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Published: Wednesday, 5/16/2007

NFL coach helps kick off fund-raiser

Sam Rutigliano, former head coach of the Cleveland Browns Sam Rutigliano, former head coach of the Cleveland Browns

The Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation kicked off its $2.2-million fund-raising drive for athletic fields last week with a well-attended luncheon and nationally known speaker.

Former Cleveland Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano addressed an audience of about 60 in the board room of the Anthony Wayne Local Schools administration building in Whitehouse.

Mr. Rutigliano coached the Browns from 1978-84 and was National Football League coach of the year for two years running, in 1979 and 1980. Under him, the team came to be known as the Kardiac Kids for its nail-biting victories.

Mr. Rutigliano now coaches for the NFL in Europe and is a motivational speaker.

He exhorted his Whitehouse audience to think positively, and emphasized that doggedness was more important to success than talent.

"Talent is important, but a man's habits and his consistency are really more important," Mr. Rutigliano said.

"Nothing is more common than an unsuccessful man with talent," he said. "Genius is not enough. Talent is not enough."

Bad habits, developed as a youth, can last a lifetime, he noted.

"Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul," he said. "It's better to raise a youngster than it is to repair an adult."

Mr. Rutigliano also made fun of himself.

He told the audience that at one of his motivational speeches he saw that a man at a table had fallen asleep. "I said to the guy next to him, 'Will you wake him up?' 'Why should I wake him up?' he said. 'You're the one who put him to sleep.' "

On a more serious note, he rhetorically asked his audience how people from dysfunctional families become successful. The answer: At one time in the life of these people there appears a critical person who makes the difference.

The athletic field project aims to develop six baseball/softball fields, four football/soccer fields, bathrooms, a concession stand, and a press box at the Blue Creek Conservation Area, near the quarry on Providence Street in Whitehouse.

Todd Frendt, president of the youth foundation's board, says the model for the project is the CYO complex on South-Holland Sylvania Road.

Mr. Frendt says almost $500,000 has been raised so far and he plans to have a groundbreaking in September.

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