Tag: <span>Wall of Champions</span>


John McVay, Wall of Champions

John McVay always wanted to be a football coach.  You see, he was drawn to the profession when he saw first-hand the stability provided by some great leaders in the sport, specifically Massillon head coach Chuck Mather and Miami of Ohio coaches Woody Hayes and Ara Parseghian.  But eventually he would become much more than that.  Not only did McVay coach in the high school, college and professional arenas, he also served as general manager at the highest level, enjoying tremendous success in the process.  Here is his story.

John McVay was born on January 5, 1951, in Bellaire, Ohio, and moved shortly afterward to Massillon.  It was there in Tigertown that he received his first exposure to organized football.  His first two years of varsity play were under Coach Bud Houghton.  But his senior season saw a change in leadership when Chuck Mather arrived in town.  Mather’s tutelage provided the spark that would eventually launch McVay’s long career in football.

During McVay’s first season, which was his final year in high school, Mather fashioned a 9-1 record and a first place finish in the Associated Press state poll, ahead of Canton McKinley, which also finished 9-1.  John McVay was instrumental in this success and was named for his efforts as 2nd Team All-Ohio at the center position.  But McVay was also a good student at Massillon, as he was accepted into the National Honor Society.

College found him at Miami of Ohio, where he played his first two years under Woody Hayes.  Hayes finished 9-1 during his second year and then departed for Ohio State.  In came Ara Parseghian who, during McVay’s final two years there, recorded 15 wins in 19 starts.  Again McVay was right in the mix.  A 2-time MVP for Miami, McVay was also selected as All-Mid-American Conference center and served during his senior year as team captain.  With an education degree under his belt, he would later earn a Master’s Degree in School Administration at Kent State.

Now it was time for his dream job; i.e., coaching football.  After serving as an assistant at Lancaster High School for three years, McVay landed his first head coaching assignment at Franklin High School in 1956.  Although his team struggled during his only year there, he was able to return home the following year to assume the head reigns at Canton Central Catholic, a position he held for five years.  While there, McVay fashioned a fine record of 41-7, including a 9-1 mark in 1959, when his team finished 7th in the state.  When he departed, he was the winningest coach ever at Central.  Today, McVay is honored with a scholarship in his name.

McVay’s success at Central was notable and he was able to jump then to college.  His first stop was Michigan State University, where he served under legendary coach Duffy Daugherty.  Three years later, in 1965, he was hired as head coach at the University of Dayton.  During his eight years there, he recorded a record of 37-41-3, finishing 8-2 in 1962, which was one of the best marks in the Flyers’ history.

The World Football League, a short-lived venture started in 1974, called on McVay to coach Memphis.  He immediately signed three standout athletes from the Miami Dolphins that were nearing the ends of their playing careers in order to bolster attendance.  They included Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick (two are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame).  At Memphis, McVay finished a respectable 24-7, good enough to be named head coach of the New York Giants the following year.  He coached there for three seasons, which were his final years as a coach.  Following a 20-year span of head coaching assignments, McVay had won 117 games against 85 losses and 6 ties.

But he wasn’t done with football just yet.  In 1979, McVay was hired by the San Francisco 49ers to become Vice President and General Manager, a position he held for 18 years.  Under his leadership, McVay stocked the team with some outstanding players, including Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Fred Dean.  In all, he brought in some 50 players who were later selected as All-Pro.  But his crowning achievement was the five Super Bowl Championships captured by the 49ers during his tenure.  Coach Bill Walsh once said, “It’s quite possible that the 49ers would not have won five Super Bowls had it not been for John McVay.”

And the beat goes on.  His grandson, Sean McVay, is the current head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.

McVay has been inducted into the following halls of fame:

  • Massillon High School Wall of Champions, 1963 (charter member)
  • Massillon High School Distinguished Citizen, 1996
  • Massillon High School Tiger Football  Hall of Fame, 2016
  • Stark County, Ohio, High School Hall of Fame, 2005
  • Miami of Ohio University Football Red Hawks, 1977
  • San Francisco 49ers, 2013
  • San Francisco Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, 2018

Can the Pro Football Hall of Fame be far off for John McVay?

Mike Riordan provided the materials for this story.


Ben Bradley Was a Giant of a Man On…

Research material provided by Mike Riordan.

He seemed larger than life when he trotted onto the field prior to the Ohio High School North-South All-Star Game.  He was 6’-2”, 282 lbs., dwarfing future NFL Hall-of-Fame teammate Alan Page.  And at the time he was the largest player to ever don a Massillon Tiger Jersey.  But he was also a gentle giant, devoting his later years to making Massillon a better place.

Ben Bradley at WHS

“Big Ben” Bradley was born in Anderson, Alabama, to parents Oscar and Blanche, on November 26, 1944.  Early in life the family moved to Massillon and as a high schooler Ben took up the sports of football, wrestling and track.  He also sang in the choir.  But it was football where Ben made his mark.  At a time when high school lineman weighed in from 175 to 200 lbs., Ben played his sophomore season at 6’-0, 220 lbs. and grew to 6’-2”, 265 lbs. by the time his senior season rolled around.

Playing under the very successful Coach Leo Strang, his teams finished 10-1 in 1960 (state champs), 11-0 in 1961 (2nd in the state A.P. poll, 1st in the state UPI poll), and 6-5 in 1962.  Along the way, he had two opportunities to play in the annual Massillon-McKinley fracas and his team was victorious both times.

Ben’s normal position was center, but he occasionally filled in at offensive tackle when needed.  In recognition of his outstanding play, he was named All-Stark County in 1961 and 1962, and 1st Team A.P. All-Ohio in 1962, while being named that year as a Massillon Co-Captain and subsequently its most valuable player.  The awards didn’t stop there as they moved to the national scene, where was named 1st Team Pre-Season All-American by “Complete Sports” magazine and 1st Team All-American by “Scholastic Coach” magazine.

High School football success brought Ben to the University of Dayton, where he continued his football career and was named Outstanding Freshman Football Player.  He eventually transferred to Northwood Institute College in Michigan to complete his studies.  At Northwood, he continued to excel on the gridiron and was named 1st Team NAIA Conference at Offensive Tackle.  Ben was eventually drafted in 1967 by both the NFL Kansas City Chiefs and the Montreal Allouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Post-football, Ben spent his entire career with General Motors and retired in 1993 as General Supervisor of Inland GM, Lake St. Louis, Missouri.  He remained active in Massillon, but died too young on June 8, 2008 at the age of 63.

In 2008, Bradley was inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions and 2019 he was inducted into the Tiger Football hall of Fame.

“Big Ben” was a true community role model.  In fact, his accomplishments on the football field are rather insignificant when compared to his community involvement.  But never one to stay away from football, Ben also took a turn in 2006 as President of the Massillon Tiger Football Booster Club.  In addition, he also held these positions, when he wasn’t selling tickets for the freshmen and JV games:

  • Athletic Advisory Council, President
  • Second and first vice president of the Massillon Tiger Booster Club (2005, 2006)
  • Incumbent 2008 President of the Massillon Tiger Touchdown Club

Away from sports, Ben was heavily engaged in community organizations, including:

  • Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Stark County Community Action Agency Committee
  • Member of the Massillon Parks and Recreation Board
  • City Planning Commissiondon n
  • African American Men’s Association
  • Member of the Mayor’s Drug Task Force
  • Trustee at Friendship Baptist Church
  • Board Member of the Lion’s Lincoln Theater (1st African-American)
  • Board of Directors, Lighthouse Visions, Inc., President 2004 and 2008
  • Chairman of the Board of the Civil Service Commission, 2008

Esther Bryan, founder of Lighthouse Visions, honored Ben with the creation of the Benjamin T. Bradley scholarship.  This is awarded annually to a worthy Massillon-area college student.  Also, Ben was so beloved in the community that they named Bradley Place senior apartments after him in 2010.

“Big Ben” certainly accomplished his goal of leaving Massillon a better place than he found it.

Bradley Place