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The SportsTalk Shop: Joe’s Take — Greatest LV Football Players

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First of all, a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day holiday to all of our faithful “SportsTalk” viewers and blog readers.  We’ve gotten some wonderful feedback about the show and our blog the last few months and appreciate all the positive responses. We hope to continue earning your interest and attention as we transition to the winter sports season very soon.  Chris Michael is taking a few days off for the holiday this week and in his place is “RCN SportsTalk” co-host Joe Craig manning the “SportsTalk Shop.”  Joe gives his commentary on a variety of sports issues for each edition of the “RCN SportsTalk” show on (what is suppose to be a short) segment, entitled, “Joe’s Take,” which you can see every Thursday at 6pm on RCN-TV.  Here, Joe gives his opinions on who he thinks are the top ten football players—EVER—in the Lehigh Valley area.

Picking the top 10 football players to ever play in the Lehigh Valley is absolutely the toughest assignment I could have undertaken.  There’s no way anyone is going to agree with me because there have been so many worthy choices.  Now, before you jump all over me, remember that I’m not very bright.  But I will put up these 10 guys against anyone’s list.

Here goes!  The list is not in any particular order but I do believe the very best player ever is Chuck Bednarik of Bethlehem Liberty.  How can anyone argue with this choice?  Following Chuck is Jim Ringo of Phillipsburg.  Both of these men played in the Lehigh Valley, went on to play professional football, and are members of the Hall of Fame.

So far, I have listed two great linemen.  Now for two great backs.  How about Bobby Pilz of Easton, 1968.  Pound for pound he may be the best ever.  In three years at Easton, they went 28-1-1 and that 1968 team is considered by many to be the best team ever to play in the Lehigh Valley.  Pilz had a stellar career at N.C. State under Lou Holtz.  Another back has to be the great Artie Owens of Stroudsburg.  He played in the early 1970’s and went on to become an All-American at West Virginia under Bobby Bowden.

No list of linemen would be complete without the next two greats:  Mike Hartenstine of Bethlehem Liberty and Matt Millen of Whitehall.  Hartenstine was All-State and an All-American in high school who went on to play at Penn State under Joe Paterno.  He went to the pros and had a great career with the Chicago Bears.  Neshaminy All-Stater Bruce Traney called Mike “the scariest player I ever faced.”  Now, Matt Milen was also Mr. Everything at Whitehall and became an All-American at Penn State again under Joe Paterno.  Matt went on to become an all-pro linebacker at Oakland and finished his career with the Washington Redskins.  He was a five-time Super Bowl champion.

Two more backs:  actually Andre Reed of Dieruff became a Hall of Famer in the pro ranks as a wide receiver with the then-great Buffalo Bills.  He played in four Super Bowls.  A Kutztown graduate, Andre excelled at receiver and quarterback at Dieruff.  That brings us to James Mungro of East Stroudsburg.  James held the state record for rushing yards for many years.  He went on to play at Syracuse and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts where he had a fine career.

The last two members of my top 10 are both from across the Delaware River.  How about Dick Lynch from Phillipsburg Catholic and the great Ned Bolcar of Phillipsburg.  Dick Lynch played for coach Mickey Frinzi at the now-closed P’burg Catholic.  Dick went on to Notre Dame University.  While at Notre Dame, he scored the game-winning touchdown that beat Oklahoma and broke the Sooners’ 54-game winning streak.  He was then drafted and played for seven years for the New York Giants as a defensive back.  He was an all-pro during this time.  Ned Bolcar was best known as a tough linebacker at P’burg.  He played for Phil Rohm and Tom Dominic from 1983-1985.  Ned was a two-time All-Stater in New Jersey.  He went on to Notre Dame where he started at middle linebacker for three years.  In 1988 he captained the Irish to a national championship.  He then was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and finished his career with the Miami Dolphins.

Well, there you have it.  I know what you’re thinking:  “How could Joe miss ______________ (fill in the blank)!”  Yeah, there are plenty of other great players that we have been blessed to see play right here in the Valley.  And while you could make another deserving list, I think you’d agree that at least some of my top 10 transcend time.  Let me know what you think by emailing us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and who you would include in your top 10.  Until next time, that’s “Joe’s take”.