Ex-play­ers, coaches rally around Coen

Foot­ball fam­ily gath­ers to sup­port ex-Le­high coach amid his health bat­tle

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - Morn­ing Call re­porter Keith Groller can be reached at 610-820-6740 or at [email protected]

For 33 sea­sons as a foot­ball coach, Andy Coen preached to his play­ers about the need to come to­gether as a fam­ily.

On Mon­day af­ter­noon at the Steel Club in Heller­town, Coen’s foot­ball fam­ily came to­gether for the for­mer coach and it was much larger than he an­tic­i­pated.

Coen, who spent 13 sea­sons as the head coach at Le­high

Univer­sity be­fore re­sign­ing af­ter the 2018 sea­son due to the di­ag­no­sis of the early-on­set

Alzheimer’s dis­ease, got to see many of his for­mer play­ers, fel­low coaches, and for­mer team­mates dur­ing the golf tour­na­ment.

They came from Cherry Hill East High School in New Jersey and Get­tys­burg Col­lege where Coen was a tal­ented of­fen­sive line­man in the 1980s.

They came from the U.S. Mer­chant Marine Acad­emy where Coen coached from 1990-93 and from the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia where he coached from 2000-2005 and they came from his first stint at Le­high as a line coach and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor from 1994-99 and, of course, his time as the Moun­tain Hawks head coach from 2006-2018.

Coen was sta­tioned at the 13th tee and got to tee off with his bud­dies while shar­ing hugs, hand­shakes and good mem­o­ries.

While his mem­ory has been af­fected by Alzheimer’s, Coen rec­og­nized and chat­ted with ev­ery­body and was touched by them be­ing there for an event in his honor.

“It’s awe­some,” he said. “It’s so great so all of these guys.”

The event was ar­ranged largely through the ef­forts of re­tired Le­high Univer­sity po­lice chief Ed Shupp.

Shupp said all 144 golf­ing slots filled quickly and ap­prox­i­mately 200 peo­ple planned to at­tend the post-golf ban­quet, which was set to fea­ture the auc­tion­ing of 210 items rang­ing from au­to­graphed foot­balls and hel­mets to free rounds of golf for four­somes at leg­endary venues such as Bal­tus­rol and Me­rion.

CBS broad­caster Jim Nantz, whose father died of Alzheimer’s, sent a video trib­ute.

“There are peo­ple here from Texas, Florida, Cal­i­for­nia … they came in from ev­ery­where for this guy,” Shupp said. “I’ve known Andy for more than 20 years since he was an as­sis­tant coach in the 1990s. He is a great guy, a true gen­tle­man. He be­came a great friend of mine. I am sorry he’s go­ing through what he’s go­ing through, but we’ll do any­thing we can to help him out.”

Be­fore one swing was taken, Shupp said $80,000 was raised which will all go the Coen fam­ily, which in­cludes wife Laura and chil­dren Molly, Nolan and Finn.

Shupp ex­pected the fundrais­ing to­tal to rise sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter the mem­o­ra­bilia auc­tion.

Some of the items came from the Kansas City Chiefs. Both Shupp and Coen be­came friends of Chiefs coach Andy Reid dur­ing the years the Ea­gles used Le­high as their train­ing camp home when Reid was the head coach.

Items signed by Saquon Barkley, Pa­trick Ma­homes, Eli Man­ning, Dabo Sweeney and new Pro Foot­ball Hall of Famer and Green Bay Pack­ers leg­end Jerry Kramer.

While plenty of funds were raised, the en­coun­ters with his for­mer play­ers were price­less for Coen.

Brian Mc­Don­ald, who was an Al­lAmer­ica se­lec­tion at Le­high as an of­fen­sive line­man in 2000, and Jonathan Stiegler shared a long em­brace with Coen dur­ing their stop at the 13th tee.

“I was an of­fen­sive guard and I had him as my coach for three sea­sons and then he left in my se­nior year for Penn and I was so bleep­ing mad,” Mc­Don­ald said. “Penn came in for our first home game and I re­fused to talk to him be­cause I was still mad. As soon as the game the was over, I went right over to him and we hugged and talked. I love that guy.”

What made him Coen spe­cial as a line coach?

“He was a throw­back in a game that li­on­izes throw­backs,” Mc­Don­ald said. “It was hard to play for him. He de­manded the best from you. But he was al­ways fair. I loved every sec­ond play­ing for him. He de­serves all of our af­fec­tion and we’re all go­ing to go out of our way to beat this thing for this guy. He’s a spe­cial guy.”

Coen was also a spe­cial team­mate a decade ear­lier play­ing as a guard on a cham­pi­onship Get­tys­burg team for coach­ing leg­end Barry Streeter.

Coen was a part of Get­tys­burg’s three con­sec­u­tive Cen­ten­nial Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship teams from 1983 to 1985 that was capped off by an ap­pear­ance in the NCAA Divi­sion III semi­fi­nals in 1985.

From 1983-85, he coached the Bul­lets through three straight Cen­ten­nial Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships, cap­ping it off with an ap­pear­ance in the 1985 NCAA Divi­sion III Na­tional Cham­pi­onship and mov­ing to the semi­fi­nals.

“When game day came around, Andy was the guy you wanted to have stand­ing next to you or play­ing next to you,” said Coen’s of­fen­sive line team­mate Mike McDyer. “No mat­ter what it took, Andy got the job done and he had your back. It’s tough to mea­sure how well an of­fen­sive line does but we helped to pro­duce two All-Amer­ica run­ning backs by how well we played up front. We had a tough, com­pet­i­tive team every year and Andy was a big part of that. We had a lot of grit.”

Of course, Coen’s grit showed through good times and tough times at Le­high. He never wa­vered in his com­mit­ment and be­lief in the play­ers he brought to South Moun­tain and he of­ten showed emo­tion on whether he was cel­e­brat­ing a league cham­pi­onship win at Ge­orge­town or a crush­ing de­feat to Lafayette at Yan­kee Sta­dium.

Coen fin­ished his ca­reer with 85 wins, ty­ing him with Bill Leck­onby for most vic­to­ries in Le­high foot­ball his­tory.

He was a two-time Pa­triot League coach of the year and his Moun­tain Hawks teams won five league ti­tles and pro­duced 135 all-Pa­triot League se­lec­tions, six Pa­triot League ma­jor award win­ners, 25 All-Amer­ica hon­orees, 10 CoSIDA Aca­demic All-Dis­trict choices, two CoSIDA Aca­demic All-Amer­i­cans and 236 Pa­triot League Aca­demic Honor Roll se­lec­tions.

Coen al­ways put the in­ter­ests of oth­ers first and earned the re­spect of his play­ers as well as his coach­ing col­leagues at Le­high.

“We talked all the time,” said renowned Le­high wrestling coach Pat San­toro said. “I loved stop­ping by his of­fice and we’d talk some foot­ball, some wrestling and a lot about life. He’s one of the good peo­ple in the world.”

While his pri­mary con­cern is his healthy, Coen has stayed in­volved in the game he loves by help­ing out at as a vol­un­teer as­sis­tant at Al­len­town Cen­tral Catholic, which is coached by Tim McGorry. McGorry was Le­high’s re­ceivers coach the past two years.

“I’m hav­ing fun over there when I can get there,” he said. “Paul Ha­gadus and those guys do a great job. I’ve never coached high school be­fore. It’s kids and it’s foot­ball. What can be bet­ter than that?”

KEITH GROLLER/THE MORN­ING CALL

Le­high’s di­rec­tor of ath­let­ics part­ner­ship Bob Amund­son, left, foot­ball as­sis­tant coach, long­time South­side Boost­ers mem­ber Chip Walakovits, for­mer head coach Andy Coen, long­time as­sis­tant coach Don­nie Roberts and Le­high’s re­tired Se­nior As­so­ci­ate Di­rec­tor of Ath­let­ics Bill Griffin take a time­out for a photo at the Andy Coen Golf Out­ing on Mon­day at the Steel Club.

Keith Groller

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