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Stronger than steel (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday November 28, 2006 3:42PM; Updated: Tuesday November 28, 2006 3:42PM
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Magistro, though, doesn't feel a state championship was needed to complete his legacy. "The biggest charge I get is when a kid comes back and asks me to recommend him for a job," says Magistro, who's moving to Columbus to be closer to his three grown children, and three grandchildren. "The respect I get from my kids is all the legacy I need. We just have so many hard-nosed players here. Bellaire probably has more all-Americans than any other town our size."

Bellaire, which has a population under 5,000, has carried the nickname of "the all-American city" since New York News sportswriter Francis Wallace dubbed it that in the early 1930s when three Bellaire grads were named all-America in the same year: Bud Bonar of Notre Dame, Katz Kadlic of Princeton, and Miller Munjus of Pitt. When Knute Rockne made his famous "Win one for the Gipper" speech in 1928, his quarterback was John Niemec, another Bellaire grad.

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Nine former Big Reds have gone on to the NFL, including two now playing, Ben Taylor, a linebacker for the Packers, and Galloway.

"It's like you see on Friday Night Lights," says Galloway, who captained the team in 1989. "It's a small town, and football is life back there. I'd been a quarterback, and Coach Magistro saw me palming a basketball and dunking in the gym when I was a freshman, and said with my hands, I should be a receiver. He was the first one to tell me that. You meet special people in life, and he's one of those guys who always does things right. His family is like a second family to me."

Magistro's successor has already been named -- offensive coordinator Gregg Bonar, an assistant coach for the last 23 years -- and if he's got a tough act to follow, toughness comes with the territory in Bellaire. "This is probably the toughest town you'll ever be in," says Bonar, a nephew of Notre Dame's Bud Bonar. "Kids grow up here knowing what's expected of them. It's tradition. The townspeople expect you to win every game, and I wouldn't want to coach anywhere else."

"My mom went to Bellaire, and she started taking me to games when I was a baby," says senior quarterback Nick Rocchio, who sat on the bench behind all-everything Nate Davis for two years waiting for Davis to graduate. (Davis started this season for Ball St.) All Rocchio did when he finally took over the team was break all Bellaire's single-season passing records, throwing for 3,100 yards and 44 touchdowns. "Ever since you're little, all you do is dream of playing for the Big Reds."

"Bellaire doesn't have a pro or college team, so we're who people follow," Magistro says. "We're Ohio State. There's not a Division 1 player on our roster, but I've never coached a team with more heart than this one. I'm sure I'll adjust, but right now it's kicking me to leave."

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