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Malinchak says Gladys was the catalyst

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Eric Crabtree and Bill Malinchak, two of the mainstays of Monessen High School’s High School's undefeated-untied (11-0-0) 1961 WPIAL Class AA football team were named to the first team on the United Press International All-State team. The All-State team was announced on Nov. 29, only five days after Monessen defeated Wllklnsburg 7-6 for the WPIAL title before some 18,000 fans at Forbes Field in Oakland (Pittsburgh) Sharing In the All-State recognition at the high school were, from left, Crabtree; MHS principal Henry Furio; head football coach Joe Gladys and Malinchak. Crabtree and Malinchak were two of the eight future National Football League players coaches by Gladys.

Bill Malinchak, a 1962 Monessen graduate, has been successful as both a pro football player and as a businessman on Wall Street.

His winning ways began in midget league football as an end with the Vocational Ramblers.

“We were the champs and it was fun being on a winning team, but the turning point in my career and in the success of the Monessen High program was when Joe Gladys was chosen to be the head coach,” Malinchak said. “He was just a really talented communicator, great teacher. He really knew how to handle young men — the perfect coach for me. I don’t think I would have had the kind of success that I had if it wasn’t for him.”

As a Greyhound, Malinchak (who also played baseball, basketball and volleyball) played cornerback, teaming with players such as Eric Crabtree and Ben Jones to cover enemy receivers.

“I think Monessen got recognized as a really dominant team and got respect in Pennsylvania when we beat Johnstown in my junior year, 1960,” he said. “They were a super power and they came into our stadium and we beat them, like 27-14, and we solidified that feeling when we went to Johnstown the next year and beat them up there.”

Malinchak was a key member of the 1961 WPIAL championship football team that went 11-0, winning it all with a hard-fought 7-6 decision over Wilkinsburg at Forbes Field. The following year he was the top scoring receiver in the WPIAL and earned All-American honors.

“Gladys was always a great motivator and he really was able to unleash the abilities that everybody had,” Malinchak said. “We had great athletes, too, like Tony Romasco, who played quarterback, and Jones and Crabtree, and they all blossomed when Gladys got there.

“Then once you have success, there’s an expectation for Monessen to do well and for individual players to go on and play in D-I schools — that was very satisfying.

“As years went by and I was in college and pros, I always wondered why somebody from a college didn’t (hire) him, but as you get older you realize, especially back then, it was very difficult to go from the high school to the college level. I always thought he could have been a good coach at any level.

“I always thought I was going to go to Notre Dame and I was being recruited strongly. Unfortunately, there was a difference of philosophies when I went there, so I thought I’d probably go to Penn State, but then coach Gladys liked Indiana.”

Taking his mentor’s advice, it was off to the Hoosier state.

Malinchak became an NCAA All-American and was the University of Indiana’s leading receiver from 1963-65 (14 TDs and 1,686 yards receiving). The statistics, though not astronomical, were due to the type of offense Indiana employed.

“In 1965 they started opening things up a little bit,” he said. “I think my sophomore and even my junior year I was running from like a tight end position— I wasn’t split out.

“I ended up setting all the (team) records, but they were hollow victories because we didn’t win,” he said. “It was rewarding in a way, but it was difficult because we never could get enough good players — we had good ones, a lot who played pro ball— but we not enough. Not the kind of depth that Ohio State or Michigan or Michigan State had. It was always a battle and a little frustrating.”

Malinchak was a third round draft pick in 1966 by the Detroit Lions. In his second season, he started only six games, yet led the team in touchdowns and receiving yardage. He ended his 10-year career with an average of 14.5 yards per reception.

His final six seasons were with the Washington Redskins, mainly under coach George Allen. Malinchak became a secret weapon on specialty teams. In a game against Minnesota, he blocked a punt, retrieved it and rambled in for a score.

Two weeks later, he blocked a New England punt that resulted in a safety.

During his final regular season NFL contest in 1976, the Redskins win over Dallas was partially due to another one of his blocked punts. He led the NFL in blocked punts in his final season.

According to a Redskins blog, Washington’s special teams coordinator Marv Levy praised Malinchak, saying that unlike most players, “Bill split his hands out at the foot to block the ball off the foot. His technique was … to block it before it rises.”

Malinchak lives with his wife Pamela (Duswalt). He is the father of four athletic daughters.

Wayne Stewart is a free lance writer.

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