Pottios speaks to the crowd

Holly Tonini

Myron Pottios speaks during the dedication of the Charleroi High School football field in his name at Charleroi on Sept. 2, 2016. Pottios was one of three members of the same family from Van Voorhis, along with younger brother Mickey Bitsko and older brother Ray Pottios, who all turned out to be remarkable athletes.

Van Voorhis may be a small community — the 2010 census listed a population of 166 — but it turned out (at least) three stellar football players, and, remarkably, all three of the ones discussed here are from the same family.

Myron Pottios was one of the finest athletes the Valley has ever produced. He was a four-letter man at Charleroi (Class of 1957), an All-State high school player, and an All-American selection at Notre Dame where he played center and guard on offense and linebacker on the other side of the ball. He then enjoyed a great NFL career for a dozen seasons as a linebacker who appeared in three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl. It’s no wonder that in 2016 Charleroi School District voted to name its football stadium after Pottios.

Locally, his 1956 senior season was his biggest highlight. The Cougars steamrolled through the regular season with an untarnished 10-0 record. That earned them a trip to the WPIAL Class AA title game. In a tight contest versus Jeannette, led by quarterback Dick Hoak who would later become a teammate of Pottios with the Pittsburgh Steelers, won by a narrow score of 16-13. The winning points came on a field goal with a mere four ticks left on the clock.

Pottios played third base for the Cougars and was a shot put and discus man who took part in the state meet where he said he twice finished in the top three for the discus throw. He also stood out in basketball, helping Charleroi to a 25-2 record and another trek to a WPIAL championship game (they lost to Sharon).

Pottios had a brother named Mickey Bitsko who, like Myron, was quite the football player. He was one of an estimated 127 players nominated for the Big 33 squad. Pottios said with pride, “My younger brother played on the Charleroi 1959 championship team as a fullback and linebacker and went to Notre Dame. College freshmen couldn’t play then, but he lettered in his sophomore year.

“He graduated from the University of Dayton and played in the East-West Shrine Game. His teammates were Dick Butkus and Roger Staubach.”

And what outstanding teammates they were. Butkus finished sixth in the 1963 Heisman Trophy voting (and third the following season) and Staubach won it in 1963.

Hailing from Van Voorhis, Mickey who was born in December of 1942, played for the Flyers in 1963 and 1964. Both seasons he appeared in each of his team’s 10 games. Unfortunately for him, unlike his stellar Charleroi High School team, Dayton suffered through an abysmal 1-7-2 season in 1963 and 3-7 in Bitsko’s senior season.

While Pottios gained his greatest fame on the defensive side of the football, Bitsko was a collegiate running back — a very versatile one at that. He not only averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his final season, giving him a lifetime average of 4.0 yards per rush, but he also snagged 24 passes for 220 yards (9.2 per reception). As a bonus, he even threw the ball three times and completed all three of his passes.

Former Donora football star Steve Turkovich said Bitsko was also “an unbelievable linebacker. He had the quickness and that linebacker sense of reading things.”

In 1963, Bitsko’s rushing yardage ranked third on the team and his 172 yards on catches placed him second on the Flyers. Overall, he provided the second most total yards from scrimmage on the squad.

According to the website, pro football archives, Bitsko was drafted by both the NFL and the old AFL in 1964. The Denver Broncos made him their 24th round selection (the 185th overall pick) back when football had many more rounds than they do today. The New York Giants placed more value on his potential, drafting him in the ninth round as the 124th overall player chosen.

The Pottios athletic legacy doesn’t end with Bitsko and Myron Pottios who said his older brother Ray “went to Charleroi where he played football and wrestled and got involved in track in the early 50s. He started the family getting involved in athletics.”

Ray continued to be the real deal beyond high school. Myron stated, “Ray went on to Penn State. In fact, he played with [Hall of Fame running back] Lenny Moore and Rosey Grier. When I see Rosey, he asks how Ray is doing.”

Grier, a defensive tackle, was part of the Los Angels Rams rugged Fearsome Foursome defensive line along with fellow tackle and Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, and defensive ends Lamar Lundy and yet another Hall of Famer in Deacon Jones. Mryon Pottios and All-Pro Grier were teammates for one season, 1966.

“Ray also wrestled at Penn State then coached football at Lewisburg High School until he retired just a couple of years ago,” said Pottios in a 2015 interview.

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