Conemaugh Township lost a football legend when Jerome’s Joe Badaczewski died suddenly at age 79 on Tuesday.

A star player at Conemaugh Township, Badaczewski went onto a three-year career at Michigan State University before returning home to coach Township for 25 seasons during two tenures.

“He’s a guy that went to Conemaugh Township, played at Conemaugh Township and was able to come back and coach and have great success at his alma mater,” said Sam Zambanini, a former player under Badaczewski who now coaches Township’s football and baseball teams. “I’m sure he was proud of the fact that he did it here at Conemaugh Township because he was a home-grown product.”

Badaczewski guided the Indians to a 102-85-5 mark during his first 21-year stint before stepping down in 1984. He finished at 110-112-6 with the Indians after coming back from 1989-92. Including four seasons as head coach at Everett early in his career, Badaczewski was 134-124-8.

“His record speaks for itself,” said Zambanini, who like his former coach, was a center at Township. “At one time he was the winningest coach in the Mountain Conference.”

Badaczewski played on Township’s 10-0 Western Conference Class A championship team in 1951 and was on the Tribune-Democrat All-Scholastic Team. He played center for three seasons at Michigan State and was in two Rose Bowls (1954 and 1956).

He guided Township to a 9-0 season in 1972, when he was named Cambria Area Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year. His teams went 8-1 in 1968, 1977 and 1978 – future NFL Super Bowl winner Jeff Hostetler won on the latter two teams.

“He had a huge impact on a lot of guys, myself as well as my three brothers,” said Hostetler, who played 12 NFL seasons and passed for 16,430 yards. “His demeanor, for my family and me, I think he had such a big impact on me in such a positive way. You could work hard and be successful coming from a small, small town. He proved it. He went to a big-time university. It was something you could look at and say this guy has been there and done some great things. It meant a lot.

“It’s a sad day. He was a good man,” Hostetler added. “Impact is a word I use a lot. It’s a strong and forceful word. Strike forcefully, leave a mark and leave an impression. That’s what he did.”

He also made a big impact on Bruce Holsopple, a two-way tackle on the undefeated 1972 team and currently a PIAA umpire.

“Joe meant so much to me,” Holsopple said. “He was a father figure. When my father died later in life, it was so nice to wrap my arms around Joe Badaczewski. He meant so much to me. He helped me in ways that I can’t even think of. He was such a driving force to me.

“The number of kids that he gave the opportunity to get a college education by playing football, there is a bunch and I’m one of them,” said Holsopple, who went to Clarion University.

In addition to Hostetler – who went to WVU and was part of two New York Giants Super Bowl championships – Badaczewski coached future Division I players such as WVU’s Scott Summits and Pitt’s Joel Klimek and Dan Rullo.

“He meant a lot to a lot of us. It wasn’t just the wins and losses,” said Zambanini, who was on the 1977-79 teams. “Joe did everything the right way. He taught a lot of us more than just football. He taught us the value of hard work. He was a man of integrity.”

“I love him and I’ll always love him,” added Holsopple. “I think every nickel I spend, I owe to Joe Badaczewski.”

The Hoffman Funeral Home in Davidsville is handling arrangements.

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