CARL KOLOGIE: Sports reunion highlights breakfast
It was 7:13 a.m. Monday and the phone rang.
“Carl, hope I didn’t get you out of bed. This is Jerry Buffone and I want to invite you to breakfast.”
It had been a while since I had heard from Jerry, but I have known him since was a running back for Shannock Valley High School in the early 1960s, then the University of Louisville, and in later years as an outstanding baseball player in the county league.
He explained that a group of friends, who were former athletes and coaches, were getting together at his home near Rural Valley and I had become an adopted member of the group in following their storied careers and participating in numerous events down through the years — about 50 of them.
It was an all-star lineup at breakfast that included former Shannock coaches Ron ”Slugs” Zucchelli and Tony “Hooks” Bernardi, and linemen John “Sunshine” Kulick and Doug “Dyke” Buffone, who is Jerry’s cousin.
And I knew, with that crew, there would be a lot of “do you remembers” in their reminiscing.
Zucchelli, who is now a resident of Sarasota, Fla., was in town and I picked him up and we drove out to Buffone’s home near Rural Valley, where the first floor is a hunting and fishing store that he calls “Jerry’s Sports.”
Before the pancakes were ready the stories started to fly … and it was nonstop, from high school days to the NFL, where Doug Buffone starred with the Chicago Bears as a linebacker for 15 years.
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Jerry, who led the area in scoring in 1961, recounted an incident at a high school football game in 1962 where he slugged an opponent after he was tackled and the officials threw him out of the game.
He then proceeded to tell the referee that the opposing player had stuck a pin in his hip when he was down.
This prompted the official to reverse the call, stating that Buffone was back in the game and the pin-sticker was sent back to the locker room.
Zucchelli was the head football coach and Bernardi was his assistant, although his claim to fame came later as a basketball coach.
The players all agreed that they were the toughest and best coaches they had ever worked with.
Both Jerry and Doug went on to play at Louisville, where Zucchelli had a connection that led to a flow of players from Rural Valley and Yatesboro to that school.
“He took the time to drive us there,” said Jerry Buffone, who also played on the baseball team at Louisville.
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Doug’s football career is legendary as he was a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1966 and played with the National Football League team until he retired in 1980 as the all-time leader in games played for the organization.
“Pro football has changed so much,” said Doug, who played linebacker alongside Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.
“Those guys were really tough … and not too good at taking orders or following team rules,” he stated in relating incidents where coach George Halas would be waiting for them on nights before Sunday afternoon games.
Doug said that as a rookie he would sneak out to the gym to work out.
“No one else worked out (the veterans on the team). If they caught someone they would call them ‘milk muscles,’” he laughed.
Beginning in 1972 he served as defensive captain for eight seasons and retired with 24 career interceptions to lead all Bears linebackers.
The first two pickoffs of his career came off future Hall of Famers Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas.
When he retired, Doug was the last active Bear to have played for Halas.
He remains heavily involved in Chicago sports and broadcasting as he co-hosts “Chicago NFL Live” on “The Score,” as well as Bears postgame with Ed O’Bradovich.
He also recently completed 14 seasons of “The Doug Buffone Show” on Fox Sports Net Chicago.
And for good measure, he was one of the founders of the Arena Football League, starting the Chicago Bruisers franchise.
There is much more to his story and, if interested, you can find it on his website, www.buffone .com.
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Kulick was an end on the high school team and according to Jerry Buffone, their best downfield blocker.
“He always knew where everyone was on the football field and where the pretty girls were seated in the stands,” joked Buffone.
After attending state police academy, Kulick advanced in rank to lieutenant and became the head of security at the Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg.
He served in that post under five governors beginning with Milton Shapp in 1971 through Richard Thornburgh, Robert Casey, Tom Ridge and Richard Schweiker.
Kulick cooked and served the breakfast and his Shannock buddies swore jokingly that this was also his job, as chef, working with the governors of the commonwealth.