Dennis Macholz, Bethpage High football star

Bethpage football player Dennis "Skip" Macholz of Bethpage,

Bethpage football player Dennis "Skip" Macholz of Bethpage, shown here in 1968, passed away on July 3, 2012. (Credit: Handout)

Dennis "Skip" Macholz was a star athlete with a big personality.

He played football, basketball and baseball at Bethpage High School. He won the Thorp Award as Nassau County's top high school football player in 1968, playing almost every position for the Golden Eagles.

Macholz, who went on to play tight end and guard at Michigan State University and professionally for the short-lived Detroit Wheels of the World Football League before becoming a successful sports broadcaster, died July 3 in Lansing, Mich., after a long bout with cancer. Macholz, of Lansing, was 60.

"He was a one-man team," said fellow 1969 Bethpage High School graduate Pat Calabria, a former sportswriter for Newsday. "I wish I could really explain to you how unbelievable, how mind-boggling a talent he was on the football field, but like someone once told me about Babe Ruth, 'I get tired of talking about him because no one believes me.' "

George Blaha, the play-by-play announcer for Michigan State football since 1971, knew Macholz well. He watched him play for the Spartans and later partnered with him on football broadcasts and a Detroit-area sports talk show.

Blaha once described Macholz as "the funniest guy in the world that wasn't a paid comedian."

"Once you talked to him, you couldn't help but like him," Blaha said. "He had that New York state of mind about him in a very, very friendly way. We hit it off, became friends and some years later we started working together on the air."

Brian McConnell, Macholz's teammate and roommate at Michigan State, recalled his mix of humor and intensity.

"He would do crazy things," McConnell said. "He would be across from a big offensive tackle and he would say, 'I just want you to know something. There's gonna be two sounds when the ball is snapped: me hitting you and you hitting the ground.' "

A knee injury that ended Macholz's professional football career after just three games was just a fork in the road to his broadcasting career. Blaha, familiar with Macholz's wit, put in a word with his radio boss.

"I said . . . 'You've got to give Skip a shot,' " Blaha said. " 'This guy is funny, he's aware, he's got that New York feel, I think he'll sound different from everybody else. And plus we get along great.' "

That sparked a broadcast career as a color commentator for Michigan State football games in the late 1970s and as a talk-show host through the 1980s. He later worked in sales for Coca-Cola on Long Island.

"He reached out to everyone and touched so many people," his wife, Marsha, said. "And he was so good to his family."

Macholz is survived by his wife of 37 years, Marsha; children Marissa and Curran; and brothers William and Robert.

A funeral was held in Michigan.

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