Football greats among Rome Sports Hall of Fame inductees

Joe Silkowski
Sports editor
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Posted 6/11/19

George Lewis Jr., the former Rome Free Academy and University of Massachusetts football star, is among this year’s Rome Sports Hall of Fame inductees. Lewis was an all-state defensive end for the …

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Football greats among Rome Sports Hall of Fame inductees

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George Lewis Jr., the former Rome Free Academy and University of Massachusetts football star, is among this year’s Rome Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

Lewis was an all-state defensive end for the Black Knights before going on to attend UMass, where he was a two-time All-Yankee Conference player as a defensive end.

Also being recognized by the Hall of Fame for a lifetime of excellence are Nick Bottini, David Caldwell Jr., Jack Charney, Charlie Constantino and the late John Mody Jr.

The 43rd annual induction and awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, July 28, at 5:30 p.m. at the Vernon Downs Hotel Casino.

Here’s a look at this year’s inductees:

• George E. Lewis Jr.

An all-star football player at RFA who earned all-state recognition as a defensive end and linebacker, Lewis set a school record with 20 quarterback sacks and was in on more than 100 tackles for the Black Knights.

His success attracted the attention of several Division I programs, including Oklahoma, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, Syracuse and Purdue.

He chose to continue his playing career at UMass, and in his freshman year he helped the Minutemen win the Lambert Cup and advance to the Division I-AA championship game as a reserve linebacker and special teams player.

Lewis became a starting defensive end as a sophomore and would go on to be four-year letterman at UMass, earning first-team All-Yankee Conference honors in his junior and senior seasons when the Minutemen won league championships.

• Nick Bottini

A three-sport athlete at RFA, Bottini went on to excel on the college level at Potsdam State.

He was captain of the track and field team and was also a talented football player, with his best game coming in a blowout win over rival Proctor High in which he returned an interception for a touchdown, passed for two other touchdowns and scored one himself. But his best sport was probably basketball, as he led the Black Knights to a 17-3 record and the Central Oneida League championship.

He took his basketball skills to Potsdam, where he was a member of the school’s NCAA Division III championship basketball team. Bottini continued to play basketball after graduating in 1983, taking part in National Hoop It Up AAU tournaments across the northeast.

• David B. Caldwell Jr.

Caldwell played baseball and basketball and was also an all-star football player at RFA, starting on both sides of the line of scrimmage and serving as a team captain his senior year.

He went on to play football at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, serving as the punter for the Red Foxes for four seasons as well as playing linebacker.

He is now the head coach for the Hopewell Valley, N.J., School District, earning national recognition for leading the school’s football program into prominence after a 70-year hiatus. In 2013, he led Hopwell Valley to the state championship.

He has been involved in the Special Olympics and has been a special education teacher and high school coach almost 25 years.

• Jack F. Charney

A native of Greeley, Colo., Charney moved to Rome as a toddler with his mother in 1947 following the death of his father. He would go on to be a standout athlete at RFA, earning all-star honors in football and being a letterman for the track and field team.

He attended Springfield College, where he was a three-year starter on the football team as a fullback and linebacker. Upon graduation from Springfield he embarked on a long coaching career, mostly in the the New England area.

While on the coaching staff at Norwich University, among the football players he helped recruit were RFA standouts Steve Davis, Pat Passalaqua and Jerry Corigliano. He also spent two years in the Canadian Football Football League working with fellow RFA graduate and Rome Sports Hall of Famer Mike McCarthy as a guest coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Roughriders.

• Charlie Constantino

Constantino is being inducted into the Hall of Fame as a “contributor.”

Born in Rochester, Constantino was a standout football and baseball player in high school before going on to college. He came to Rome shortly after his graduation from St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, taking a job at Rome Lab.

He would go to become a successful businessman who for the next three decades would be involved in sports in the city.

Constantino played softball in his early years in Rome and was a sponsor of many youth and adult teams. He was a leader in the renovation of Kennedy Arena, and he is credited with helping to bring the Empire State Games to Rome.

He was a leader in the development of the DeLutis Baseball Complex, and over the years he arranged for improvements and maintenance of the athletic facilities at Rome Catholic High from which his four children were graduates.

• John A. Mody Jr.

Mody was a football and baseball standout at RFA who went on to excel on the next level, starting for three seasons as a linebacker at Colgate University.

A captain and two-way starter, Mody was an all-star linebacker on the 1984 Section III championship team coached by Tom Hoke. He was named to the East-West All-Star Game his senior year.

He was also an all-star baseball player for RFA as well as being a standout for Smith Post, carrying a batting average of over .400 for both squads. During his senior year at RFA in 1985, the outfielder hit safely in every COL game in which he played.

Mody went on be an impact player at Colgate, starting for three seasons as both an inside and outside linebacker. Despite missing much of his freshman season due to illness, he finished his college career with 179 solo tackles and had a single-game high of 15 tackles in his final season against Princeton.

He was working in real estate and lived in Syracuse at the time of his death on Aug. 31, 2017 at the age of 50.

The awards dinner in Vernon will begin at 5:30 p.m. on July 28, preceded by a public reception at 2 p.m. at the Rome Sports Hall of Fame located at 5790 Rome-New London Road.

Dinner tickets costing $35 for adults and $15 for children ages 12-and-under will be available for purchase at the Rome Sports Hall of Fame. Hours for the hall are Wednesdays-Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. A limited number of tickets are available, and none will be sold on the day of the banquet.

The newest Hall of Famers were nominated in voting done by a selection committee co-chaired by Bill Fleet and Joe Silkowski and were approved by the Hall’s board of directors.

Official forms are available at City Hall for persons wishing to submit nominations for consideration for future entry into the Hall of Fame or for consideration for annual awards.

Service award winners, the sports personalities of the year and the Ellie Bruce Exceptional Team of Excellence Award recipients will also be among those honored during the dinner. Those award winners will be announced at a later date.

(Editor’s note: Hall of Fame selection committee member Carl Eilenberg contributed information for this story.)

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