Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Treasuring the Tradition

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Treasuring the Tradition

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- Every Thanksgiving morning, Shawn Collins gets together for breakfast with former Kennedy football teammates and ex- Eastside players before they head over to Bauerle Field for one of the longest-running Thanksgiving games in New Jersey.

"This is a really special game and occasion," Collins said. "These guys who'll play Thursday, they don't know it yet, but they're going to be talking about it for the next 20, 30 years. We're pushing 40 and we get together each and every Thanksgiving. We discuss some of the highlights from our games and then we go out and watch the younger guys."

Collins, one of the highest-profile football players in Kennedy history, and many others who've played in the Thanksgiving game consider themselves responsible for making players for Paterson's high schools understand and appreciate the tradition of a Thanksgiving game played every year since 1925.

Collins, who played for Michigan and Syracuse, teaches at International High School in Paterson, where players for Eastside and Kennedy are students.

"I initially thought the rivalry died down a little," Collins said. "But in speaking with the kids, I see that it's just as strong as ever. They're just as pumped and motivated to play this game as ever. It's just exciting for someone like myself, who came out of that tradition, to see that it's still going strong."

Eastside-Kennedy, one of only six Thanksgiving games still played in Bergen and Passaic counties, doesn't draw crowds in excess of 5,000 the way it once did at shuttered Hinchliffe Stadium.

Crowds of approximately 3,000 still typically gather for the annual game at Bauerle Field, where the Ghosts and Knights play their home games. The game, and several related events, always attracts alumni and former players from far and near.

Former NFL linebacker Ricardo McDonald, who lives near Houston, will be among those honored Thursday, when he and fellow former Eastside standout T.J. Hill will have their numbers retired during a halftime ceremony. …

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