Pete Blieberg spent much of his life trying to get others into the position he’s now enshrined in.
A teacher and a coach since 1981, Blieberg, who was an athletic director at school districts in Kings Park, East Islip and Sachem from 1991 to 2016, has spent his entire adult life in athletics. After playing football, hockey and lacrosse in high school, he went on to play one year of football and four years of lacrosse at Ashland University in Ohio. On Friday, he was one of eight people inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s just been a dream that I never thought would be attainable, to be recognized in a place like this and with the people that I’ve always looked up to and admired,” said Blieberg, who credited his mentors in athletics. “To be able to be in that type of club or organization and to be recognized with them is just overwhelming.”
One of the endeavors Blieberg is most proud of his participation with is the “Empire Challenge” high school football game for the past 22 years, which teams with the Boomer Esiason Foundation to raise research money for cystic fibrosis.
Blieberg isn’t the only inductee with Esiason connections. Brent Ziegler, a standout football and lacrosse player at West Islip High School, was a two-sport All-Long Island athlete who played football for Syracuse University before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the same class as Esiason. But the two knew each other far before draft day.
Ziegler played against Esiason, an East Islip graduate, on the gridiron in high school. They also played four times at college when Esiason was at Maryland.
“The games were extremely intense,” Ziegler said. “At the time, that was probably the biggest rivalry on Long Island.”
Also inducted were former Bay Shore High School softball star Karen Dromerhauser-Velardo, whom her former coach, Jim McGowan, called “one of the most prolific power hitters we’ve ever had,” along with Gene Heeter, who scored the first touchdown at Shea Stadium as a tight end for the Jets; Mark Semioli, who was a standout soccer player at Stanford and in the MLS; Ray Searage, who had a 10-year major league baseball career; John Pacella, who has 15 years of professional baseball experience; and Linda Nicosia, a track standout who among her long list of accomplishments includes being the first female in New York State to run a mile in less than five minutes, a time she set in 1979.