Special to #SpanningtheNeed (Part 1 of 3)
The recent passing of local sports figure Gary Housteau has evoked many memories from his many friends, those whose lives he wrote about and the many area, regional and national sports figures and coaches whose exploits he documented with his ever-present camera.
Born September 9, 1964, Gary passed away this past January 21 at age 57 after a well-documented, five-year battle with cancer – a life cut short from a person who was a friend to all and someone who always seemed to deflect his health battle so he could hear about how well you were doing in your daily life.
A proud graduate of the former Woodrow Wilson High School, he was a standout in both football and baseball for the Redmen where he was a three-year starter for head coach John Kopp’s grid team, a two-time unanimous All-City selection and a player who was thought of so highly by his teammates that he served as captain his senior year while earning team “Most Valuable Player” laurels.
All three years he was the Redmen’s outstanding defensive lineman, won the league’s Mike DeNiro Award as its top defensive lineman and found his way to Adrian College upon graduation where he was named the Bulldogs’ top defensive lineman as a senior.
No one could outwork him and while his tough demeanor on the gridiron didn’t reflect his caring ways off, there wasn’t a person he didn’t call ‘friend’ once he began a conversation with them.
He was a part of Adrian’s first team to win the MIAA (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) football title (1983) and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs.
An outstanding second sacker, he earned All-City plaudits for the Redmen in baseball in 1982 and as a 12 year-old, played in the Little League World Series as a member of the M.A.B.C. All-Stars, a group of upstart Little Leaguers from Youngstown’s East Side that advanced to represent the Central United States – they finished eighth in the world that year – in the prestigious eight-team event.
Gary was a business major who also studied math while at Adrian, leaving his mark as a valued professional while working at AT&T and then as a teacher at MCCTC.
Inducted into the WWHS Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019, he gained entrance that year along with his brother, Ray, no doubt a proud moment for the entire Housteau Family.
I had the pleasure of working alongside his late brother, Chuck, for several years when we served as sports correspondents for The Vindicator, a brother whose life was also cut short way too early and during the prime of his life who like Gary, had so much to offer the while covering the local sports scene.
I served as sports information director at YSU from 1980-97 and got to know the entire Housteau Family during my time on campus, brothers who started their own publication, The Valley’s Playbook because they wanted to publicize and bring attention to the exploits and many memorable individual performances of our high school, college and professional athletes, coaches and administrators who proudly hailed from and called the Mahoning Valley their home.
Bruce Burge, a lifelong friend who formerly served as YSU” s director of athletic marketing and is one of the nation’s foremost athletic marketers and fundraisers, helped launch the publication and for over a decade, took area fans inside the locker room and on the field with their championship coverage.
“I met Gary through his brother, Chuck,” Burge said, when asked about Gary. “Chuck and I originally met at YSU and quickly become close friends, sharing a love for football as we sat in the Kilcawley Student Center so we could organize our classes for the quarter together, just to have the same breaks so we could talk sports. Chuck was always the ‘organizer,’ putting together an Intramural football team known as Quagmire that we all played on.
“He organized events such as the Housteau NFL Draft Party and the Housteau Football Kick-off, which was held in his family basement. There would be no less than 100 people attending his events in his basement that could hold but 30 people, at best, yet we always seemed to squeeze in those extra sports enthusiasts.
“A year after meeting Chuck, his brother, Ray, joined our group and the one thing you quickly learned after meeting the Housteau’s is their unwavering love for Woodrow Wilson High and its football program, as well as Ohio State football, YSU football and the Cleveland Browns. Their NFL Draft Party is where I first met Gary, a guy who was still in high school but well beyond his years with his sports knowledge.
“Let me tell you that he Housteau draft party was not traditional – it was all business. There was no alcohol, spirits or elaborate spreads with participants contributing a 2-liter of soda, deli items and chips. Ray, Chuck, and Gary had the entire day organized, each draft selection had a one-page scouting report, written by one of the three hosts with every NFL team boasting a page devoted to their draft selections over the past 20 years, an analysis of their front office as well as team performance.
“There were NFL preview books from the past 10 years on their tables, Ray would announce each selection and the debate began as to whether it was a smart or not so smart selection. Gary chronicled the draft selections, complete with statistics and analysis while Chuck updated the draft board. Ray oversaw relaying Gary’s updates to the attendees while almost every NFL team had representation.