John Kasay played football during a special era at Greater Johnstown High School.
Kasay just missed being a part of the 1958 WPIAL championship squad, but those Trojans had a big impact on his gridiron career both locally and in Athens, Ga.
After his high school graduation in 1962, Kasay migrated to the University of Georgia on the advice of Trojans coach Dave Hart, who once had been part of the Bulldogs program.
Kasay stayed with the Bulldogs for 44 years as either a player or an assistant coach/administrator.
The Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame will induct Kasay on Saturday night at the Pasquerilla Conference Center. His induction will be an honor Kasay will share with his Trojans and Bulldogs’ brethren.
“We had so much help along the way,” Kasay said. “The year I was here at Johnstown, the guys that came before me, the 1958 and 1959 teams, they brought a lot of scouts to this area. Having Dave Hart, (assistant coach) Blackie Mihalic and (trainer) Doc Stofko, it was as good as it could be. If you go to Texas today to find a first-class high school program, you couldn’t have done any better than what Dave Hart did.
“I could have been somewhere else and not have had the advantage of a forward-thinking individual like he was. He was just special, one of those kind of people you thank every day that you knew them. He was the guy that led you and he taught you the right way to do things.”
Hart advised Kasay to play at Georgia, where he started at right guard on Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley’s 1966 SEC co-champion and Cotton Bowl-winning team. Georgia won 10 games that season and finished ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll.
That same season, Notre Dame and Michigan State were declared co-champions after playing to a 10-10 tie. Johnstown Catholic’s Pete Duranko and Greater Johnstown’s Jeff Richardson played for the Irish and Spartans, respectively, which meant the city was represented on three of the top-four ranked college teams in the country.
“I had a really nice career at Georgia,” Kasay said. “I had a couple individual honors. When we were the Southeastern Conference champions in 1966 we played the Southwest Conference champions (Southern Methodist University) in the Cotton Bowl. We won that easily (24-9) and finished ranked (fourth) in the country. I made the All-Bowl team.”
Kasay joined the Georgia coaching staff as an offensive assistant and strength and conditioning coach working with Dooley, whom he also credits as a major influence.
“I’ve always been a team-type man,” Kasay said. “Individual honors were always a little bit difficult for me to take because we were always taught we couldn’t have won anything or be picked for anything unless we were on good teams with good teammates.
“I always thought the individual who thought he was the difference always made the difference, but the wrong way. The game of football is probably the most difficult game to get the people to pull on the same rope at the same time in the right way.”
At Georgia, Kasay was a coach during the Bulldogs’ 12-0 season in 1980, when Georgia won the national championship and SEC behind Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker. He was on the staff of two Bulldogs’ teams that lost Sugar Bowl games to Pitt (1976 season) and Penn State (1982 season) when those Pennsylvania teams won national championships.
“Vince Dooley came in as coach (in 1964), and I was with another guy who knew what he was doing,” said Kasay, who worked his way into a starting role under Dooley. “Then, I was 21 years old when he hired me as a coach.
“That staff was very good. There were six guys who left that staff over time and became head coaches. That staff kind of revitalized Georgia football. That’s been 50 years now. There has been a lot of winning going on in the last 50 years down there.”
Kasay had an impact on his players. That point will be reinforced by two members of the 1980 national championship squad who will make the trip to Johnstown on Saturday.
Center Hugh Nall and right guard Tim Morrison made commitments to attend the banquet in support of their coach.
“That means a lot to me,” said Kasay, 67. “Sometimes you don’t realize how influential you are because sometimes all you’re trying to do is win and survive. In college it takes a great deal of dedication.”
Kasay was fortunate enough to coach his son John at Georgia from 1987 to 1990. The younger Kasay went on to a 21-year career as a NFL placekicker, including 15 seasons and one Super Bowl appearance with the Carolina Panthers.
Kasay Sr. credits his Johnstown coaches for teaching him the game and enabling him to coach for four-plus decades.
“The discipline was there. Dave Hart didn’t fool around,” Kasay said. “If you were going to be a bad actor, he didn’t put up with you. That held true with everything I did the whole 44 years I was at Georgia. Those little building blocks that were provided for us when we were young never, never lost their strength. They were used time and time again, even when I was chairman of the discipline committee at the University of Georgia. I did things the way Dave would have done them. It works out when you emulate good people.
“Ed Stofko had a lot to do with it. He kept things light,” he added. “He kept things serious when it was needed. He was our friend and confidante. I’ve always said my coaching style was a mix between Blackie Mihalic and Ed Stofko. Ed had as much to do with those football teams because of the homey style he brought into the locker room.”
Now, Kasay will join Hart and Stofko as well as 1958 Trojans stars George Azar, Ed Adamchik and Jerry Davitch in the Cambria Hall.
“It’s humbling,” Kasay said. “These guys were the standards. I tried to be as good as they were. If it wasn’t for them in 1958 and 1959, where they went 21-0, that brought one hell of a bunch of scouts. When you’ve got a 21-game winning streak, everyone wants to know what you’re doing and who you have doing it.
“I can’t take much of the credit because I had so many opportunities. I only had to provide the energy. I went to a great high school and a great college.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.