Smith, Bowen enter Western Pa. Hall of Fame
George Smith has been so busy the past few months trying to get the McKeesport football program back to where he had it when he decided to leave a few years ago that he hasn't set much time aside for himself recently.
That's OK, because Saturday is going to be all about the veteran McKeesport football coach.
Smith will receive the 2013 Pennsylvania Achievement Award at the 33rd annual Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductions and Recognition Awards Ceremony at Heinz History Center in the morning, and along with former Serra and McKeesport coach Dick Bowen, will be inducted as part of the 51st class of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame during the evening.
“The whole thing is mind-boggling to me,” Smith said. “It is pretty humbling, too. I never expected anything like this for myself. I really didn't. I was sort of shocked.”
Smith, inducted into the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006, coached 28 years at McKeesport before resigning in 2009. He had a 197-107-5 record along with two WPIAL and PIAA titles. Smith was re-hired in January after a three-year layoff.
“I just want to thank everybody for making this happen,” Smith said. “A lot of my friends are going to be there, a lot of people who care.”
How Smith got nominated for the Hall of Fame was “interesting.”
It was a little more than a year ago that Robert “Tick” Cloherty approached Smith at a luncheon and asked if he would be willing to provide him with a list of football accomplishments.
Cloherty, the president of the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, wanted to nominate Smith for induction.
A month or so went by and Smith ran into Cloherty again at another luncheon and he asked for the list again.
“I didn't send it to him,” Smith said. “I then saw him again at another luncheon, and he was like, ‘You didn't send it in yet.' ”
With prodding from friend Pete Contakos, Smith finally got his list of accomplishments to Cloherty, and it didn't take long after that for Smith to be voted in.
Smith's résumé is quite full with accomplishments.
Smith, 63, was a two-year starter at McKeesport (1965-66) before going on to start three years at North Carolina State (1969-71) as a 5-foot-11, 210-pound nose tackle. Smith was name first-team All-ACC as a junior and started every game his senior year despite having knee surgery in the spring.
Smith went on to be a graduate assistant under Lou Holtz at N.C. State in 1972 before spending three years as the defensive line coach at Austin Peay (1973-75) while earning his master's degree in education.
After stints as an assistant at Logan High School in West Virginia and Oldham County High School in Kentucky, Smith returned to McKeesport in 1979 as an assistant.
Three years later, Smith became the head coach and went on to help 70 players get Division I scholarships. He sent 17 players to the Big 33, and three reached the NFL in his 28 years.
As for Bowen, he called the induction a surprise and an honor.
“Apparently, whoever votes on it thinks I should be in,” he said. “I am very excited and very humbled and just couldn't understand it all. Growing up, the only thing I ever knew about football was listening to the Army-Navy game on the radio.”
Bowen graduated from Duquesne in 1954 and went on to play four years as a running back at Pitt (1954-57). Bowen had a tryout with the CFL's Ottawa Roughriders in 1958 before getting into coaching.
“Pitt banged me up so much that I didn't even know if I wanted to play football or not,” he said. “I went up there in July and I had a rough time my senior year at Pitt with injuries. I was in no shape.”
Bowen went on to become an assistant coach at Connellsville (1959) and McKeesport (1960-69) before landing the head coaching job at Serra in 1970. After spending 1972 as an assistant at West Mifflin South, Bowen returned to McKeesport for a three-year stint as head coach where his teams went 8-21-1.
Bowen enjoyed his most success at Serra from 1977-87 when he directed the Eagles to a pair of undefeated seasons (1979, 1981), a WPIAL title (1981) and an overall 62-44-4 record with his son, Parade All-American Rich Bowen, at quarterback.
“That time up at Serra was great because we had a bunch of great kids,” Bowen said. “It is nice when you win and especially nice when you can win and have your son play for you.”
Also being inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Hall of Fame are Bill Priatko, who starred at Scott High School in Braddock and Pitt, along with Brian Baschnagel, Joe Boros, Kirk Bruce, Jarrett Durham, Ken Macha, John Wehner and Sonny Vaccaro.
Being honored at the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame are: Justin Kurpeikis, Kenny Lucas, Royce Mix, Randy Ribbeck, Ron Wabby, Tim Murphy, Dwayne Woodruff, Jay Circosta and Jim Render.