My Corner, Your Corner: Former NFL player Cefalo never forgot roots

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio | September 10th, 2015 3:57 pm

Last weekend was a celebration honoring those from Greater Pittston whose likenesses appear on a huge mural downtown.

It was also a reunion of sorts for Jimmy Cefalo, one of the mural’s focal points, who was in town for the mural dedication on Saturday. He also presented Pittston Area’s former football coach Bob Barbieri an NFL golden football during halftime of Friday evening’s game between Pittston Area and Abington Heights.

Golden footballs are given to those players who participated in a Super Bowl. Cefalo played in two Super Bowls. Barbieri, in turn, donated it to Pittston Area to be displayed.

Cefalo appeared at The Red Mill bar prior to the football game as part of a fundraiser. It was there he ran into old friends like Pat Cumbo, with whom he played during his high school career. Cumbo, an offensive lineman at the time, recalled Cefalo entering a huddle during a game, telling Cumbo to move out of the way when he was running. I guess Cefalo was a bit too quick for Cumbo. Needless to say, the two of them, as well as Coach Barbieri, had a good laugh.

I’ll bet the best part of the weekend for Cefalo, other than seeing family, was visiting with Barbieri. He credits the coach with much of his success and helping him build a foundation that would last the rest of his life.

The Dispatch sold a ton of papers during Cefalo’s career at Pittston Area, and during his four years at Penn State, followed by seven years with the Miami Dolphins. Everyone was interested in Cefalo and his accomplishments. Whether from the east side or west side of the river, everyone was Cefalo and Greater Pittston proud.

Since Cefalo’s hey-days in sports, he has made his home in Miami. He worked there for seven years in pro ball, landed a job as sports director with the ABC affiliate, created a few businesses and, as of late, is the host of an A.M. radio show and the voice of the Miami Dolphins radio broadcast. He’s an Emmy winner in broadcasting.

Some folks say Cefalo has abandoned his hometown. With the exception of his brother, Michael, and a few relatives, there may not a lot here for him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not proud of his roots.

As he stated in his address at the mural dedication, “When people ask me where I’m from, I never say Scranton or Wilkes-Barre; I say Pittston.” Those are not words spoken by someone who doesn’t love or appreciate where he was born and raised.

Cefalo also went on to say, “When people tell me I played for two great football coaches in Joe Paterno and Don Shula, I say I played for three great coaches.” He always includes Coach Barbieri, and rightfully so.

What I witnessed last weekend was a humble guy. I overheard someone this past week stating he heard Cefalo was unapproachable. Untrue. He said “hello” to everyone who stopped him. He signed autographs for everyone who asked and took photos when approached. He was gracious and kind and smiled for every photo.

If you were present at the mural dedication, you saw Cefalo’s emotions surface when talking about his Little League days or playing with friends at neighborhood parks or speaking about his mentors.

What I saw was a 58-year-old man happy to be back home, be honored for his position in history and thrilled to see old friends and family.

Quote of the week

“It is never safe to look into the future with eyes of fear.”

– Edward H. Harriman, American railroad magnate.

Thought of the week

“There’s no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can’t do business there.”

– Colonel Harlan Sanders, KFC founder.

Bumper sticker

“Dare to be wrong and to dream.”

– Fredrich von Schiller, German poet.

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

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