WINTERSVILLE - August 26, 2017— Retired Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris smiled when the inevitable question was asked about the “Immaculate Reception” during the Monday night press conference prior to the 19th-annual Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Dinner at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.
“I give credit for that play to my Penn State University football Coach Joe Paterno. He was always yelling, ‘Harris, go to the ball.’ And when I saw that ball in the air, that’s what I did,” laughed Harris, who received the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.
“When someone asks me about that play I see a decade of great football and great teammates who accomplished so much as a team. We won four Super Bowls in six years. We were always in the thick of things and went to the playoffs every year. When I look at that catch and run, I remember that year was a very special year for us. If that year wasn’t so great, I don’t know how long people would remember that play,” continued Harris.
“Coach Paterno was a big influence in my life. I had never planned on going to college.
“My father had a career in the Army and my choice was to go into the Army. But then the football scholarships started coming in. None of us knew what to expect in life when we were in high school. None of us knows what the future will hold. So I want to do what I can to help someone else,” continued Harris.
Former college football coach Holtz said he tried to recruit Harris for Ohio State.
“I had just got the job with Ohio State in the middle of the recruiting season and it was hard to establish a rapport with the players and Franco ended up going to Penn State. While I was coaching at Ohio State I coached a fellow named Jack Tatum and I always told him to watch the player near the ball. Guess who was supposed to be covering Franco Harris when he made that amazing catch?” Holtz asked before he turned serious.
“I thought it was insane what the NCAA did to Penn State. I thought Joe Paterno was nothing but class,” stated Holtz.
The evening focused on honoring this year’s inductees into the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame and listening to Harris discuss “the many people who got me here today.
“I have a long list of people to thank for this honor. But I have the most respect and admiration for Lou Holtz. This dinner is about people who have given back to their community and set a great example for others to follow,” said Harris, who received the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Last night I was talking with my wife about this valley and how important it was to grow up here. It is great to grow up and come back to remember your roots and to help some of the good people take care of their roots,” said Holtz.
“We see the New Castle School of Trades offering classes for high school students to learn electrical work and welding. So many individuals and business are supporting our scholarship program. That is the wonderful thing about the Ohio Valley,” remarked Holtz.
The Class of 2017 inductees into the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame, include:
≤ New Manchester native Peggy Miller Bahnsen, who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years in the Army, served in the adjutant general’s corps and had the distinction of being the first woman to serve as a regimental tactical officer at West Point, placing her in command of one quarter of the corps of cadets during her military career.
≤ Frank Chan, who is a former high school teacher and basketball coach at East Liverpool and Beaver Falls, where he led his Tiger team to the state championship in 1970. His overall record with the Tigers was 367-115. He is a graduate of East Liverpool High School and Washington and Jefferson College.
≤ The late Carl “Pop” Werner, represented by his daughter, Carol Werner. Carl Werner is known as the man who built the East Liverpool YMCA into a dynamic organization for little or no pay. He is credited with creating a stamp collecting club as well as a coin club, along with the Hi-Y’s Bill Booth Award, which goes to a deserving ELHS senior football player. “Pop” also served as secretary of the original Community Fund and was a teacher of gymnastics and swimming at the “Y.”
≤ Paul Carapellotti, who is a graduate of Catholic Central High School and Furman University, where he was a member of the football team. He has been a longtime trustee at Franciscan University of Steubenville while serving as chairman of the Baron Athletic Council. He and his family have been involved in a variety of business enterprises in the Tri-State Area.
“I grew up in Steubenville and I had family who taught me what it meant to be a good person. Teachers, coaches and business people taught me so much about life and giving back and I was fortunate to return home to the Ohio Valley in 2001. I have always tried to have a sense of giving back to the community. I am honored tonight to be with this great group of people,” said Carapellotti.
“When Robin Webster (director of the Lou Holtz Hall of Fame in East Liverpool) called me I thought she was calling to ask me to be a sponsor. I was humbled to be included in this group of people,” Carapellotti said.
“I spent nine years coaching in East Liverpool and 51 years in Beaver Falls, Pa. But as my wife said, ‘once a Potter, always a Potter,” proclaimed Chan.
“I was very excited to learn my father was to be inducted into the Lou Holtz Hall of Fame. My father was very unusual. He was easy going, loved people, had a great smile and people loved him,” said Werner.
“I have something in common with Paul Carapellotti because I also returned home after 20 years in the military. And like Pop Werner, I always wanted to run a camp and finally had a chance to offer a camp in southern West Virginia. This is a great place to grow up,” concluded Bahnsen.
The second-annual MVP Award went to a charitable organization known as Dreaming of Three, founded by Jackie Harris of Hookstown.
“When I lost my dad and stepdad to cancer and a heart attack, I knew I had to do something to give back to the kids in need,” noted Harris, who is executive director of the organization.
Through a common passion for horses and rodeo, the group raises funds for the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, several animal rescues and disaster relief efforts.
Members take children fighting cancer, accompanied by their families, to rodeos via the Rodeo Kids Program.