For Myers, the Unsung Hero Award went full circle
In May, the 77th annual McCormick Unsung Heroes Dinner will take place in Cockeysville. On this evening, historically significant changes in the time honored event, including additional award winners, more scholarship money and, for the very first time, recognition of Unsung Heroes from all high school sports, will be unveiled.
Looking back to 1968, the event was also on the verge of significant changes, which certainly proved to be historical, setting the course for what the event has become today.
Fred Myers was a senior at the John Carroll School in 1968. He played football and lacrosse for the Patriots. On the football team he was a true team player, slugging it out on both the offensive and defensive lines and playing on all the special teams. In recognition of his efforts, his head coach, Gerry Gray, nominated him to be the school’s Unsung Hero nominee.
Myers was filled with excitement on the evening of the banquet, which was held at the old McCormick Building in downtown Baltimore. Legendary Morgan State football coach Earl Banks was the keynote speaker and Myers was accompanied by his brother Tom, a local high school football star in his own right.
“My brother Tom was my hero,” said Myers. “Tom played for Coach Fred Kern at Calvert Hall where he was a High School All-American tackle. Coach Kern eventually became an assistant coach at Maryland. Coach Kern took me aside and said if I was as good a player as Tom he would be talking to me. Even though I did not go to Maryland, I still remember how excited I was that night.”
The excitement was just beginning.
The 1968 Unsung Hero banquet would prove to be the final one chaired by the event’s founder, Charles Perry McCormick. Thus the 1968 winner was the last one to be greeted and personally congratulated by C.P. McCormick. The winner that year was Fred Meyers.
There was no college scholarship in 1968. That would be established one year later. Myers, however, received a beautiful watch in recognition of his honor, something he still cherishes today.
“I was totally surprised,” recalls Myers, upon hearing his named called. “Just before they announced the winner I leaned over in my chair and told Frank Perla, ‘Relax Frank some poor guy is going to have to give a speech.’”
Perla was the 1968 nominee from Northern High School and a friend of Myers. Two years later the two would be teammates on Team Belmar, but that evening, Perla was thrilled that it was his friend who had to stand and say a few words.
“In my speech I forgot to thank the most important person, my mother,” said Meyers, who wanted to make certain to acknowledge her at this time. “She had a heart condition and was unable to attend the banquet. She made it possible for me to go to John Carroll. She was the Unsung Hero.”
The night left such a lasting impression on Myers that he was inspired to pursue a career in coaching and teaching. He began his coaching career in rec. football with his brother Tom, who passed several years ago after a battle with cancer, and eventually coached JV football at Parkville, Northern and Kenwood high schools. This lead to a three-year stint as an assistant football coach at Johns Hopkins University. Later he would serve as the head football and lacrosse coach at both Kenwood and Edgewood high schools.
In all, Myers coached for more than 40 years. In football, he was once named head coach of the Baltimore County All-Star team and he was later named Harford County Coach of the Year at Edgewood, where his teams won two County titles and reached the Regional twice. He was also named Baltimore County Coach of the Year in lacrosse. In 2009, he received an even greater honor when he was inducted into the John Carroll Athletic Hall of Fame. In the classroom, Myers served as a Crisis Intervention teacher, a Special Education teacher, a Level V instructor and, finally, a Social Studies teacher.
“I believe that 90% of a football team is made up of Unsung Heroes,” said Myers. “Football more than any other sport teaches young men to sacrifice for the team. When you do that, the team is successful and then you are successful.
“When I became a coach, I had a goal to one day see one of my players become an Unsung Hero winner. That came true.”
Indeed it did. The 1994 male Charles P. McCormick Unsung Hero Scholarship Award winner was Earl Henson, who played for and was nominated by Myers at Kenwood.
In 1995, Henson received a college scholarship, which was worth $14,000 over four years at that time. The same award is now worth $40,000.
“Fred never mentioned the award during the four years I played for him, but he always emphasized the qualities of an unsung hero,” said Henson. “He focused on the concept of team and looking out for each other.”
During his senior year at Kenwood, Henson was enduring great personal tragedy. His father suffered several strokes and a heart attack before eventually passing in January of Henson’s senior year at Kenwood. His grandmother also passed the same year.
“He supported me and respected that I made every practice and fulfilled all of my responsibilities to the team, despite what I was going through,” said Henson. “Because of my size, I knew I was probably not going to play football in college and I think that is why he selected me as an Unsung Hero.”
Henson further explained the impact Myers had on him and his teammates.
“He’s had at least four former players return to coaching high school sports. Todd Hawkins (current AD at Lansdowne High School), Deon Campbell (coached with Myers in the 90’s/coached at Lansdowne in early mid 2000’s), Derrick Krumholtz (current coach at Kenwood High School) and myself (assistant coach at Lansdowne 2004-2006).
“He would write letters to his seniors after the season expressing his gratitude and appreciation. He is the only coach I have ever had that did so,” added Henson, who once sawed off a cast from a broken hand in an attempt to play, only to have Myers deny him the opportunity out of concern for his health. “He looked for ways to bring out the best in his players by challenging them but never putting them in a position to fail. He played to our strengths and put us in the best place to help the team. Coach Myers would always say to leave a place better than how we found it. I think he looked at his players in the same way. He tried to make us better players, students and inevitably better people.”
As far as his own Unsung Hero experience, Henson admits the event was much bigger than he expected.
“You get there and see that there are a couple of thousand people there. You see all of these kids who are basically you. I was fortunate to have my mom there, some friends and a couple of my coaches. Dick Vitale was the speaker. I am a huge Dickey V fan, so to hear him speak was impressive.”
“After they announced the female winner, they began the male’s story with a quote from Fred, saying the player was ‘the heart and soul of the team.’ My friend looked at me and knew it was me, but I was still shocked when they called my name.”
For Myers it was a full circle moment, seeing one of his players honored by an award that had made such an impact on his own life.
“I was proud and excited,” said Myers. “I still have pictures in my den of Earl and his trophy. I am very proud of Earl Henson.”
“He was great for me,” said Henson of his former coach. “He challenged us. He told us our group would get the team back to states, and we did. We were small on the offensive line and pulled a lot, so he called us his dancing bears. He was always honest and supportive.”
Today, Myers is enjoying retirement with Susan, his wife of 44 years. He has two grown children, who are both married, and two grandchildren.