Loyola High coach's drills yield teams of achievers

March 16, 1997|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Parents of underachieving teen-age sons (is there any other kind?) are advised to put down this newspaper immediately or else find themselves engaging in that most ancient dialogue about their offspring, to wit:

Mother: "Why does he do these things?"

Father: "Why? Because he's an idiot."

The above is spoken with the teen-age boy sitting between them, cringing for everything he's worth, though his parents seem utterly oblivious to his presence. They'll be continuing such dialogue this morning, in light of what follows, because we're going to be mentioning such teen-age sons as Gerald Lopez and Dominic Bonvegna and Ali Culpepper and Ike Himowitz and Andrew Simmons and Jake Kramer, none of whom is likely to be their particular son, and the parents are going to wonder: Why not?

Oh, and there's also Joe Brune, who is certainly somebody's son but has been, for most of the last four decades, mainly a great father figure to kids who have been a lot of things but rarely underachieving.

They honored Brune at the 34th annual Scholar Athlete Awards dinner at Martin's West the other evening. The Greater Baltimore chapter of the National Football Foundation gave him their Service to Football Award. Service to football, that's putting it narrowly.

They also honored him for the 30 years he's coached football and lacrosse at Loyola High, and for the eight years before that when he coached those sports at City College, and they talked about his championships and his winning percentage, and, of course, these miss the main point about Brune, for whom winning is lovely but also secondary to character.

You need testimonials? Ask a couple of guys named Kurt Schmoke and Dutch Ruppersberger, who started playing ball under Brune at City. Or I'll give you my own 2 cents, since I had Brune for homeroom at City: He was a strong, disciplined, principled role model for a lot of kids trying to find some direction in their lives.

These kids today know it, too. Kids such as Kevin Dowgiewicz, who played the past four years at Loyola. The important thing about him? He ranked near the top of his class with academic honors for 14 consecutive quarters.

Dowgiewicz was one of 92 kids honored at the Scholar-Athlete Dinner. When Brune got up to talk, he'd just been called "a coaching legend, and a hero to many."

"A hero to many," Brune told the crowd of 1,300. He looked pained as he said it. "I wonder if Kevin sees me this way."

Maybe, maybe not. A lot of Brune's kids probably curse him once or twice through their adolescent years. The lessons about hard work and discipline don't entirely filter through until later.

So Brune didn't talk about his greatest players, or his most memorable games, or his championships. He said: "I hope I've helped some people mature and grow. My greatest thrill as a coach is when one of my old players comes up and says, 'Coach, remember when ' and they're not talking about some big victory, but the time I chewed them out for going offsides, or yelled at 'em for not putting on their equipment the right way."

He glanced in Kevin Dowgiewicz's direction and said, "I know what it's like to leave the practice field, and your head's still ringing, and you ache, and you've gotta go home and start studying calculus."

It's tough, he was saying. But he was preaching to the choir. Behind him were the type of kids he's been helping to produce for nearly 40 years.

Kids such as Gerald Lopez of Anne Arundel County's Southern High. Never mind football. He's also No. 1 in his class academically, president of his class for four years and has a weighted (for degree of difficulty) 4.29 grade point average -- on a 4.0 scale. Also, in his spare time, he's won county science fair awards in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physical science and microbiology.

You see, parents, you were warned to put down this newspaper -- unless you're the parents of Gerald Lopez.

Or Andrew Simmons, the Towson lineman who scored 1,540 on his SATs, ranks No. 1 in his class, is a Maryland Distinguished Scholar and National Merit semifinalist and co-hosts a cable TV sports show. Or Ali Culpepper, tailback for Dunbar who ranks in the top percentage in the Johns Hopkins-Dunbar advanced college prep program. It's almost -- almost -- an afterthought that he averaged 10.2 yards per carry every time he carried the football over four years.

Or, not to be overlooked, Jake Kramer of Harford County's C. Milton Wright High, a National Honor Society member and Maryland Distinguished Scholar finalist. He was this year's winner of the Scholar-Athlete Award.

It was a feel-good affair they had. It felt good to see Joe Brune honored for all those years of high standards and good to see all those kids who realize there's meaningful life off the football field.

Of course, it's also giving a lot of parents ammunition for a brand new dialogue, to wit:

Mother: "Why wasn't our son wasn't honored?"

Father: "Why? Because they don't give honors for watching TV all day and night."

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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