A John Petercuskie Story
A John Petercuskie Story
A tale of class, leadership, and brotherly love
By Tom Beccone, NHS Class of 1967
There are many stories about Coach John Petercuskie floating around Langhorne to be sure. After all, the man is a bit of a legend in these parts and, dare I say, we mere mortals who played under his tutelage looked up to him as as something of a God, though I am pretty sure that he would’ve been the first one to decline that honorific. Even so, that was the way I viewed him from among the junior high school crowd at Carl Sandburg JHS in the spring of 1963.
I had played two seasons of football at Sandburg under coach Paris “Pal” Allison and his staff and I was looking forward to matriculating to the hallowed halls of Neshaminy High School and the grass of Playwicki Field where local football heroes were born. I was not a great football player. I was undersized for a lineman and the only things I had going for me was my ability to memorize plays and am intense love of the game. Other than that, I was just another part of the rabble who wanted to win a coveted spot on the Redskin football squad. Well, I did make the JV squad at the high school, complete with hand-me-down jersey and, I kid you not, a leather helmet. Holy jeez, I looked like Red Grange! Other than looking a bit like a player in a version of Andy Hardy Scores A Touchdown, I went largely unnoticed (I thought) by anyone on the coaching staff. Thus I was somewhat surprised when a letter came to me from “Coach Petercuskie” according to the return address. It read:
We are looking forward to August 18th when our first official practice begins. It is very important for you to be prepared to meet the challenge. However, I understand your grades have dropped considerably the past few months. We do not feel that a boy of your academic potential should drop. Therefore, please put in more time on your books. They will contribute a great deal to you in the many fine years that you have ahead.
P.S. See you for our first meeting in June. Will notify you later.
Well I had gotten noticed alright but not in a good way. How did he know I was screwing up academically? He must have spies everywhere I remembered thinking at the time. The same spies who knew when any of us was out after training curfew no doubt. The word embarrassed doesn’t even begin to describe the way I felt. I was mortified to say the least and realized I had to double down on my studies if I hoped to maintain my membership in this exclusive club.
Cut to the chase. Coach Petercuskie never brought the matter up to me in person. But that letter stuck with me as a reminder. I still have it and the envelope it came in as a memento of my brush with greatness. But this is where the story really gets interesting. A few years after this incident I discovered who had ratted me out to the coach. It was none other than my older brother Lew (NHS class of ’64) who did not like the fact that I was not taking my academic studies seriously. He went to Coach Petercuskie and apprised him of the situation and suggested to the coach that a word from him might be in order.
To this day I am not sure what impressed me more; the fact that the legendary coach cared enough to take the time to respond to my brother’s request and my situation or the fact that my brother (who I always looked up to) loved me enough to take action for my betterment.