By Joe Scalzo
The last time Ray Briya got a checkup, his doctor drew a T across his shoulders and back and said, “This is all arthritis.”
“He told me when he got my X-rays back, he got a little worried,” Briya said. “He called me up laughing and said, ‘Evidently, at one time you had broken ribs,’ which I never knew.”
This is a good time to point out that Briya was a fullback at Youngstown State. A darn good one, too. The Chaney High graduate started three years for Dwight Beede between 1965-68 and was inducted into YSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
Ten years ago, Briya was one of a small group of former Penguins who founded the Football Alumni Club, which has since grown to 200 members.
“What we’re trying to do is get as many people as we can not only to support the program but to get everyone back together again,” Briya said Friday at the group’s annual golf outing at the Youngstown Country Club. “We want the tradition to continue.”
YSU has about 1,200 former football players, with about half living in a 90-mile radius, Briya said.
The group, which has raised more than $200,000 in scholarships over the past decade, is hoping to grow to 500 members.
“This whole thing began with a group of fellas back from maybe the 1950s and ’60s that were out in the world making a living and raising families,” said Frank Beck, a YSU Hall of Famer who played quarterback from 1953-55. “We said, ‘You know, if you think about it, the university gave us a life. It gave us a living.’
“We wanted to give back.”
Each year, the Football Alumni Group holds a golf outing, a spaghetti dinner (a YSU tradition that stretches back to the late 1930s, Beck said) and a bocce social.
It also gets together at several home games and forms the “Senior Tunnel” that players run through in the home finale.
Friday’s golf outing drew current players, coaches and cheerleaders. But it mostly featured a good number of ex-players playing golf, drinking Miller Lites, smoking cigars and trading stories about their injuries and favorite memories, including several from Beede’s infamous Camp Fitch.
(One of the best revolves around Beede running off his players’ hangovers with early morning wind sprints. “Everyone puked their guts out,” one ex-player said, laughing.)
“It was just fun playing ball and, naturally, school gave us an education and taught us about life,” Briya said. “We want to get everybody back into the brotherhood, so to speak.”
Annual memberships are $75. For details, call assistant athletic director Tom Morella at 330-941-2351 or Jim Morrison at 330-941-3720 or visit www.ysusports.com/penguin_club/football_alumni.