Nov. 14, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. - When he was a student at Georgetown, Joe Lonardo (C'69) remembered hearing stories about the glory days of Georgetown football. He remembered former football players coming back to campus and talking about the teams that laid the foundation for the program.
What Lonardo remembered about that most was the feeling that it was ancient history. It was nearly 30 years ago, but he recalled hearing stories of the 1941 Orange Bowl and the 1950 Sun Bowl.
On Saturday, when Georgetown captains Nick Umar (Belle Mead, N.J./Montgomery) and Dan Matheny (Fairfax, Va./St. Paul VI) meet their counterparts from Fordham for the coin flip, Lonardo, a captain on the 1968 team that went 3-2, will join them. Lonardo will be joined by one of the captains of the 1968 Fordham team, John Rizzo.
Lonardo, a right-side offensive tackle, lined up against Rizzo, a left-side defensive tackle, for three years. The two went up against each other constantly in a series that is one of the longest and most traditional in Georgetown football, the Fordham game.
"Coach (Kevin) Kelly, Coach (Rob) Sgarlata and I spoke at the beginning of the season," Lonardo explained over the phone on Thursday from his office in Washington, D.C., where he is a lawyer. "We've been aware of each other (Lonardo and Rizzo) and we had a mutual friend and contacted one another."
The pair exchanged e-mails at the start of the season and both former players contacted each coach, Kelly on the Georgetown side and Tom Massella at Fordham, about serving as honorary captains for the game.
"Georgetown-Fordham is a traditional rivalry," Lonardo said. "To me, to go back and have the chance to meet him again and support our programs is a tremendous opportunity. The guy on the other side (Rizzo) has been very involved with his program. We both had the same feeling about doing this."
Lonardo will meet the Georgetown team at its hotel Friday night and will address the players at their dinner. He will speak to the seniors about what it is like to play their last game and about the history of the rivalry.
"While I played in 1968, I have ties to the current team,"Lonardo said. "One of the players, (sophomore offensive lineman) Dan Semler, his father was in school with me. Some of the sons on this team are the sons of people I know, so it's a very special thing for me to speak to them.
"You always remember your last game. It's Fordham, which for the football alums, is a big thing. The football alums are really proud of this senior class and what they've done to help rebuild this program."
After talking to the team, Lonardo said he will confer with Coach Kelly and his staff to make sure they have the right call for the coin flip. "I told Coach Kelly and Coach Sgarlata that I want to get the Hoyas off to the right start," Lonardo said.
More than anything, Lonardo is thrilled for the chance to speak to the team about his experiences, both as a student and an athlete, and to talk to them about what Georgetown means to him.
"Georgetown is really a special place," Lonardo said. "People who enjoy Georgetown make special friendships not only with their contemporaries, but with the students. We all share at least one common bond, and that's Georgetown."