We’re almost there New England. Early Sunday evening – the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
As I have admitted in this space before, I am not the biggest sports fan – despite being a part of a big sports family, and even having competed in sports in college. Heck, I even worked for two newspapers as a freelancer for their sports departments. So, now, not a big sports enthusiast? Go figure.
But, of course, I am rooting big time for our Pats. Yet, I'm not one of these fans who posts Patriots images all over their Facebook page, and who have Patriots stickers on their cars, and who watch the game in Patriots apparel.
I defer to true Patriots fans. They’ve earned it. Still, I am offering here some reflection on Easton ties to the Super Bowl – this year’s game, and others. I’ve done some research, including digging into previous “Muscato’s Musings” columns.
Not sure how many people know that a long, long time ago, prior to the Boston Patriots being established as the eighth and final team in the American Football League in 1959, that the home pro football team for this area was the New York Giants. Yep. Seems strange.
Here we are almost at the locus of New England Patriot fan fervor, and on this ground – even if we need to go back more than 60 years – lived a healthy population of New York Giants fans.
As for that Boston Patriots franchise – the genesis of the New England Patriots – one of the investors in the franchise was an Easton guy, John Ames Jr.
Mr. Ames joined Billy Sullivan, Joseph Sullivan, George L. Sargent, L. Edgar Turner, Daniel F. Marr, Dean Boylan, Paul Sonnabend, Edward McMann, and Dom DiMaggio in putting up the money to found the team.
Through the years, we’ve had many NE Patriots live in town – two of whom scored TDs in the Super Bowl.
As for that first TD, well, it is a bit painful to remember. It took place early in the 4th quarter in Super Bowl XX played on January 27, 1986 in the Louisiana Superdome, which pitted our Patriots against the Chicago Bears.
Patriot wide receiver Irving Fryar – who was living in a condominium development off of Washington St./Rte. 138 at the time – scored the TD on an eight-yard pass from quarterback Steve Grogan. Tony Franklin kicked the extra point to make it 44-10, Chicago. The final score was Chicago 46, New England 10. Ouch.
The other Easton resident to score a TD in the Super Bowl was Mike Vrabel. Actually, Mike Vrabel – an outside linebacker – scored two touchdowns, both on pass receptions, in Super Bowls for the Pats.
Yes, that wizard and strategic coaching genius, Bill Belichick, lined Vrabel up at tight end in two consecutive Patriots Super Bowl victories, which made it three Super Bowl wins in four years for New England.
Here is the lowdown on the Vrabel TDs.
On February 1, 2004, the Patriots took on the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium in Houston. In the fourth quarter, with a little under three minutes remaining, the Patriots were down, 22-21, and had the ball on a third-and-goal on the one. Tom Brady connected with Vrabel for the TD. The Patriots prevailed 32-29, with Adam Vinatieri kicking the winning 41 yard field goal with four seconds left on the clock.
A year later, the Patriots were back in the Super Bowl, this time facing the Philadelphia Eagles at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, FL on February 6. The first half ended with the score tied 7-7. On the opening drive of the second half, the Pats took the lead when Brady hit Mike Vrabel, again playing tight end, on a two-yard TD pass. Vinatieri added the extra point. New England went on to win 24-21.
When Mike Vrabel lived here in town he was well liked. For example, when he and his wife and their young children lived in a development near Five Corners, they would frequent Maguire’s Bar & Grill, and he and his wife and children were known to the wait staff as being pleasant and courteous. Oftentimes, Mike Vrabel would call in a takeout order to Maguire’s, and stop in to pick it up, and while waiting, he might order a beer, and order a round for the bar and chat amiably with the patrons.
I’m not going to go into depth here how the waitresses and lady bartenders at Maguire’s got a bit week-kneed when he showed up. Then again, Vrabel had ladies week-kneed at other restaurants in Easton, and in many other communities as well.
Mike Vrabel announced his retirement from the NFL last summer, following two years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is returning to his alma mater, Ohio State, to coach linebackers.
Interestingly, two of the most sought after high school football recruits in the country – Class of 2012 – are Easton residents who played their prep football at Catholic Memorial High School, and have chosen to attend Ohio State.
The players are Camren Williams, a linebacker, and Armani Reeves, a defensive back. Williams is the son of former New England Patriot defensive end, Brent Williams, who has given a tremendous amount of time and effort to the youth football program in Easton.
It is special that two Easton residents will be playing for Ohio State. What’s more, Camren Williams, a linebacker, will be tutored by Mike Vrabel, a former resident of our town.
I return here to talk of the tight end position.
And, just so you know, Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski is most certainly going to play on Sunday.
Gronk and Aaron Hernandez are Patriots tight ends. They are both standouts. What is unique about them is that often they are on the field at the same time. Using two tight ends is novel, and in the case of the Patriots, highly effective.
So here you have New England using two tight ends in one formation. There was a time in which there was no such thing as a tight end in professional football. So when even one tight end was employed, it was revolutionary.
And as I’ve written in this space a few times, the first tight end in professional football was an Easton kid and 1948 Oliver Ames High School graduate. His name is Ken MacAfee, and he is a member of the OAHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
MacAfee became the first tight end in pro football while playing for the New York Giants.
Here is an excerpt from a column I wrote in which Ken MacAfee and his historic place in pro football is mentioned:
[MacAfee] was a star immediately with the Giants, as an outside receiver – also called a split end. However, in his second season with the Giants, the team's offensive coordinator – a guy named Vince Lombardi – decided to take this kid from Easton and change his position. MacAfee would still be an outside end, but not separated from the line, he would be flush against it.
It was revolutionary.
"When Vince told me I was a tight end, I didn't even know what he was talking about," MacAfee told the Boston Globe in 1979.
During the period in which Ken MacAfee played for the New York Giants, Easton guys would take road trips to New York and the Polo Grounds to watch MacAfee play. MacAfee played on two NFL championship teams with the Giants. He also played for the Giants in the epic 1958 NFL championship game in which the Baltimore Colts won in sudden death overtime.
Ken MacAfee finished his career in 1959 with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
Bill Parcells – the great NFL head coach, for whom Bill Belichick and New York Giants coach, Tom Coughlin, served as assistants – has a history with Easton This was prior to Parcells coaching the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories, and taking the Patriots to a Super Bowl.
You see, throughout most of the 1970s, for one week during the summer, at Stonehill College, a football camp for high school players was held, which brought together some of the top college football coaches in America. When he was still coaching in the college ranks, a young Bill Parcells worked at the camp.
So there’s some history.
Now we need the New England Patriots to make some more history in joining the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers as the only teams to win four Super Bowls.