WHEN I went out for football at Ford City High in western Pennsylvania in the late '80s, I was awed by Harry Beckwith, our tough, old school coach who wore nut-hugger shorts. Harry taught me about poise, toughness and respect, and instilled the most important rule of all: "Stay the hell away from my daughter." Annie went to our rival high school. She was very pretty and seemed like a lot of fun to be around, and I was scared to talk to her--for obvious reasons.
Harry (inset) worked his butt off, but he wasn't an uptight coach who didn't know how to unwind. We'd hear about him and his assistants going to a game a few hours away to scout, and on the way home they'd stop at every bar and roll in at 4 a.m. I learned a lot about playing quarterback from Harry--I learned toughness is the most important thing. I broke my neck as a freshman and sat out sophomore year. I wasn't going to play again, but Harry persuaded me to come back. As a junior I ripped my quad, and Harry's attitude was, "Tape it up and go back in." I did, and before I knew it I had a scholarship to Tulsa.
I must have proved something to Harry, because the summer after my sophomore season at Tulsa I got invited to his 50th birthday party, at a fishing camp. He made a point of asking if I wanted to go with him the day before, "to help set up." When he came to pick me up, who was in the backseat but Annie. She was a nursing student at Pitt and had been crying because her boyfriend had just broken up with her. She was wearing this cute pink shirt I'll never forget, and I got the feeling it would finally be O.K. to talk to her. That invitation turned out to be Harry's greatest gift. I cheered up Annie (left, atop Gus), we started dating, fell in love and married. We have three kids, Abby, Gunnar and Gabe, who don't think Grandpa Harry is so tough--even when he's correcting their football stances in the backyard.
MARK KONEZNY/WIREIMAGE.COM (FREROTTE ACTION)
COURTESY OF HARRY BECKWITH (BECKWITH HEADSHOT)
CHRISTOPHER BRISCOE (FREROTTE AND WIFE)