Ed Stetz remembers the day like it just happened.
During his standout football career at Greater Johnstown High School, Stetz received considerable Division I attention and drew the eye of Dave Hart Sr., a former Trojans coach who was Pitt’s football coach in 1967.
Hart invited Stetz to attend a game at Pitt Stadium for a recruiting visit and he selected the Panthers’ Oct. 21 date against Miami (Fla.).
The reason? Stetz was a big fan of Hurricanes’ defensive end Ted Hendricks, an NFL Hall of Famer affectionately known as “The Mad Stork.”
“One of my idols was Ted Hendricks,” Stetz said. “And he completely dismantled Pitt. He blocked two or three punts, and the way he played just blew my mind.”
Miami won the game, 58-0, but neither team was lucky enough to land the services of Stetz.
Instead, the tough-as-nails linebacker landed at Wake Forest, where he rewrote the school and Atlantic Coast Conference record books during his stay with the Demon Deacons, as predicted by a junior high football coach.
Now, more than 40 years after Stetz watched Hendricks in amazement, the duo will be athletically linked as part of the 2012 ACC Football Legends class.
Stetz is one of 12 football players, along with former North Carolina wide receiver Torry Holt and former Clemson and Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Bennie Cunningham, to be honored at a banquet on Friday and before Saturday’s ACC Championship game between Florida State and Georgia Tech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
“What can I say? It completely caught me off-guard,” Stetz said Tuesday. “It’s a huge honor. I was taken aback. It’s an honor for my teammates and myself.”
Stetz was a defensive anchor on some of the best teams in Wake Forest history.
The 5-foot-11 linebacker who usually entered the season around 220 pounds, set Wake Forest records in career tackles (460), single-season tackles (203) and career solo tackles (271). When he finished playing for the Demon Deacons in 1971, his 460 tackles were an ACC record and he needed only 29 games to get that many.
From 1969 to 1971, Stetz regularly beat much larger offensive linemen and helped Wake Forest to a conference championship in 1970 – the first in the program’s history.
“What a year that was. The (North) Carolina game and N.C. State games were such big games. Really, every game was a big game,” said Stetz, who led Wake Forest onto the field for a game earlier this season. “I can remember Sports Illustrated did its college preview and there were three lines about Wake Forest that year: No offense, no defense, no hope. That was a rallying point.”
And Stetz, who was inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame this summer, led the charge as Wake Forest tackled a brutal schedule filled with powers like Nebraska, Florida State and Tennessee.
Stetz was known for his high-flying, athletic and aggressive play. Defensive coach Tom Harper gave Stetz permission to run stunts and improvise. In one game against Clemson in 1971, he had 29 tackles. That season, he averaged 18.5 tackles per game.
In 1970 and 1971, Stetz was an all-ACC selection. He played in the 1971 Blue-Gray All-Star game and was inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame in 2004.
“My nose was broken six times and I’m on two nose operations later,” Stetz said. “I once had a broken face and I didn’t even know it. I just knew my face was swollen. The hitting was pretty intense.”