Young's giant admiration society extends well beyond NFL team he made so super

John Steadman

June 03, 1991|By John Steadman

Much about the man is measured by the profound consideration he shows for others. George Young helped create an auspicious success story for himself and the football team he represents -- the New York Giants. So on this first Sunday afternoon in June, there was a party at the Baltimore Country Club that was extraordinary in its social intent.

George and his wife, the former Lovey Reddington, modestly called it a "gathering of old friends" but it was more than that. The fact the Giants won the Super Bowl was never mentioned. There wasn't any self-aggrandizement of "I did this and I did that." That's not Young. He was back in his hometown as host, reveling in the present but mostly in the past.

There were guests he had played football with in college and others he had met from his association as a high school coach, including the mayor of Baltimore, one Kurt L. Schmoke, who had once been his quarterback. And also in the reception room were scouts, agents, a team doctor, another general manager and players he once scouted for the Baltimore Colts, plus a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was all so fitting. Young and football became synonymous. He was voted the National Football League's leading executive of 1990. But, again, that wasn't important to him because it didn't enter into the reason for being there. This was a reunion, a huddle with the past.

Young doesn't put old friends on waivers or trade them in for new ones. Included in the gathering were classmates and teammates from Calvert Hall, namely the most Rev. William Newman, bishop of Baltimore; George Thomas, Carlo Crispino, Tom Sweeney, Lou and Joe Cerrato. They were contemporaries in high school and their mutual fondness has perpetuated itself.

George wanted them there. On a personal note, his mother and brother were present and also close relatives, along with men he has been associated with in all facets of his life, as an athlete, teacher, coach and now general manager of the reigning champions of pro football.

It was particularly relevant that he remembered Bishop Newman, Thomas, Crispino, Sweeney and the Cerratos twin brothers because they can't forget him. "When George was student manager of our basketball team," said the bishop, "he was such a student of the game, even though he didn't play [after all, he approached 300 pounds] he'd go out on his own to scout upcoming opponents. Imagine that from a student manager during the late 1940s in high school."

And there was Thomas, signed the night he graduated from Calvert Hall by the Philadelphia Phillies, as one of the finest pitching prospects the city ever produced. "Before games, when catchers would be warming me up," recalled Thomas, "it was helpful to have a batter stand alongside the plate. George volunteered. He had bad eyes and wore thick glasses but wasn't afraid. I hit him once with my best fastball and he never even went down."

Crispino thought back to when Young, a preponderous size for a pitcher, gave up a single to the leadoff man, Jack Lay, of Poly, and never allowed another hit. "George had twin-loves back then, baseball and, get this, wrestling. We'd go to the old Coliseum together. He liked Ali Babi and Nanjo Singh, who had the cobra hold. They were wonderful times for all of us."

The Cerratos had stories, too. "In football practice," said Lou, "I was a 135-pound guard who hated to run a play called '65 left' because I had to pull out and block the tackle, who was George. I never budged him. I was like a rubber ball hitting a wall." Brother Joe said Young had an intimidating presence. "He weighed about 298 or maybe a little over 300."

Sweeney, another ex-teammate, a retired United Air Lines pilot, brought up how George would draw plays in the classroom. "I'll never forget the Christian brother who taught us. He would look down and say, 'Never give a peasant a book.' I still don't know what that means."

But Young was oriented to education, even more than football. He has been able to keep a perspective on life. He continually reminds those trying to make more out of his career than he does, Super Ball and all, "that football isn't essential to the overall scope of things."

Instead of throwing a party to signal his own achievements, George reversed the game plan. He merely wanted them to know how much they meant to him, as indicated by his schoolboy pals dating back more than 40 years. George Young is not the emotional or effusive type but doesn't try to hide the impression that old friends, to him, are a precious priority.

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