday, October 8, 2010

A Place Of Honor

Over the past week, some fans may have missed the Georgetown Athletics blog noting the induction of Al Blozis (C'42) into the New York Giants' new Ring of Honor at the second Meadowlands Stadium. Blozis was one of 30 former Giants saluted at halftime last week, but perhaps among the least remembered, having his #32 jersey number retired 65 years ago.

Every Georgetown fan, however, should know the Al Blozis story. A nationally prominent recruit who chose Georgetown over Notre Dame for its math and science programs, Blozis was a two-sport all American who was named as one of three men for United Press International's Athlete of the Year for 1941 (the other two were Ben Hogan and Joe Louis). Blozis' yearbook entry noted three years of track and three of football, but also notes his membership in the Philodemic Society, one of many pursuits in his young life that led Blozis to be called a scholar-athlete-hero.

Blozis death in the Vosges Mountains in January 1945 was a loss for the University and for the Giants. Blozis had earned All-Pro recognition in only his second year in the league, and returned to help the Giants secure the NFL championship in 1944 before shipping out to Europe. His height (6-6) and pro football celebrity status would otherwise made him eligible for a deferment stateside, but Blozis would hear none of it, and wanted to serve the country which his family had emigrated to a generation earlier from Lithuania.

But beyond a portrait in McDonough Gym or a trophy at the football and track banquets, it would be easy for students and fans to lose sight of Blozis or any of the greats that walked the Hilltop as football stars. Perhaps it's time to give it some more thought.

Of course, a list of the greats can be found at the Hall of Fame Room at the Leavey Center, one of the underrated gems on the campus. In 1994, a corner of the building was transformed into a place of honor for some 200 alumni so honored by the Athletic Hall of Fame awards, dating to 1953 and among the oldest such halls of fame at the college level in the nation. But along the fields, or what passes for them at GU, no such recognition exists.

This past weekend, Holy Cross took a step to honor the many great men who have worn the Purple and White over its storied foorball tradition. Six former players saw their names attached across the west side of Fitton Field, a list so exclusive that a seven time AFC All-Pro selection missed the cut. (That player, Jon Morris '64, played  high school football at Gonzaga in Washington but left for Worcester in an era where Georgetown did not field a varsity team.)

Fitton Field is eminently suitable to honor players from its past; Multi-Sport Field, less so. But the long and winding road of MSF funding should not dissuade Georgetown from honoring those that deserve it, and for the living, to honor them while it is appropriate to do so. Maybe it's as simple as replacing the weathered banners on the north and south side of the field with photos and names of Georgetown's gridiron giants. Maybe the banner across the north wall of the field could note the great teams of Georgetown, the undefeated 1938 and 1939 squads, two bowl appearances, or the school's National College Football Hall of Fame members. And for those All-Americans from major college to club, Division II, Division III, and Division I-AA, we should find a place to honor their contributions.

This weekend, without the fanfare of the New York Giants or even Holy Cross, Georgetown will welcome back many of the over 500 alumni who played in the 23 year tenure of Scott Glacken (1970-92). The youngest of the Glacken era men is now 36, the oldest 62. The release reads, in part, as follows: "This weekend is the Glacken Football Weekend on the Hilltop, as the Gridiron Club and Glacken era players will honor former coaches Harry Jenkins, Tom Folliard and Joe Cardaci, first on Friday night at the Hoyas Grill in the Leavey Center and then during a halftime ceremony during the Wagner game. Dave Goracy ('71) and the Gridiron Club will also host a pre-game tailgate beginning at 11 a.m. at the McDonough Esplanade."

Next year's recruiting class will be the Class of 2015, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the modern era of Georgetown Football in the autumn of 2014. (The schedule has not been announced, but here's hoping an Ivy is on the schedule, or at least Fordham, to celebrate it.) In the intervening years, it's incumbent upon Georgetown to find a means to remember these alumni at the home field, both those among us and those who have passed on, as builders of an important if sometimes forgotten football tradition.

A bust of Al Blozis now sits in Meadowlands Stadium, aside the greats of a proud football tradition with names like Lombardi and Landry, Gifford and Tittle, Simms and Taylor. If Georgetown can't afford a statue of the 6-6, 250 lb. scholar-athlete to stand in front of the unnamed field, he (and many others) deserve the recognition that comes with their achievements on and off the field.

Blozis' high school alma mater, Dickinson High School, closed recently, but for many years played its basketball games in the gymnasium which bore his name. A plaque in the old gym noted his achievements, and perhaps Georgetown would do well to locate the plaque and give it a new home:

BLOZIS, Alfred C. (The Human Howitzer)
Born: January 5, 1919, in Garfield, NJ
Died: January 31, 1945, near Colmar, France
Hgt: 6-6 Wgt: 250 College: Georgetown U. (1939-1941)
College Honors: Played in College All-Star Game - 1942
Nat. FB Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame (1986)
High School: Dickinson H.S., Jersey City, NJ
Draft Choice: 3rd round, New York Giants - 1942
Pro Career: 3 years: 1942-44 New York Giants
1943 All-NFL (1st) A.P., U.P., N.Y. News, PF Illus.
Misc. Notes: Outstanding college shotputter