From the Sports Editor: Super Bowl tests local loyalties

 

Former Wesley College football player Eugene Byrd poses with the Eagles’ NFC championship trophy. (Wesley sports information photo)

Friendships can run deep and last a lifetime.

But sometimes not even friendships can top a person’s long-standing love for their football team.

Just ask Patriots’ safety Duron Harmon.

“All my family members told me they hope I play great but ‘You’re still going to lose,’ ’’ the Caesar Rodney High grad was quoted in Newsday this week. “They tell me that all the time. I wouldn’t expect anything less from an Eagles’ fan. When I come home, in the barber shop, wherever I go.”

Certainly, today’s Super Bowl between the Eagles and Patriots has put a lot of local loyalties to the test.

CR football coach Dan Candeloro has remained close with Harmon since he played for the Riders. But Candeloro also grew up rooting for the Eagles.

“I was telling people, ‘I can’t lose the game,’” said Candeloro. “‘I’m going to win on both ends.’

“I would love to see Duron have three interceptions and we (the Eagles) win by a point. … Everyone has their team but you want the best for the Duron. He’s such a good man. I just think it’s hard to root against him doing anything.

“I really want Duron to have a good game and I really want the Eagles to win the Super Bowl,” he added.

Candeloro, a former standout defensive lineman at Delaware State, has actually liked the Patriots since they gave him a free-agent tryout after college.

But Candeloro’s love of the Eagles goes back further than that.

As a kid growing up in New Castle, he’d go watch the Eagles’ preseason training camp in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Candeloro even has fond memories of a certain Eagle stepping on his foot once.

“We used to walk down the street with the players,” said Candeloro. “I kind of built a nice relationship with that team and never really went away from it.”

Wesley College football coach Mike Drass can relate to that. A native of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, he’s a lifelong Eagles fan, too.

In 1981, he remembers delaying his return to Mansfield State College for the spring semester so he could watch Philadelphia play Oakland in the Super Bowl. His dad had a big-screen projector TV.

Being a college football coach, however, Drass hardly ever gets to watch an Eagles’ game during the season. So something like today’s Super Bowl is particularly special for him.

And, no, he won’t spend the whole game thinking like a coach, questioning every move.

“I just enjoy it,” said Drass. “I watch it just like a fan. I don’t analyze anything.

“They’ve got a great chance, I think,” he said about the Eagles.

Drass actually knows someone who will be in the stands today in Minnesota, watching the Super Bowl in person.

Former Wesley football player Eugene Byrd is in his fourth year working in operations for the Eagles. Among his duties is being in charge of facility security on game days.

Being there when the Eagles won the NFC championship at Lincoln Financial Field two weeks ago will be a special memory for Byrd.

“To be a part of it is awesome,” he said. “The energy that comes out of it is unmatched. We’ve been doing a lot of work on the field and off the field and it’s been great.

“In facilities operations, there’s 13 of us. We all have individual roles. When you get your portion of the pie, you want to make sure that you take care of business.”

Today, though, Byrd won’t be worrying about getting 70,000 people in and out of the Linc.

The 26-year-old will be able to sit back and watch the game, just like any other Eagles fan in the stadium.

“When you’re working the event, you don’t always get the opportunity to sit and watch what actually takes place on the field,” said Byrd. “You have a role and responsibility.

“So this will be cool — for the first time in the last four years — to be able to sit down and actually watch a game from the stands and see the guys go to work.”

Del. Hoops Hall induction

Former Cape Henlopen High star Purnell Ayers was one of eight people inducted into the Delaware Basketball Hall of Fame on Jan. 27 in Newark.

Ayers was the state Player of the Year in both 1975 and ’76, as the Vikings won back-to-back state titles with a two-year record of 59-1. Ayers was later named Delaware’s Player of the Decade by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Also included in the Hall of Fame’s 12th class were former Tower Hill and Colgate standout Sarah Cashman; Wilmington High star Jermaine Medley, who was a three-year starter at Villanova; Ursuline and Massachusetts’ standout Kate Mills; Concord standout Tony Washam, who went on to play at West Virginia; Howard All-Stater James Webster (1955 and ’56), one of the state’s first dominant big men; former Seaford coach Steve Johnson, who won a total of five state titles while coaching at St. Mark’s, William Penn and Ursuline; and Mort Kimmel, a Wilmington attorney who revitalized the Blue-Gold All-Star Basketball Games after taking over leadership in 1998.

Odd & ends

•The 12th annual Capital Classic middle school basketball tournament gets underway on Feb. 12 at various sites. The locations include: Feb. 12 and 13, Central Middle School; Feb. 14, Mariner Middle School; Feb. 15, Woodbridge Middle School; and Feb. 17, Lake Forest High.

The championship games, on Feb. 17, are slated for 4:30, 6 and 7:30 p.m.

•Former DelState standout Jamaal Jackson is another former local person with ties to the Eagles. He was the Birds’ starting center from 2006-10 and now does radio work for station WIP.

•The DIAA dual-meet wrestling state tournament has been moved from its usual Tuesday schedule to Saturday this year. It will be held on Saturday, Feb. 10, at Smyrna High with the quarterfinals beginning at 2 p.m.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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