By Keith Mills
Vaughn Hebron wasn’t the first area high school football player to play in the NFL and won’t be the last, but he is one of only two Baltimore players to win two Super Bowl rings.
Sean Landeta, a standout punter and baseball player at Loch Raven High School in the early 1980s, helped the New York Giants win Super Bowls XXI and XXV in 1988 and 1991. Hebron, an All-Metro running back at Cardinal Gibbons in the late 1980s and one of the most versatile local players, helped the Denver Broncos win back-to-back championships in 1998 and ’99.
Hebron was in Baltimore last weekend, honored at halftime of the Gibbons-Boys’ Latin football game. His dad, wife Kimberly and four of his five children were by his side as he returned to the school where he began a journey that ended at Pro Player Stadium in Miami on Sunday Jan. 31, 1999 with a second straight Super Bowl title.
“It was a very emotional night for me,” Hebron said. He flipped the coin to start the game and endured a steady rain as athletic director Jeff Cheevers and new Gibbons coach Dante Carter honored the former Crusaders running back for a four-year career that ended in 1989 with an MSA A Conference championship. Carter was an All-Metro quarterback then at Carver Vocational-Technical in West Baltimore.
“This is where it began,” said Hebron, who grew up in Arbutus. “In high school you dream of making it to the next level. Then you get there, and you dream of making it to the league. Then you get there and you think, ‘Well maybe I can win the Super Bowl.’ And then you do that, and you realize how lucky you really are. This just brings it back full circle.”
Vic Corbin was the Crusaders' coach when Hebron arrived at Gibbons in the fall of 1986. Frank Trcka replaced Corbin one year later and by the fall of 1989, Hebron, Art Holloway, Steve Allen, Eric Hawkins and Charles Pratt helped Trcka’s Crusaders win the school’s last A Conference championship.
“Coach Frank was a very special man,” said Hebron of the former coach who passed away 10 years ago. “And I will never forget those days at Gibbons.”
Hebron played in the NFL for six years, the first three years in Philadelphia, where he lives now with his wife and children. He owns two fitness centers and is the co-director of the Transcend Sports Training System.
He is also a radio color analyst for the Eagles and a full-time father. He and Kim are raising two girls (ages 3 and 8), twin boys (age 6) and a 16-year-old son named Vaughn who just happens to be a standout football player at Dover High School.
“I never pushed him into football,” the elder Vaughn Hebron said. “But right before his freshman year he called me up and said, ‘Dad, I want to play ball.’ He tore up the JV team in ninth grade, and last year as a sophomore he started at tailback, safety and was the kick and punt returner.”
Like father, like son.
The elder Vaughn did the same thing -- returning kicks and playing running back, first at Gibbons, then at Virginia Tech and later with the Eagles and Broncos. In Super Bowl XXXII he returned three kicks for 79 yards, setting up a John Elway touchdown pass with a 42-yard return. He also caught one pass and carried the ball three times as the Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers, 31-24.
Coincidentally, Antonio “Buttons” Freeman, a Poly grad and Hebron’s teammate at Virginia Tech, helped lead the Packers in that Super Bowl. Freeman caught nine passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
One year later, Hebron returned two kicks as the Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-19. When the game ended, he walked off the field as a champion for the second straight year, this time with his son by his side.
“I’ll never forget that night,” Hebron said. “We left the field and little Vaughn was carrying my shoulder pads and someone stopped us and asked him for an autograph. We have a picture of that. There was a replica of a giant Lombardi Trophy and we’re standing right in front of it. He remembers.”
And his dad will always remember Friday, Sept. 15, 2007, a rainy night in his hometown as his old school in Southwest Baltimore said thank you. Boys’ Latin won the game, 7-0, but Hebron will savor the memory.
“It’s funny,” Hebron said. “When I walked on the field, I got goose bumps. I remembered almost every game, every play of when I was playing. They all came back to me that night. The older you get, the more you cherish the moments, and I cherish those days at Gibbons.”
Two years after Hebron left Cardinal Gibbons, basketball ace Steve Wojciechowski arrived. “Wojo" played for the late Ray Mullis at Gibbons, where he was the Gatorade State Player of the Year in 1994, leading the Crusaders to the 1994 Catholic League championship. And, like Hebron, he is now coming home.
On Oct. 6, Wojciechowski will put on a basketball clinic for area high school and recreation coaches at the Leadership Through Athletics Center on Hollins Ferry Road in Baltimore County.
“We are very excited,” said Dr. Tom Grace, who played on the great Gibbons teams of the mid-1970s with Norman Black, Mark Massamini and the Valderas brothers, Mark and Rob. “We watched Steve grow up and it is great that he would come back.”
Wojciechowski grew up in Severna Park and played youth basketball on a team that included future Dunbar standout Norman Nolan. He exploded on the national prep scene in the summer of 1994. His smaller stature was offset by his natural leadership and an almost maniacal intensity and tenacity that wore down opponents and attracted the interest of both Dean Smith at North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
In August of 1993 I received a phone call from Mike Dahlem, then an assistant to Mullis at Gibbons, who alerted me that Krzyzewski was at Gibbons to watch Wojciechowski’s soccer practice. Wojo was also an All-State soccer player at Gibbons and, sure enough, the school’s marquee read, “Welcome, Coach K.’"
Not only was Krzyzewski watching soccer practice, but so was Carolina assistant Phil Ford.
Of course, Wojciechowski picked Duke, where he was a two-time All-ACC selection and the national Defensive Player of the Year in 1998. He has been an assistant coach to Krzyzewski for the last eight years.
Now he’s coming home to take some bows and continue a series of clinics that began two years ago when Jay Wright of Villanova spoke to 125 area coaches. Last year, Maryland's Gary Williams spoke to another 120 coaches at the Leadership Through Athletics Center, which was built by Tom Grace and his two brothers Mike and Pat for athletes in the Lansdowne, Arbutus and Catonsville areas.
“We really want the clinics to take off,” Tom Grace said. “We’ve been involved with basketball and coaching for a long time, and we’re real pleased that Stevie would take time out of his busy schedule to come home and help us out.”
For more information, visit http://www.leadershipthroughathletics.org
PHOTO FINISH KICKS OFF CROSS COUNTRY SEASON
.3 seconds. A blink of an eye takes longer.
That was the difference between first and second place last Friday as Nicole Clarke of John Carroll and Liya Kasimova of Severna Park battled to the wire in the Knights Invitational cross country meet at Baybrook Park in Brooklyn.
Clarke won the race in 18:29.1 to lead John Carroll to the team championship while Kasimova finished second in 18:29.4. Erika Stasakova of John Carroll finished third in 18:34 while River Hill finished second in the girls' race and Severna Park fourth.
River Hill won the boys' race as Craig Morgan finished second in 15:58.6, one second behind Howard’s Joey Thompson. Zach Sullivan of Archbishop Spalding was third in 16:06.02.
Rob Torres is the John Carroll girls' coach. He ran for Gene Hoffman at Archbishop Curley and joins Jack Peach, John Supsic as former Friars who are now coaching.
Archbishop Curley is also involved in one of the biggest MIAA B Conference games to date. The football team visits Severn on Friday night to play Archbishop Spalding. Sean Murphy’s Friars are back in the B Conference after two years in the A league and are proving already to be a force.
Two weeks ago, Curley lost to McDonogh, 28-14, while last Saturday the Friars beat St. Paul’s, 16-0. Murphy is a graduate of Towson University and a protege of legendary Tigers coach Phil Albert. He is the school's sixth all-time leading receiver with 154 career catches for 23 touchdowns.
His Curley team this year is well balanced, having shut out St. Paul’s with Terrance Dandridge gaining 104 of the Friars’ 250 yards.
Spalding rushed for more than 350 yards against Severn to bounce back from its opening season loss to Mount St. Joe with an 18-6 win. The loss to St. Joe was Spalding’s first in almost two years as the Cavaliers began the 2007 season as back-to-back MIAA B Conference champions.
Ryan Moran returns at quarterback for the Cavaliers, while coach Mike Whittles’ son Nick replaces Jake Trantin in the backfield. Trantin is now at James Madison University. Patrick Mangum and Mike Brandenberg are two of Moran’s favorite targets. Mangum's father, Pat Sr., was the Anne Arundel County Player of the Year in 1975 at Brooklyn Park High School.
Nose tackle Brandon Matter anchors a defense that shut down Severn's offense in the second half.
This year’s B Conference race is wide open. Gibbons, which lost to Spalding in last year’s title game, lost to Boys’ Latin, 7-0, and Curley looks like a legitimate contender.
Issue 2.38: September 20, 2007