As both teacher and avid student of history, Martin D. "Mitch" Tullai must have a pretty good sense of the history he has created at St. Paul's, the private school for boys on the edge of the Green Spring Valley in Baltimore County. During the past 41 autumns, Mr. Tullai guided the Crusader football team to victory better than 60 percent of the time. Yesterday, with more than 200 wins to his credit, he coached in his final game at St. Paul's.
Even before coming to the high school in 1953, Mitch Tullai made his name in area football annals as a star defensive end and running back on the last undefeated squad at Western Maryland College, the school from which he graduated cum laude in history. The same smarts and determination that he displayed on the gridiron in Westminster he used in shaping a regular contender out of the relatively small pool of St. Paul's students.
Now his football career closes with the 65-year-old coach at the top of his game. Last year he had his first unbeaten and untied team, a collection of athletes he says was perhaps the best he ever led. Recovered from a heart attack he suffered six years ago, he has the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger man. But after "a satisfying tenure," Mr. Tullai asks, "Why not go out while I still have snap in my garters?"
Officially, he won't go out until June 1995. Through the 1994-95 school year, he will continue to teach history at St. Paul's, which means he has two more chances to teach on Abe Lincoln's birthday dressed as the Great Emancipator himself.
Satisfying as his time at St. Paul's has been for Mr. Tullai, it's been equally fulfilling for the thousands of the students and players he has influenced over the years. That many of them still stop and say hello after football games is one measure of the esteem in which the man is held.
An old Western Maryland teammate recalls that Mr. Tullai possessed the talent to succeed in any field he might have chosen. But his idealism led him to the roles of teacher and coach, where he would best be able to instill in young men his own love of learning and unstinting work ethic.
Let history show that Mitch Tullai clearly accomplished those goals.