Once more into the end zone

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Greenwich High Sports Hall of Fame returns

It’s months away, but coach Pat Mediate is already excited about the second edition of Greenwich High School’s Sports Hall of Fame dinner.

“We’ve got some pretty good people coming in,” Mediate said.

Fifty years of Cardinals’ football coaches will be returning for the dinner, including Mike Ornato, who will be honored with an induction, as well as former Greenwich High and Cleveland Browns’ head coach Sam Rutigliano. Ornato will be introduced by one of his former players, who went on to achieve success as a football coach – New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who played for Ornato at Scotch Plains (N.J.) High School in the early 1960s. Coughlin will be the keynote speaker for the event.

“The impressions Mike Ornato made lasted a lifetime,” Mediate said. “Guys come back and say, ‘All the successes in my life are from lessons I learned from Mike Ornato.’”

Rutigliano, who coached the Cleveland Browns from 1978 through 1984, was also the head coach at Liberty University from 1989-99. Under Browns’ owner Art Modell, Rutigliano and the Browns began a program that helped players deal with drug and alcohol abuse issues, the first of its kind in the NFL.

Also being honored is Ken Bell, a Greenwich High and Boston College alumnus who appeared in 59 NFL regular season games with the Denver Broncos, primarily as a kick and punt return specialist. Bell was a junior running back at Boston College in 1984 when the Eagles, down 45-40 against the University of Miami, came back to win as quarterback Doug Flutie, flushed from the pocket by the Hurricanes’ pass rush, launched the ball deep down the field, where it was plucked by wide receiver Gerard Phelan for a 47-45 B.C. win – nationally televised, on Thanksgiving Day.

Ceci Hopp St. Geme, a 1981 alumna who took up running while at Greenwich High and parlayed it into distance running stardom at Stanford University, will also be honored. As a high school student, St. Geme won a state title in the 800 meters and was second in the mile in her first year as a track athlete. She later went on to win the 1980 national cross country title, and, as a freshman at Stanford, an NCAA championship in the 3000 meters. St. Geme, who now lives in California, continues to compete in masters-level events.

Former Green Bay Packer Tony DeLuca, who attended Greenwich High and Milford Academy before playing college football at Rhode Island, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously. A nose tackle, DeLuca was one of four Greenwich alums to play in the NFL. The aforementioned Bell, Steve Young, and current Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan are the others.

Young, an ESPN analyst who starred with the San Francisco 49ers; Sue Merz, a gold and silver-medal winning Olympic ice hockey player; and postwar New York Yankee John Bella were inducted into the Greenwich High Hall of Fame during the first ceremony, held Oct. 20, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich.The second event will be held in the same place at 6:30 p.m. on June 10.

For tickets or more information, call 203-625-8013, ext. 1 or visit ghshalloffame.com.

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