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Memories and Anecdotes About Sam DeLuca

Posted by Randy Lange on September 14, 2011 – 7:59 pm

Football and emotion are inextricably linked, especially regarding the loss of fellow citizens and teammates. Sunday night the emotion was through the roof as the Jets, Cowboys, NFL, NBC and the nation commemorated the loss of thousands of lives on the 10th anniversary of September 11th.

This week, the emotion is being felt on a smaller scale but no less painfully by the family and friends of Sam DeLuca, who are mourning his death Tuesday.

“I’m really sad. He was my first roommate with the Jets,” said John Schmitt, teammate till the end of DeLuca, the former Jets guard and radio analyst, 75, who died of pancreatic cancer. “I came in in ’64 and he came in from the San Diego Chargers. He was such a help to me.

“I got there Sunday and we talked for about 15 minutes. I told him I loved him and I thanked him for everything he did for me. We gave each other a big hug and a kiss and we had a couple of laughs.”

DeLuca didn’t make it to the Jets’ storybook 1968 season, breaking his ankle playing basketball in the ’67 offseason. But he took over at left guard, Schmitt was at center and Dave Herman moved in at RG for the 1965 and ’66 seasons — also Joe Namath’s first two pro seasons — to form the interior line foundation from which Schmitt and Herman rose to become world champions on Namath’s Super Bowl III team.

DeLuca was a strong, tough and smart 6’2″, 250-pounder from Brooklyn. He was a technician who used the pick, slip and slide blocks of that day to top effect as a very good run blocker. And he used his strength to carve out a niche as a fine pass blocker and one of the few guards who could go toe to toe with Ernie Ladd, the 6’9″, 290-pound DT who was a four-time AFL All-Star from the Chargers.

“Sam was a weightlifter ahead of his time,” Schmitt recalled. “Coach Ewbank didn’t like his players to lift weights but Sam lifted all the time. He was strong and he could handle Ernie because he knew how to play against him after practicing against him in San Diego. He could play Ernie as good as anyone could play him. For a little guy, he could handle big guys.”

Schmitt also has a number of anecdotes about DeLuca, which caused him to put his heavy heart aside and laugh at some of the memories. One of them involved Sam’s reputation as a health freak.

“He made me a nervous wreck,” Schmitt said. “He was always worried about breaking his neck on the field, so we had a head harness in our room and every night we’d lift weights with our neck.”

DeLuca also had tonsorial concerns.

“Sam was always losing his hair,” Schmitt said. “After one game against Ernie Ladd, he didn’t talk about his bloody nose or anything. He took off his helmet and he said, ‘I lost 23 hairs in this game.’ He actually counted the hairs.”

DeLuca also was smart enough to know he wanted to get into broadcasting, often displaying his “announcer’s voice” to Schmitt on those car rides from Long Island to Shea Stadium. His offseason injury and a broadcasters’ strike gave him a two-week window of opportunity to call Jets games on WABC Radio. He stayed in radio and TV for two decades, working on radio first with Merle Harmon, then with Spencer Ross and finally Charley Steiner.

And from 1973-76, NBC teamed him up with Charlie Jones to work regionally televised games. In the process he went on to call 16 Jets games in those four seasons.

DeLuca also had outstanding business sense, moving after broadcasting into owning several McDonald’s franchises on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx and then on to owning a number of mini-warehouses that he sold for a nice profit. His was a full life and Schmitt was celebrating that life as he was mourning his friend’s death.

The viewing for DeLuca will be tonight and Friday at the McGrath and Son Funeral Home in Bronxville, N.Y., with the Mass and funeral set for Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Pelham Manor on Saturday at 9:45 a.m.

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Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Memories and Anecdotes About Sam DeLuca”

  1. By fred on Sep 14, 2011 | Reply

    My thoughts & prayers go out to the DeLuca family I can still hear Sam’s & Merle’s voice on my transistor radio

  2. By wayne on Sep 14, 2011 | Reply

    Thanks for the memories. God bless your soul Mr. Sam DeLuca…………….MAKE EVERYDAY COUNT.

  3. By Bill on Sep 15, 2011 | Reply

    I remeber as a kid I listened to Merle Harmon and Sam Deluca on the radio. The Jets were rarely on T.V. in Connecticut back in those days. I looked forward to their broadcasts every Sunday. I can’t remember which one of them said it, but they opened the broadcast of home games by saying like , “Live from Shea Stadium in Flushing, N.Y,”
    R.I.P. Sam.

  4. By davetharave on Sep 15, 2011 | Reply

    A legendary part of the New York sports scene and a familiar voice from the broadcast booth. R.I.P. Mr. DeLuca.

  5. By joe-retied li/fla on Sep 15, 2011 | Reply

    bill, remember those days-sat. nights also! and heres a 60 second jet break!

  6. By Tom Spicer on Sep 15, 2011 | Reply

    I read in todays Post that Braylon Edwards is suing for slander saying someone made up a story that he was directly involved in a fight. He said that it was not him but it was his two cousins & that he had a offer on the table from a NFL team for a guaranteed $15 mil & the offer was taken away when the news broke of the fight & because of it he had to take a $3.5 mil with only $1 mil guaranteed from the 49ers. I bet that team was the Jets.

  7. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Sep 16, 2011 | Reply

    Randy, if there’s an award given for stuff like your column on De Luca, you should win it. Historic, insightful, warm, funny, thoroughly wonderful stuff. Spicer, if you’re right about that offer to Edwards that’s a terrible thing. And that’s exactly why I don’t go in for all this nasty speculating about Jet players’ (or any players’) personal lives. Just think, we coulda lost Holmes the same way if that Steeler fan flight attendant got away with trying to make him look bad on that plane.

  8. By Rich on Sep 16, 2011 | Reply

    I have vivid memories of Sam DeLuca explaining the “tackle-end game” on radio when I was a kid. But my fondest memory of him was when he repeatedly said, in his best Howard Cosell-imitation voice, “You can’t throw deep against the Baltimore zone” during the legendary high-scoring shoot-out between Namath and Unitas. Sam, you were always my favorite radio color commentator. RIP.

  9. By GaryC on Sep 16, 2011 | Reply

    jet fan tom and tom spicer, are you actually telling me that this jet regime would not sign edwards based on rumors it heard,c’mon, this regime will bring anyone in if it will win for them,that is proven.If anything the good character guys get the shaft here,let’s get real.

  10. By mike on Sep 16, 2011 | Reply

    I was in awe when I first met the radio voice of the NY Jets as he interviewed me for a job at his McDonald’s restaurant in 1981. I have always admired and respected Sam DeLuca and am shocked to hear the sad news. My condolences to Warren & the entire De Luca family!

  11. By Ralph on Sep 17, 2011 | Reply

    Back in the days when Jet games were “blacked out” on television I started to listen to Sam DeLuca and Merle Harmon. It seemed that I always learned something new listening to Mr. DeLuca, he was great at explaining details of the game that most broadcasters never spoke about. Later when Spencer Ross worked besides Mr. DeLuca I would turn the volume off on my TV and listen to the radio coverage of the game while watching the picture on the tube
    RIP Mr DeLuca

  12. By Frank from Brooklyn on Sep 18, 2011 | Reply

    A Super Bowl winner, and a fine broadcaster, I can still hear mim “It’s not the number of penalties, but when they occur”

    Condolences to The Deluca Family. Godspeed Sam…

  13. By Mike Allicino on Sep 19, 2011 | Reply

    It is with a heavy heart that just this morning I learned of Sam’s passing. I had the privledge of being coached during the off-season by Mr. DeLuca and Ralph Baker at John Adams High School in Queens. Sam had a good sense of humor and I can attest to his strength. While working out in the weight room with the guys on our team he would often pass a mirror, flex is biceps and say, “Strong like a bull.”

    Rest in peace Mr. DeLuca.

  14. By tim myers on Sep 21, 2011 | Reply

    Mr Deluca was a phys ed teacher at my high school John Adams. He was also one of the nicest men you will ever meet. So sorry to read of his passing, He will be missed by his fans and fomer students

  15. By Rich G on Sep 26, 2011 | Reply

    I remember going to Sam Deluca’s McDonald’s after little league games on Saturday’s and Sam would be cleaning tables. I would eventually work in one of his McDonald’s. He was a good hard working man who will be missed.

    Condolences to his family. RIP Sam

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