By Matt Diano: In the gospel of Matthew, it is written, “The greatest among us will be those who are called to serve (23:11).”
The Book of Peter concurred, stating, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (4:10).”
All throughout our sacred book, the message remains….In order to be true brothers or sisters of Christ, we must always place the interests of our fellow man ahead of ourselves.
Never were these lessons better exemplified than in the bodies, souls, and hearts of Jim Graham, Jim Parker, Kevin Magee, Dan Eagle, and John Kelly—all of whom will receive the ultimate earthly recognition and reward for their respective lifetimes of service to Catholic Football on Sunday when they are formally inducted onto the Board of Governors at the Annual Communion Awards Breakfast.
Being enshrined into an exclusive and unparalleled club, the class of 2016 will be the 184th, 185th, 186th, 187th, and 188th members to have our highest honor bestowed upon them….Consisting of two officials and three iconic coaches, these distinguished gentlemen upheld with the utmost certainty the teachings of the “Good Book” as all used their chosen gifts to the fullest of their abilities in promoting, cultivating, and instructing our student-athletes….They represent the bedrock of all we hold dear; they are pillars of the CHSFL community.
On behalf of those who walked before them, as well as the many who in future years will aspire to reach their standard of excellence and selflessness, please join us in rejoicing and celebrating our five new brethren; we welcome them with the same open arms that received Paul and Barnabas during their travel to Jerusalem.
Enjoying more than two decades of service to the CHSFL, Mr. Graham’s heart has long belonged to the Catholic athletic, dating back to his time as a student at St. John the Baptist High School….A measuring stick against which other referees use to determine and improve their effectiveness, the former Cougar routinely ranks among the highest rated officials in the league, as recognized by the frequency in which he is called upon to handle postseason assignments (including having the honor of being a member of the crew for the first Catholic State title game in 2014)…When not donning the zebra suit, Graham has also thrived in another capacity, serving as chairperson for the committee that selects the prestigious Winchester Unsung Hero Award since its inception.
The second of our two decorated officials, Mr. Parker himself recently surpassed his 20-year anniversary, getting his start with the Metropolitan Officials Association and the CHSFL in 1991…Like Graham, Parker is the epitome of what it means to be a “ref’s ref.” Regarded as one of the best in the business by his peers, Parker is cherished not just for his ability to get the call right on the gridiron, but also for his unrelenting willingness to take younger officials under his wing and mentor them.
Labelled as a ‘wearer of many hats” by the Archbishop Stepinac football family, Mr. Magee is that rare specimen who does not get caught up in titles or politics. His personal job description is that he does WHATEVER it takes in order to help the Crusader student-athletes bring their dreams to fruition….A 24-year veteran on the AS sideline, prior to making his way to Stepinac, Magee was on staff at Westchester Community College.
Like Magee, Eagle has been at the forefront of some of his school’s greatest moments…His coaching career at Cardinal Spellman commenced in 1972, serving as the Head Coach of the Junior Varsity for two seasons…Promoted to Varsity Defensive Coordinator in 1974, he held this position through the 1980 season…In 1994, he returned to the varsity sideline, eventually ascending into the top spot on staff in 1997…In the six years that he was Head Coach, the Pilots flourished, advancing to the AA title game in 1998 and returning to Championship weekend in 2002 as a part of the single-A final….Transitioning into more of a mentoring/emeritus role over the course of the past three seasons, even if his name did not appear on staff, it goes without saying that Eagle very much had a direct hand in helping Spellman reach the Class-A title contest in back-to-back seasons (2015, 2016).
A man who loves this game so much that the only thing that could keep him away on a daily basis were the effects of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Kelly is an inspiration, both for his work on the field and for the courageous example he is now setting off of it….Hailed as the “perfect freshman coach” by those who know him best, Kelly spent 10 years turning the boys on his Xavier teams into men and future leaders…A builder of character and an instiller of core values that translate into every walk of life, if you had the privilege of playing for Kelly, you no doubt are now a better person because of that experience….Amassing a career record of 53-25, in the decade spent roaming the sidelines, Kelly only had one losing season. To this day, he remains the only football coach in Knights’ history to oversee a perfect season, which his squad achieved when they posted an 8-0 mark in 2010. It is worth noting that two years later, many of those same players would be key members of the 2012 varsity team that won the AA crown…While his health may have forced him into relinquishing coaching duties, Kelly remains the backbone and foundation of Xavier football. His presence is always felt…On Thanksgiving Day, Xavier was honored to have him in attendance for the 93rd edition of their historic Turkey Bowl rivalry against Fordham Prep.