Hlodan AG HOF

Submitted photo

Bobby Hlodan led Albert Gallatin to the 1961 WPIAL Class A football championship and went on to star at Middle Tennessee State University. Hlodan is part of the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

Bobby Hlodan was a talented football player who was loved even more by his teammates than he was by the many Albert Gallatin fans who adored watching him play.

Hlodan, who died in 2012, is part of the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

Inductees and representatives will be recognized at the Hall of Fame Golf Outing/Luncheon/Social starting at 9 a.m. on June 17 at Pleasant Valley Golf Club in Connellsville.

Hlodan was a 1962 AG graduate who helped the Colonials win the 1961 WPIAL Class A football championship.

Ross “Big Daddy” Brown, a teammate who was a star lineman for the championship team, spoke about Hlodan while discussing his induction on George Von Benko’s Sports Line Talk Show on WMBS Radio recently.

“He was absolutely fantastic,” Brown said. “Think about this, back in those days in that season where we were 11 wins and no losses and won the WPIAL Class A title, Bob rushed for 1,458 yards, he scored 22 touchdowns in basically 10 games. He was injured in our opener against North Union and missed the second half. Coach (John) Lozar took him out against Scottdale for the second half because he scored five touchdowns in the first half. Two (other touchdowns) were called back (due to penalties). They could not stop him.

“One was called back against German Township where he took the opening kickoff and ran 85 yards for a touchdown. We were called for a penalty for clipping.”

Hlodan didn’t complain about the penalty.

“Bob came back and said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ That’s what kind of person he was,” Brown said. “He was a leader, he was humble, he was mercurial, he was one of the best athletes I ever played with or against because he had agility, he had speed, he had discipline and he was tenacious.

“He was the quintessential high school tailback.”

Hlodan, who attended Point Marion until it merged with Masontown into Albert Gallatin, was voted to the All-County Team his senior season when his 22 touchdowns led Fayette County in scoring and averaged nine yards per carry. He was honorable mention on The Sporting News High School All-American Team.

The Colonials relied heavily on Hlodan in their run to the district title. He rushed for 191 yards in the 19-6 victory over Penn Joint at Connellsville.

“The thing that made him so great, when you think about the Army team’s Mr. Inside (Doc Blanchard), Mr. Outside (Glenn Davis), he was both,” Brown said. “Bob could outrun anyone. He had 10 touchdowns of 50-plus yards. And yet he could run over 6-feet-2, 225-pound tackles and guards. So they couldn’t tackle him, they couldn’t catch him. That’s why he had 22 touchdowns.

“Further to show you the kind of player he was, at the championship game he scored on runs of 25 and 19 yards, he outgained the entire Penn Joint team. On the last play of the game, we were leading 13-6, Coach Lozar called Bob’s number to get another touchdown. He changed the play and allowed Harry Pokorny — in the single wing Harry was the quarterback and was more like a blocking back than a running back — to score his first touchdown of the year. He had another opportunity, but he sacrificed that for his teammate.”

While the quarterback ran the ball a lot in most single wing offenses, Pokorny ran sparingly.

“Harry Pokorny went on to play football at John Carroll in Cleveland and they switched him to guard because he had been blocking throughout his career,” Brown noted.

Brown also commended Hlodan’s backfield mate, Eugene “Red” Barrish.

“Barrish was the fullback and he was as tough as could be,” Brown said. “He weighed about 185 pounds but you didn’t want to tangle with Red. He literally ran over everyone. If there was an opportunity for him to go into the end zone without running over someone as opposed to running over them he chose running over them. He loved it (contact).”

Hlodan didn’t need a lot of help in running the ball, according to Brown.

“A legendary coach in that (Fayette) Hall of Fame who was a coach for years at Masontown, Gene Franks Sr., once opined that those of us on the field, the linemen, should get get out of the way and just let Bobby run,” Brown said. “That’s how good he was. That’s from a legendary member of (the Fayette) Hall of Fame and also the Pennsylvania state hall of fame and, of course, the father of Don ‘Doc’ Franks, who also is in (both) hall of fames.”

Hlodan also lettered in basketball at Point Marion and Albert Gallatin, but football was his calling card.

Hlodan sifted through a slew of football scholarship offers after he graduated from AG. He chose Tennessee but was injured his freshman year and then transferred to Middle Tennessee State.

“We were being recruited and Bob and I frequently would be in Coach Lozar’s office as (college) coaches and assistant coaches would come talk to us about their respective schools,” Brown said. “I recall he had a tough decision to make because Bob had letters from about 50 schools. He decided on the University of Tennessee because they ran the single-wing.

“He went down there and got injured, went to Middle Tennessee State University and had a stellar career there. He was actually selected as the MVP of the 1964 Grantland Rice Bowl.

The Blue Raiders defeated Muskingum, 20-0, in the inaugural bowl.

Hlodan rushed for 1,368 yards in his career with Middle Tennessee State.

“He also ran track,” Brown said. “He was a two-sport letterman at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.”

Hlodan has been mentioned in his college’s hall of fame discussions, according to Brown.

“I’ve talked to folks who were his teammates,” Brown said. “He’s a candidate for their hall of fame. They felt the same way as we did about what a great athlete he was and he was a more outstanding human being.

“He was the non-paralleled teammate. Not withstanding how outstanding he was, he was gracious, most of all he was humble, he was magnanimous, he was kind, he was unselfish and he was so respectful of everyone.

“I’m a lawyer and I like to say Bob Hlodan was ‘sui generis’ (‘of its own kind’), in a class unto himself.”

Brown admitted he was overcome with emotions when he heard Hlodan was being inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.

“I want to thank (Von Benko) and all the members who voted for his induction into this the 13th class,” Brown said. “When I learned about it I was elated, I was ecstatic, I was delighted and I literally jumped for joy, because I know how important it was to him. He talked about it with me all the time.

“I want to thank you folks and compliment you on the very outstanding job you do there in the county I love so much. I live in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, but Fayette County is and always will be my home.”

NOTE: The Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame would like to note that the Golf Outing and Luncheon on June 17 is sold out. The event will be livestreamed on the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame Facebook page.

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