HIDDEN HISTORY: A trio of local football greats

The Daily News, Posted: Sunday, September 4, 2011

By Mark Graczyk

Call it a 1950s version of ''Friday Night Lights.''

It's a cool October evening in 1952 and the Batavia High School football team is slugging it out with a powerful Hornell squad at Batavia's Woodward Field.

Both teams have fought a fierce defensive battle and it looks like the game will end in a disappointing 0-0 tie.

Batavia has just recovered a Hornell fumble at its own 15-yard line. There's a little more than a minute left to play.

Then it happens. Blue Devils quarterback Ron Piazza pitches the ball to star running back Don Bosseler.

Bosseler sweeps around right end, slips by two Hornell defenders and sprints down the right sideline for an electrifying 85-yard touchdown.

The crowd of 1,200 roars its approval. Batavia wins 6-0.

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It's been nearly 60 years since that game-winning touchdown run. Yet time cannot dim the accomplishments of Don Bosseler, who went from the playing fields of Batavia to the warm tropical breezes of Miami and then to a professional career in our nation's capital.

Still, for all his greatness, Bosseler wasn't the only great football player to come out of Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties. Two other local athletes Vince Scott and Tommy Colella enjoyed stellar collegiate and professional careers.

So in honor of the start of another football season, ''Hidden History'' pays tribute to three local gridiron legends:

DON BOSSELER Born in Wethersfield in Wyoming County, Bosseler and his family moved to Batavia when he was a child.

Football seemed to be part of the Bosseler genetic makeup. Don's older brother George was captain of the University of Pennsylvania football team and younger brother Bill played at the Universities of Buffalo and Miami.

But the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Don Bosseler surpassed even those impressive credentials.

The centerpiece of coach Danny Van Detta's Batavia High School teams of the early 1950s, he became a four-year starter and team captain at the University of Miami, where he helped put the ''U'' on the college football map. As a senior in 1956, he rushed for a then school record 723 yards and four touchdowns.

Perhaps his best regular season game was a late-season contest against archrival Florida. Bosseler rushed for 148 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 72-yard TD run to secure a 20-7 victory over the Gators. Bosseler also ran for 187 yards in the Senior Bowl. The Hurricanes finished with an 8-1-1 record that season and ranked sixth in the country.

Bosseler was a No. 1 draft choice of the Washington Redskins. His draft class included such football immortals as Jim Brown, Paul Hornung, Johnny Majors, Len Dawson and John Brodie.

The Batavia High graduate played eight seasons for the Redskins, rushing for 3,112 career yards, 1,083 receiving yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1959 and was later named one of the 70 greatest Redskins in team history. Bosseler became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

After his retirement from football in 1965, Bosseler began a career at Prudential Bache as a vice president. Now in his mid-70s, he still resides in Miami.

A South Florida blogger perhaps described Bosseler best in a 2009 post:

''If Norman Rockwell had to paint a picture of a football player, it would be (Don) Bosseler.''

VINCE SCOTT Nicknamed ''Boomer,'' Vince Scott was a powerful 5-foot-8-inch, 235-pound lineman who excelled at football despite a childhood bout with polio that left one leg shorter than the other.

Scott was a star fullback and nose tackle at Le Roy High School from 1939 to 1942 and caught the eye of legendary Notre Dame football coach Frank Leahy, who recruited him to play in South Bend. During Scott's senior year in 1946, the Fighting Irish won the national championship of college football, winning nine games and playing a famous 0-0 tie with Army at Yankee Stadium.

Boomer Scott began his professional career with the Buffalo Bills of the old All-America Football Conference in 1947 and 1948, then jumped to the Canadian Football League in 1949. The defensive lineman played one season with the Hamilton Wildcats, then 13 more with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. He helped the team win the Grey Cup in 1953 and 1957.

He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Unlike most American players who went to play north of the border, Scott became a Canadian citizen in the mid-1950s and remained in Hamilton after his retirement in 1962. He worked in real estate, hosted a television talk show in the 1970s and '80s and was elected to the Hamilton City Council in 1982, where he served one term.

Scott died on July 13, 1992 at age 67 after a lengthy illness. His obituary in the Hamilton newspaper was headlined, ''Star with a Heart.''

In 2007, Le Roy's most famous football star was inducted into the Section V Football Hall of Fame, a richly deserved honor.

TOMMY COLELLA The speedy Colella was arguably the most versatile and multi-talented football player ever produced in Western New York.

A three-sport athlete at Albion High School, ''the Albion Antelope'' went on to Canisius College, where he earned Little All-American honors three times for the Golden Griffins.

The 6-foot, 187-pound Colella excelled as a running back, passer, receiver, kicker, punter, defensive back and kickoff and punt returner.

Colella was a seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 1942, where he played two seasons. He was traded to the Cleveland Rams, then signed with the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference in 1946. That year, Colella led the league with 10 interceptions, then followed it up with six more in 1947. He retired after the 1949 season and died in 1992.

Colella was named to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.