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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The "Lancaster's Humble Star" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Ready for my next job at Grebinger Gallery where I work part-time matting photographs and artwork and then framing the results.  During my time at the gallery I get a chance to mat and frame just about anything you might imagine.  After finishing one job, I pull up the next job and begin on it.  Today my next job was a page that looked as if it might have come from a comic book or sports book of some sort.  It featured a few football drawings and a larger football player punting the football.  
Artwork brought to gallery featuring Tom Gilburg.
At the top was a box with the player's name in it: Tom Gilburg.  Tom Gilburg!!  I have known Tom Gilburg for years.  He and his family attended St. James Episcopal Church as did my family.  I coached his youngest son in little league baseball back in the mid-1980s when my youngest son was playing.  I then had his son in class at Manheim Township High School a few years later.  I knew his two older sons since they too were students and athletes at MTHS.  His daughter was a standout field hockey player as well as a student in my class.  Well, this doesn't tell you much about Tom, yet, but you may have heard of the Baltimore Colts and their famous Quarterback Johnny Unitas.  Tom was a teammate of Johnny when they both played for the Colts.  
#73, Tom Gilberg preparing to punt the ball.
Tom played for the Colts from 1961 to 1965.  He played college football for Syracuse University and was chosen in the 1961 NFL Draft as the 21st pick in the draft.  While at Syracuse he helped the Orangemen win the 1959 National Championship with a win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl.  During his stay at Syracuse he had the honor of blocking for star runner Ernie Davis who was the first black Heisman Trophy winner.  
Tom's football collectible trading card.
That year, the after bowl game banquet, held after the game, was a whites only event, so the entire Syracuse team elected not to attend.  Tom was also an All-American lacrosse player at Syracuse as well as football All-American and Syracuse's football MVP and school athlete of the year in 1960.  Great lineman, but a much better punter.  
Tom as coach at Franklin & Marshall College.
During his five years with the Colts he averaged 41.4 yards a kick, but had to retire due to a bad knee.  What made Tom so valuable to the Colts was that he was also an offensive tackle.  Being 6'5" and 260 pounds helped him as a lineman as well as punting.  He eventually became the head football coach at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for 28 seasons from 1975 until 2002.  It was at this time I got to know Tom and his family.  During his reign as head coach at F&M, he won 160 games while losing only 112 with 2 ties and 4 Division III Conference Titles.  
Tom Gilburg, Lancaster's humble star!
His 160 victories at the academic-rich college are a record.  But, Tom is so much more than just an athlete.  A great family man and a good friend.  I never remember Tom talking about his athletic accomplishments until one time I made a visit to his home near my house and saw a photograph of Tom and Johnny Unitas.  It was then that I realized exactly how great an athlete I was standing next to.  Well, my assignment today was to frame this wonderful piece of work that a customer brought to the gallery.  If only all my jobs were as enjoyable as this particular one was.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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