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My glory days: Pete Marczyk, Holy Spirit High School football, 1992

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By GIUSEPPE UNGARO Managing Editor Pete Marczyk often spent his high school and college career using his strength, mental toughness, and intelligence to demoralize opponents on the gridiron. The former Holy Spirit High School standout lineman, who was was one of the area’s most touted recruits and played at Penn State, now builds the confidence and morale of students in an Atlantic City classroom, teaching social studies and life lessons he learned from his playing career, to seventh and eighth graders. “It’s very fulfilling. I work with kids who appreciate the time I put in and I see a lot of progress from the beginning of the year to the end of year, which is something I always enjoyed about teaching,” said the 42-year-old Uptown Complex teacher. “I enjoy seeing the kids grow, not just academically, but also their maturity and their understanding of how the world works; not to sweat the small stuff; just seeing them realize they have the tools to reach their goals whatever they might be.” During his tenure playing tackle, the 1992 graduate led the Spartans to a state title in his junior year and a finals appearance the following year. Marczyk, who is married to his high school sweetheart Anna, and has six children — Peter, 12, Stanley, 10, AnnaMaria, 8, Michael, 6, Rose, 5, and Faith, 2 — hasn’t worn the navy and gold of Holy Spirit in 24 years, but his high school experience made a lasting impact throughout his life. The Absecon resident reached the pinnacle of high school athletics, as he and his teammates captured a championship, but he also suffered through tough practices and even tougher losses. What he learned on the playing field and in the classroom has made him a better father and husband, and also a mentor to his students, he said. Pete Marczyk, a former star football player at Holy Spirit and Penn State, and wife Anna have six children, including (from left) AnnaMaria (age 8), Rose (5), Michael (6), Peter (12), Faith (2) and Stanley (10). (Photo provided by Marczyk family) Pete Marczyk, a former star football player at Holy Spirit and Penn State, and wife Anna have six children, including (from left) AnnaMaria (age 8), Rose (5), Michael (6), Peter (12), Faith (2) and Stanley (10). (Photo provided by Marczyk family) “I just had a conversation with my son (Peter), and he said his coaches were saying that football will carry you through life; you can get a football scholarship to a college. He then paused, confused, like he didn’t get it. I told him most guys don’t get scholarships, but everybody has to get a job, has to deal with stuff they don’t like dealing with, work with people they may not like but still work as a team,” Marczyk explained. “It really did teach me those things. It taught me how to deal with things I didn’t care for. I didn’t like running at the end of practice. I didn’t like feeling like dirt and being worn out, but, boy, that rewarding feeling after the fact, knowing I was getting in shape, was well worth it. The same thing today. There are things I don’t like about my job, things I don’t want to deal with, but I know it is rewarding when I go through and do the things the right way. If you do the things the right way, it works out.” Champions forever The 1990 Spartans went undefeated in the regular season, which included a 6-3 win over non-conference rival Holy Cross. The teams met again in the NJSIAA Parochial A South championship. Holy Spirit scored twice in the first half and held on for a 13-7 win to clinch the title and an undefeated season. “We were on top of the world. We were .500 the year before. We had a handful of seniors who took that leadership role,” Marczyk said. “They weren’t the greatest athletes or greatest football players, but they were great people. Looking back, I realize now, it was their character that kept us all together. We had the perfect combination of people. We had enough talent to play with anybody, but we had a lot of character that kept us from falling apart when things didn’t go our way.” The Spartans were coached by the late Ed Byrnes, who passed away in 1996. Brynes attended Holy Spirit when Pete’s father, Stanley, was an educator, athletic director and also a football coach. Pete Marczyk fondly remembers his old high school coach. “He looked out for everyone. I was a highly-touted player, and he put in a lot of time with me in preparing for college, but I know so many of my friends that he took the time to help them out the exact same way. He never looked for anything in return. He was old-fashioned, do things because they were the right things to do. “When I think about him, I think about how he kept so many guys involved who would have not played for other coaches. I could have gone both ways and eaten somebody’s spot on defense. A lot of guys could have, but he recognized, and I think it was a real strength in our program, that he kept guys coming out every year. Now you hear that players don’t come out for the team, maybe they didn’t get the opportunity as sophomores and juniors so they won’t go out for the team and they lose interest. He kept everybody involved, tried to get guys involved on special teams, and he rewarded seniority. He rewarded guys who have been through the program and paid their dues, which is life lesson for sure.” The Spartans had a chance to repeat in 1991, but came up short. However, the title and the memories Marczyk made won’t be forgotten. “I think about the practices, and the time spent with my friends, the camaraderie we had, and not knowing how great it was. Well, we knew it was great, but it was so much greater than I realized,” Marczyk said. “Just digging in together and making something out of nothing and working hard. We weren’t the greatest across the board talent-wise, but we were tough, we stuck together, and we got the most out of our years in high school.” Happy times Marczyk’s play in high school made him one of the top recruits in the state, if not the nation. He had his pick of some of the best programs in the country. His mother and older brother were hoping the lineman would eventually make the trek to South Bend, Ind., to play for Notre Dame. It was a lifelong dream of Pete’s, too. However, that changed after meeting legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno, and eventually the rest of the coaching staff after a visit to Happy Valley. Paterno also visited Holy Spirit and the Marczyk’s Absecon home, hoping to convince Pete to consider attending Penn State. “It was surreal, meeting him for the first time after seeing him on TV. I don’t remember much about him coming to school,” Marczyk said. “I do remember him coming to my house, and my mom and dad being there. My mom was a Notre Dame supporter through and through, and she made no bones about it. He knew what he was in competition with. He laid out the line, and had it all prepared. He said, ‘there were probably more Catholics on Penn State’s team then there are on Notre Dame.’ It was funny.” Marczyk red-shirted his freshman year, and played the next four seasons, as the Nittany Lions amassed a 42-7 record from 1993-96, including a 12-0 perfect season in 1994, which ended with a Rose Bowl victory. The team won a bowl game in the other three seasons as well. Marczyk saw significant playing time in his fourth year, and was a starter, playing in every game his last season in Happy Valley in front of more than 93,000 people. “It was a thrill,” Marcyk said of running out of the tunnel. “I knew I wasn’t going to play that first time running out, but it was still a thrill. It’s more than you can imagine. Every time running out on any field, it was a thrill to be a part of that.” Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: gungaro@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu [adsense]

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