Former EHS players remain close
The ultimate measure of a high school coach isn’t always wins and losses. At the scholastic level, a coach’s legacy can be judged more by the impact he has on his players in the long term.
Former Emmaus High School head coach Al Neff left a lasting impact. He began his career at EHS in 1953 as offensive coordinator under Luke Lobb.
He eventually took over the head coaching reigns and guided the Hornets to their first league title, which came in 1962 when quarterback Evan Burian led the team to a share of the Lehigh Valley League crown.
In 1968, Neff took the Hornets to their first outright league title. He remained with the team until retiring in 1984.
Many of Neff’s players went on to great things. Some attended Ivy League colleges. Some had great professional careers. Many served their country, as Neff did in World War II. Some followed in his footsteps and went into the coaching ranks.
The players have made sure their mentor knows how much he has meant to them. All these years later they still get together whenever possible to keep their friendships and brotherhoods alive while reminiscing about old times on the field and off.
Their most recent get-together took place Sept. 14 at the Paddock Restaurant in Allentown. The occasion was Neff’s 96th birthday.
They’ve been doing it since the year Neff walked off the field for the last time. And they go to great lengths to show their appreciation to their former head coach.
One year, when former player Joe Trexler was working Germany, he was able to make his way to France and pick up a souvenir package that included sand from Normandy Beach that he gave to Neff. Neff was part of the Allied Forces that beach.
Born in 1922, Neff graduated from Slatington High School where he earned 16 varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball and track. He went on to Mercersberg Prep and Moravian College, where he was coached by Judd Timm, Red Grange’s former blocking back at Illinois.
His college career was interrupted by his military service. He returned to the Greyhounds in 1946 and played both fullback and middle linebacker, while also returning kicks. In the spring he was a first baseman and power hitter on the Moravian baseball team.
Lobb was Neff’s teammate at Moravian and they reunited at Emmaus, where Neff also coached the baseball team from 1959-1962.
Neff and his players plan to continue getting together as long as they can. They expressed great gratitude toward the owners of the Paddock. They also lament the fact that some of their former coaches and teammates are no longer able here to join them, such as Ken Moyer, who passed away in 2016.