Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rusnak's Fb Boot Camp

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rusnak's Fb Boot Camp

Article excerpt

Not everyone stayed. For some members of the 1965 Garfield football team, those voluntary summer workouts were too intense.

The remaining players sprinted. They did position drills. They worked themselves into midseason shape weeks before the season began.

Overseeing these grueling sessions were Kevin Rusnak and John Tomko, the Boilermakers' co-captains.

"We wanted to be the best," Rusnak said. "That's what we strived for. We worked the heck out of everybody. The guys who stayed, they all appreciated it."

The results were hard to argue.

With Rusnak the catalyst at quarterback, Garfield went 8-1 on the way to a Group 4 state title. Co-champions of the Passaic Valley Conference, the Boilermakers outscored opponents, 176-61, and posted back-to-back shutouts to end the season.

They remain one of the top teams in Bergen history and had one of the county's best athletes running the show on offense.

"His leadership, his confidence - he'd make you play better," Tomko said of Rusnak. "He had certain standards. He was meticulous for what he expected."

Rusnak had plenty of talented, dedicated players around him, too. Together, they developed from a freshman team that went 1-9.

"I don't know of any rancor on the team," teammate Don Diorio said. "It was very well run."

Coach Frank Dawson let Rusnak call the plays and "it worked out," Rusnak said.

Garfield's only loss was a 20-19 decision to Passaic, and the Boilermakers beat Clifton, 27-0, for the first time in 17 years.

Rusnak's performances started getting him attention from football powerhouses around the country. Ohio State showed the most interest. Carlstadt native Larry Catuzzi was one of Woody Hayes' assistants and initiated contact. Hayes eventually visited Rusnak's family, and Hayes' wife even made a visit.

So Rusnak headed to Columbus, Ohio, and became a Buckeye. But not just for the football team. …

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