Put the ball down. Let’s play. Anyplace, anytime.
That was the philosophy of legendary Lansdale Catholic football coach Jim Algeo, whose teams were renowned for their competitiveness, toughness and attention to detail.
Mr. Algeo, a longtime coach whose influence on his players ranged far beyond the football field, died Sunday night at 83 after a lengthy illness.
“That was the mantra,” current Lansdale Catholic coach Dom D’Addona said. “I wasn’t even here at that time and I know that, ‘Put the ball down and let’s play.’
“We don’t care where. We’ll play you at 12th and Allegheny. We’ll play you at 11th and Harry. We’ll play you in the middle of the street.”
Mr. Algeo was Lansdale Catholic’s coach for 44 years. His teams won 294 games as well as 11 titles in various conferences and the PIAA Class 2A state title in 2004.
Mr. Algeo created the culture of the “Rare Breed” of Lansdale Catholic football players. They were athletes who reveled in their small-school, underdog status and assumed their demanding coach’s hard-nosed approach to the sport.
“We never passed a test coming off the bus,” said John Algeo, a star quarterback at Lansdale Catholic in the mid-1990s who later served as an assistant coach under his father for seven years. “But my goodness did my father get the best out of his players. His philosophy was, ‘Put the ball down and we’re going to punch you in the mouth and battle you for 48 minutes.’ ”
Jim Algeo’s most famous player was quarterback Joe Judge, class of 2000. Judge earlier this month was named head coach of the New York Giants.
“Coach Algeo was a great coach and even better man,” Judge said in a statement. “He taught us the importance of working hard for the man next to you more than our own individual goals.
“His Faith, Family and Football priority system made us keep what we did in perspective.”
Mr. Algeo was one of those high school coaches who combined a passionate approach to success in the sport with selfless sacrifice and service to others, his son John said.
“He was like St. Joseph the worker,” John Algeo said, his voice cracking with emotion. “He never wanted it to be about himself. He never wanted the accolades.
“He always told me, from when I was a young kid, ‘Go to work. Do your duties.’
“That was his thought about how to serve others. And in the course of that, he influenced thousands of high school football players and tens of thousands of high school students.”
John Algeo said he recently heard from a classmate at Lansdale Catholic who was a student of Mr. Algeo’s in a business class.
“She Facebook-messaged me, ‘John, you have no idea how much your father influenced me,’” John Algeo said.
Lansdale Catholic athletic director Mark Princehorn said Mr. Algeo’s presence remains strong at the school long after his retirement in 2011.
“His legacy will live forever,” Princehorn said.
Mr. Algeo also was known as a coach who was ahead of his time. His teams at Lansdale Catholic in the 1990s featured a pass-oriented offense when most high school squads still took a run-first approach.
John Algeo and his nephew Mike deMarteleire — Mr. Algeo’s grandson — as well as Judge all passed for around 2,000 yards in six straight seasons from 1994-1999.
“The Wing-T still was our base,” John Algeo said. “But we would throw the ball. We called it ‘The Wing and Shoot.’ My dad knew how to play to his players’ strengths.”
Mr. Algeo and his wife, Mickey, were the parents of nine children. The couple was married for 60 years in October. Mickey died in November.
Mr. Algeo also was preceded in death by a son, Danny. He is survived by eight children, 22 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
There will be a viewing Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Lansdale, with a Funeral Mass set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Judge indicated that he will forever carry the lessons from his old coach.