I had not talked to Chuck Abramski in over 12 or 14 years. Still, if you knew the outspoken football coach at all, then you didn’t need to speak to him often to recall him.
Chuck was a guy, whether you liked him or not, you could never forget. That was simply impossible.
So, needless to say, I was crushed when I heard of his passing Saturday at the age of 86. But my sadness disappeared quickly as I went back in my mind to remember the man who I proudly called “the most colorful and quotable coach I’ve ever known.”
I really did not have many dealings with Coach Abramski during his career as football coach at Brownsville or Ringgold (1968-76). At that time I was a kid growing up in Monessen and my thoughts were, honestly, “Who is this crazy man on the Ringgold sidelines?”
It was later, in the 1980s, when I actually got to know him and considered him a friend. He was always proud of his results and confident in his ability to coach and teach the game of football. He pushed his players, but loved them to death. And what I really admired about Chuck was that while he did respect other coaches and programs in the area, he feared none and refused to take a backseat to anyone.
Inferiority was not in his vocabulary.
I first met him at a local spa we both went to in the early 1980s. I saw him one day in the steam room and I knew immediately who he was. He was very approachable and I think he enjoyed telling me stories about his career and battles with other coaching legends like Monessen’s Joe Gladys, Charleroi’s Rab Currie and Thomas Jefferson’s Bap Manzini, to name a few.
I spent a lot of time in the 1980s and early 90s talking football with him whenever I could. For a young writer like me, he was a gem – a quote machine – and he never held anything back.
Chuck was candid and as blunt as anyone could be, maybe even brutally blunt. And I loved that.
I think that’s what made our friendship click was because he was impressed that a Monessen kid had so much respect for a rival coach.
He was so proud of the fact he helped mold Joe Montana’s career at Ringgold as well as some of the other Ram stars of the 1970s, such as Yogi Jones.
Late in his career, when he had stops at Yough, Belle Vernon Area and California University, I was able to see him in action and, more important, keep our friendship going.
I remember at the turn of the 1990s, he was finished coaching football and moved into selling real estate. I once teased him that he could never sell any homes in Monessen because of his rivalry with the Greyhounds.
I told him nobody in Monessen liked him and he laughed. I think he took it as a compliment.
When he moved back to his roots in New Castle later in the decade, our meetings were pretty much over.
But my admiration never stopped.
And my memories of the man whose face would get beet red when he talked as he was passionate about pretty much everything in his life will never fade away.
I’ve read so many tributes to him on Facebook since his passing from former players. Those heartfelt comments showed what kind of impression Chuck left on those he coached and touched. He was tough as nails and demanded respect, but he would do anything for his players.
Now that he is gone, heck, I wish I could have one last conversation with him, hear one more story about the good old days. I would do anything to get one more sermon about “The World According to Chuck.”
One thing I’m sure of, he will spend forever in Heaven and that will be a headache for late legends like Gladys, Currie and Manzini because now they will spend eternity hearing how much better he was as a coach than they were.
I can’t wait to sit in on those conversations some day.
Goodbye, Chuck. Thanks for the memories.