By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA – Glen Galeone has coached hundreds of players during his 19 years as coach of Archbishop Ryan’s football team. Some stand out more than others, and for positive reasons in the high majority of cases.
Among them is 1996 graduate Patrick McDonald, an offensive guard of the 1995 squad that advanced to the Catholic League championship final and was named All-Catholic lineman his senior year.
Although his athletic prowess spoke for itself, it wasn’t McDonald’s football ability that stood out as much as his work ethic.
“He was old school,” said Galeone. “He just went out and played. He never complained. His parents never complained about things like playing time. He was a guy who was always dependable, but he never wanted to draw attention to himself.”
Last week, attention was drawn toward McDonald in tragic circumstances. A police officer for eight years, McDonald was killed by a gun-toting assailant after making a routine car stop in North Philadelphia.
The death of the 30-year-old resident of Northeast Philadelphia sent shockwaves throughout the local community. A long, steady line of mourners attended his wake Monday night and included the entire Ryan football team. Almost 2,000 people, including a huge contingent of police officers, turned out for his funeral on Tuesday at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
For Galeone, who has been in a high school community throughout most of his life, hearing about the death of a former student isn’t exactly an anomaly. But when Galeone was approached by one of his assistant coaches – a police officer himself – at practice the day of McDonald’s murder and told him what had occurred earlier that day, he did a double take.
“I hadn’t seen him in so many years, but I remember him like it was yesterday,” said Galeone, a palpable sadness evident in his voice. “He was a strong kid, and real, real intense. He was no more than 190 pounds, but boy, was he tough.”
Like all football linemen, McDonald had to endure numerous injuries during his career, some more acute than others. However, Galeone never learned about any of McDonald’s because he refused to talk about them.
“He played hurt, and he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to come out of the game,” said Galeone. “He was a fine football player. He was a warrior. That’s probably what made him such a good cop.”
When the Archbishop Ryan community gathered for a Mass last Friday to celebrate McDonald’s life, Galeone, also an administrator at Ryan, was impressed with the students’ sense of profound respect for one of their own.
Before last Saturday’s game against LaSalle, Galeone challenged his young men to provide their maximum effort for four quarters in honor of someone who consistently performed accordingly during his high school career.
The Raiders played the game while wearing McDonald’s initials on their helmets.
“I asked them to please not dishonor those initials,” said Galeone. “Ironically, a player who stood out from beginning to end was Matt Yabor, who was also a member of Pat’s parish at Christ the King. He was the toughest player on the field. He played both ways, was hitting people all day, and was flying all over the field. I shook his hand and told him he had played the same way Pat used to play.”
The Raiders lost the football game, but they didn’t lose the true meaning of what they were doing.
“It really puts things in perspective,” said Galeone. “We make a big deal about football, but in the end, it’s really only a game.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.