Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has what Peyton Manning has been to opposing defenses -- a pain the neck.
Unfortunately, the man who coached Manning during his formative years and in his final high school game as a Newman Greenie also suffers pain in his neck. And in his lower back. And in his upper left leg.
Following three back surgeries, double-knee replacement and a heart attack, Coach Tony Reginelli, nonetheless, greets one with a firm handshake at his uptown home, where, at 78, he lives with his wife Joan. Still trim, he walks with the aid of a cane as he awaits an injection of steroids to help combat an agonizing pinched nerve in his leg that makes sleep impossible without medical assistance.
But the man who piloted the Greenie's program for 24 years still loves to spin yarns, recall old stories and relish in the days when he coached someone who may one day be remembered as the greatest quarterback in pro football history.
"I got a letter recently from Peyton just telling me how much he enjoyed high school," said Tony. "I know he has a lot of time on his hands, thinking about what he will be doing in the future. I know he is going through a lot."
Manning's future will be determined by the Colts who have the option to resign him and/or opt for Stanford senior quarterback Andrew Luck with the first selection in the upcoming draft. Manning recently underwent his fourth surgery to the neck but he is adamant that he will perform again. The question is for whom?
"He told me just how much he loves the Colts," said Tony. "And that (love) goes back to the days of (ex-Colts quarterback) Johnny Unitas. Even if Peyton is traded, he still wants to retire as a Colt."
Manning, who will turn 36 on March 24, has teamed with younger brother Eli, 31, to set a national precedent for the Jefferson Avenue school.
Newman stands tall as the only high school in the United States which has produced two different Super Bowl champion quarterbacks who also happened to be named game MVPs. Peyton has one title; Eli has been fitted for his second ring in the wake of the Giants' recent 21-17 rally against New England.
Eli played for Reginelli's successor at Newman, Coach Frank Gendusa, who now oversees the football program at Country Day in Fort Worth. Older brother Cooper, 38, also played for Reginelli.
The final game for Peyton as a player and Reginelli as a coach took place at Northeast High, just north of Baton Rouge, in the 1993 Class 2A regional state playoffs. The Northeast coach was Doug Williams, the former Grambing State quarterback who led the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII.
The Manning brothers, along with Williams, from old Chaneyville High, and Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw of Louisiana Tech and Woodlawn High in Shreveport, have amassed eight Super Bowl championships among them. (Bradshaw has accounted for four).
Only California's high-school system, with five Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks – Tom Brady, John Elway, Jim Plunkett, Trent Dilfer and Aaron Rodgers – has outshined Louisiana's prep ranks. Like Louisiana, Pennsylvania has four former champions – Joe Namath, Unitas, Joe Montana and Jeff Hostetler.
But high school football hotbeds such as Texas and Florida have combined for just one Super Bowl winning quarterback – a rather short individual who attended Westlake High in Austin and Purdue University, a gifted, generous young man named Drew Brees. His championship effort with the Saints was sandwiched between the first for Eli and Peyton and the most recent one for the Giants.
"It is unique for a school like Newman to have two (champions)," said Tony. "We always had about 300 to 400 students in the high school, boys and girls. And the academics at Newman were strong."
Reginelli's recall of his final game remains vivid 19 seasons later.
"The stands were so packed, the coaches could hardly move. There was no room for any of our assistants upstairs (in the press box). People were everywhere, even on the sidelines. We were trailing in the fourth quarter but we blocked a punt and recovered on their 6-yard line. But there was so much chaos that the person who was supposed to count (the players) did not. We had 12 men on the field. After the penalty, they drove the length of the field and scored. So give them the credit.
"After the game, I never once looked at the film."
The 39-28 Class 2A regional loss was the final game for Peyton until his first snap at Tennessee.
Reginelli was thrilled to learn of the recent induction into the Louisiana High School Hall of Fame for Newman basketball coaching legend, the late Ed 'Skeets' Tuohy, who compiled a sterling career record of 403-74 in 15 seasons, with three state titles. The election of Tuohy was long overdue for a coach of his stature who passed away exactly three decades ago at age 51.
Ditto for Reginelli, whose teams won 203 games as he endeared himself to players, assistants and administrators alike, with his sense of humor, personality and the manner in which he handled those in his company.
The backlog of Hall of Fame candidates from Newman also includes Bobby Lane, the centerpiece of state basketball champions in 1963 and '64 and a two-time All-State MVP selection and Billy Fitzgerald, whose basketball teams at Newman won five state titles as his baseball teams captured two. Fitzgerald also performed for two state basketball titlists at Jesuit.
By acclimation, basketball standout Randy Livingston, who scored 3,429 points from 1989-'93, should be enshrined. Livingston spearheaded Newman's state titles in 1991, '92 and '93, before his college career at LSU was cut short by a severe knee injury.
These oversights need to be addressed by the Newman administration and athletic department, especially in light of Reginelli's health issues.
Eli and Peyton will be sure to follow as their retirement schedules will be crammed with one induction ceremony after another.
Health-willing, Reginelli hopes to be on hand for as many as possible.
"When my friends find out about all the injections I have to take and all the (physical) things that are wrong with me, they ask if playing football and basketball and being a catcher in baseball was worth it. You bet it was – even though one of my doctors looked at an X-ray of my back and told me it looked like an automobile with 500,000 miles on it."
Here's hoping that odometer reaches one million.
|< Prev||Next >|