In the late 1960s, Skip Macholz all but mythologized the number 25 at Bethpage. Tomorrow afternoon, it will be his, and only his, for good.
The Golden Eagles will retire Macholz's No. 25 before the game against Manhasset, paying respect to the Thorp Award winner who was considered to be one of the best area high school players. Macholz, whose given name was Dennis, was a Newsday All-Time All-Long Island selection who played at Michigan State before an injury-shortened career in the World Football League. He died in August after a long battle with cancer.
In his senior year at Bethpage, he played quarterback, halfback, tight end, flanker and defensive back for a 3-5 team that relied on him, said Pat Calabria, his friend and fellow Class of '69 graduate.
"He was the greatest football player I ever saw," said Calabria, a former Newsday sportswriter who works at Farmingdale State. "You're talking about a major talent. I have a very vivid memory of him -- 6-3, and over 200 pounds -- running the ball and hurdling a tackler . . . He really was a man among boys."
Calabria, who played baseball with Macholz, tutored him in English and eventually covered him as the sports editor of the school paper, will speak at the ceremony. Other speakers will include Superintendent Terrence Clark and Danny Severin, co-captain of the 1968 team. Macholz's daughter Marissa and son Curran are expected to attend, as well as teammates and other family members. Eventually, Calabria said, they also hope to establish a scholarship in his name.
"If you were a friend of Skip, your stature in school immediately improved," Calabria said. "I really want to explain what a giant he was on the football field . . . [And] what a genuine person."
Macholz's career ended with a knee injury, but his outgoing nature earned him a job as a sports broadcaster. His senior year at Bethpage, he averaged 7.7 yards per carry. Macholz's legacy, though, should go beyond simple numbers, Calabria said.
"I don't want this to just be about the name of a person who played 44 years ago," Calabria said. "I want people to know that at one time there was a guy named Skip Macholz who was larger than life, and there are those of us of that time who still remember that giant of an athlete."