Honored by Yankton College, Bob Maffei a Greyhound Great

Trumbull High football coach Bob Maffei was recognized as a Greyhound Great at Yankton College’s All-Class Reunion held in Yankton, South Dakota in July.

The Greyhound name was proposed by Bert “Bones” Fenenga ‘16, captain of the 1915 basketball team and all-state center in football, who believed the wearers of the Yellow and Black uniforms had to win, “By speed and courage rather than by physique.”

Maffei fit that billing perfectly. Gathered at a table with fellow honorees, Maffei, a 1977 graduate of the liberal arts college founded in 1881, was surprised to hear the three things that made his rise to the top playing football for the Greyhounds memorable.

“They said the first thing was my open field tackling,” Maffei said while attending the FCIAC Football Media Night in Stamford on Sept. 2.

“The second was that I threw up before every game. The third was that I knocked a guy out.

“We were playing the number one team in our district and they were running the Veer. Their guy had 85 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first quarter. I guess I got a good hit on him and knocked him out.”

Maffei, a graduate of Andrew Warde, where he played linebacker and running back, said the decision to go west to college was easy.

“They offered me a lot of money,” he said with a laugh. “Plus, they had a great program. I was 5 foot 9 and 183 pounds on a good day and I had a ball in college. I was a catcher on the baseball team and defensive back in football.

“It was great to go back to the reunion and talk to my teammates and coaches.”

One of those teammates was Ray Salvestrini, class of 1975. Now the athletic director at Danbury High, Salvestrini, a graduate of Ridgefield High, was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame during the Alumni weekend.

“Bobby brought a unique understanding to the game even as a freshman,” said Salvestrini, who started at defensive tackle.

“He was a physical player back when guys in the secondary weren’t known for being physical.

“With Bobby, it was almost like having another coach on the field. Nothing got by him.

“When he was a freshman and a sophomore, and I was a junior and a senior, we were Nationally ranked both years and had the top defense in the country.

“We played NAIA, which was like Division II now. A lot of things have changed from the seventies, but I’m sure Bobby would be playing at the highest level. He was a special player.”

As a senior for the Greyhounds, Maffei led the district in home runs and RBIs. But it was football that earned him a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 1978.

Among the Yankton players making it in the NFL were Elroy Glanzer ‘62 for the Denver Broncos; Dean Wink ‘66 for the Philadelphia Eagles; Bob Sondergaard ‘67 for the Pittsburgh Steelers;  Lyle Alzado ‘72 for the Denver Broncos, the Cleveland Browns and the LA Raiders; and Les “J.J.” Goodman ‘72 for the Green Bay Packers.

“I was always undersized, but I did what I had to do,” Maffei said. “You have to work harder, and that is what I tell my guys. No one will recognize you until you do something awesome.

“I had a great life as a player and as a coach, I still have more to do.”

Other Greyhound Greats recognized for their athletic abilities were: Russ Weller ‘63, Gerry Ebel ‘75; Rick Evans ‘75; Ernie Ferency ‘70; Darryl James ‘84; Gerald Geditz ‘65; John Siwicki ‘72; and Frank Niglio ‘71.