Former PC Resident, NFL Great Pays a Visit
Paden City had a special visitor on Saturday as first year Wildcat football Coach Zach Heasley, and the Wildcats were paid a visit by Garry Lyle a great athlete in his own right who spent some years in Paden City during his youth where he honed his skills as an athlete, later to become an All-Pro with the Chicago Bears.
Garry’s brother “Ace” Lyle was quite the athlete for the Cat’s and led the 1960 Wildcat Basketball team to the Class A state championship over Ansted, in a come from behind 69-67 victory.
Garry however was not as well known around town despite being perhaps the greatest athlete to ever live there.
He told a nice group at the high school about life in Paden City as a young boy before his family moved to Pittsburgh in 1959 when he was 13 years old. The Lyle’s were a nice family and a multi-talented well educated group. If you were living back in those days and had the pleasure of knowing them you were fortunate.
Ace was the point guard on the basketball team who by the way was coached by Henry Healy who has recently been chosen to be inducted into the Wetzel County Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 28, at 6 p.m.
Coach Bob Burton who was also recently inducted into the Wetzel County Hall of Fame was an assistant under Healy for a few years and later took over the Wildcat basketball program which he held for nearly 30 years. Ace was also a four year starter for the Wildcats football team.
While talking with Coach Burton last week he told me two of Coach Healy’s former football players in the early 70’s went on to play Division 1 football at two major universitites. Mike Nelson went to WVU on a full ride scholarship while his backfield teammate with the Wildcats, Dennis “Dink” Blatt went to Syracuse to play for the Orange. They later played against each other with both starting at the fullback position when Syracuse visited Morgantown.
I did some research and found out Blatt finished the contest with 71 yards rushing, while Nelson addded 46, including a 21yard juant up the middle. Later that season Nelson put on another good display of football when he broke free for a 27 yard burst up the middle to score the only touchdown on the ground all season against a powerful Penn State team.
Newly hired Paden City Coach Heasly may not have that kind of talent running around town, but one thing is for sure he will put everything he has into the program to try and bring back those glory days. I like Coach Heasley’s style, he is a motivator, he acknowledges the good the kids do and points out the mistakes. I think he’s the perfect fit for Paden City football.
It was a great visit and a motivator in itself to have someone of Garry Lyle’s stature come back home after 60 plus years and visit with the new head coach and his team. To help inspire, give advice and let them know high school sports memories last a lifetime. We appreciate Garry coming to Paden City, it was a thrill to visit with him and hear him encourage coach Heasley, his staff and players on making 2019 a season to remember.
Garry brought along his younger brother David who I remember as well. David and I are the same age and he would have been in the class of 1969 had they stayed in Paden City.
Saturday, started out with a trip for me down to St. Marys to watch the Autumn Classic Cross Country meet. I was excited however to get back to Paden City to meet Garry Lyle and listen to him address the 2019 Wildcats. Garry had some great memories of Paden City and was very sharp on recalling a lot of names and events that took place around town. He spoke about growing up at the top of Broadway street in Paden City in a three room house with 10 kids. He said they were a poor family but a close family with a lot of love.
His address to the Wildcat football team was one they will always remember. He gave excellent advice about how to become a better athlete, but better yet how to become successful, including getting to know the Lord Jesus. It’s not everyday that young athletes get to hear from ex-pro players who grew up in the same town as they’re living and growing up in.
One of the highlights of the day was when Garry told about playing his college football at George Washington University, in D.C. He said he had signed to play at WVU and 15 other schools, but decided on George Washington because he had a sister living in D.C. He recalled a game where they played the Mountaineers and after holding them on downs, they brought in the punting team. The punter for the Mountaineers was none other than his childhood friend Larry Sine. Larry said he tried to hunt Garry up after the game, but was unable to find him.
Lyle was playing in the NFL back in the day when there were some great running backs, he mentioned the great ones he knew personally, including some great coaches. Garry is a very humble man who has worked hard all his life and according to him he was proud to have lived in Paden City. He said he remembered the people as being a close knit group with a great Athletic Association who would come together and spend their hard earned money to give their community the things it needed.
Garry said he wanted to bring his brother Ace with him but Ace’s health is not very good and the doctors advised him not to make the trip. It was a great day at Paden City high school Saturday. Garry Lyle also had a cousin who played sports at Paden City and is remembered by many as the schools all time greatest athlete. His name is Ted Garrison! Look him up on the computer or just google it and you’ll also see Garry had a son Keith Lyle who played nine years in the NFL and won a super bowl ring.
Garry mentioned his son Keith now has a son who is six years old. “You’ll be reading about him one of these days. He can do some great things already. One thing he really loves is golf and at six years old he is really good,” said Garry.
While speaking to the football team Lyle said another thing he remembers was the old basketball court beside the school. He said it’s where he learned to shoot basketball. “Once I moved to the Pittsburgh area I was a step ahead of the guys my age, down here in Paden City I got to hang out with my older brother Ace and his friends so I picked up a lot of good habits,” Garry stated. “Up in Pittsburgh playing out on the outdoor courts was a lot different, you got a lot of smack talk and pushing and shoving, back here I learned to shoot.” He said
To the surprise of the Wildcats, Garry started talking about discipline. “You have to have discipline to succed, there are a lot of things you can do to become better athletes, but one of the most important is working on your foot work,’ Lyle said. He added that goes for linemen as well as the quarterback and runningbacks. “You have to have a good foundation and it all starts with your feet, it can make a huge difference in your game.”
“How many of you guys make your bed when you get up in the morning,” he asked. One kid raised his hand. Garry said that’s also discipline. “It’s something everyone of you should do, and your mom will love you for it. She will probably wonder at first but she’ll love it. And when you get to school use discipline in your studies and follow the rules. Listen to your coaches, you’ll come away better players and better people.”
He stressed to the kids the importance of being successful in life after sports, as he talked to them about starting out their careers with a good financial plan. Putting money away for the day you retire. “Listen it comes quick, get with a good company and invest in a 401K, try to diverse and have income coming in from three or four scoures, it’s important,” he said.
“Right now is the best years of your life, the most fun times. For me riding on the bus back home after a high school game was the best. Take and make the best out of these years, have fun and enjoy life it only comes around once. Work hard, plan everyday to become better, you’ll not only get better but you’ll make your team better as well.”
Following the 2.5 hours (seriously) he spoke and visited with the high school team and coaches, plus old friends. He took a tour of the Wildcats facilities. He remembered well the gymnasium, and the old outdoor basketball court where he said he learned to shoot. Garry also became a very talented basketball player at his Pittsburg High School and had many offers to play college ball, but opted for football (his first love) instead.
Coach Burton told a good story about Garry coming back to Paden City to play football his senior year and was out on the field when his high school coach and principal from Pittsburg showed up and took him back. Garry verified the story. “Yeah, they came and got me,” he said. Buton said that was in 1963 when the Widcats went undefeated. “I was a young assistant coach under Coach Henry Healy. I remember we missed making the playoff even though we were undefeated. Back only the top two teams made it,” Coach Burton said
Overall it was a fantastic day. The Wildcat team seemed to be somewhat in awe of meeting an ex-NFL great, but when the meeting was over each Wildcat stood up and shook the hand of one we will always know as a true Wildcat. Thank You Garry Lyle for remembering Paden City.