Jan. 15, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall football will have a moving presence in the MetLife Stadium neighborhood for the run-up to Super Bowl XLVIII.
In the four days prior to the first outdoor Super Bowl in northern climes on Feb. 2, the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford, N.J., will present the Meadowlands Historic Schoolboy Football Exhibit.
The Jan. 29-Feb. 1 exhibit will showcase high school football in the south Hudson and Bergen County region of New Jersey from the early 1900s to the 1960s.
The exhibit includes memorabilia, trophies, photos, taped interviews and vintage footballs, and one of the featured attractions is the late legend Vince Lombardi, who coached at St. Cecilia, one of five schools featured in the exhibit.
Two other schools featured are Lyndhurst and Passaic High Schools.
LHS produced 1970 Marshall starting quarterback Ted Shoebridge and place-kicker Marcelo Lajterman, while Art Harris starred for Passaic and was the top Herd running back as a sophomore.
All three were among the 75 victims of the Thundering Herd’s football team plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970 – as was Harris’ father, Arthur.
“Ted Shoebridge and Marcelo Lajterman have a prominent place in Lyndhurst football history, and both the Shoebridge and Lajterman families have been contacted and said they will be here during the exhibit,” said Rod Leith, who is the Rutherford Borough historian and president of the board of trustees at the Meadowlands Museum, a non-profit regional history museum that’s located in a preserved early 19th century Dutch-American farmhouse that’s on the National Register of Historic Sites.
The museum’s primary connection with the two late Herd players’ families is Tom Longo, a former Lyndhurst, Notre Dame and New York Giants player. Longo is responsible for the loan of a Shoebridge-Lajterman Memorial Plaque to the exhibit, and the museum also has high school football photos of both players for display.
Leith said Longo -- a 1959 Lyndhurst graduate -- is friends with Tom Shoebridge, the younger brother of the late Herd quarterback, and the Lajterman family.
Longo is part of the rich history of that area’s high school football and is joined by such standouts as Conrad “Coot” Manisera, a ’49 Lyndhurst grad. Manisera, a running back who scored 45 touchdowns in the 1948 and ‘49 seasons at Lyndhurst, went on to play at Georgia.
Leith said Longo believes Lajterman would have gone on to kick for a pro team.
In 2009, Shoebridge was named by The Record newspaper as one of the best all-time football players in Bergen County.
In his sophomore MU season, he became the first Herd quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game, with 312 (19-of-42, two touchdowns) in a 38-35 Fairfield Stadium loss to Ohio, on Nov. 22, 1969. It would be nearly 15 years before another Herd QB would reach 300 yards in a game.
Shoebridge and Lajterman are both inductees in the Lyndhurst High Football Hall of Fame.
After Harris starred at Passaic as one of the top running backs in the Northeast, he attended Massachusetts as a freshman in 1968-69, then sat out one season at MU before joining the team as a sophomore for the 1970 season.
He led the 1970 team with 413 rushing yards on 113 carries in nine games (one canceled after the tragedy). Harris also had 29 receptions for 242 yards. He scored two touchdowns.
The Meadowlands Museum Historic Schoolboy Football Exhibit also features many former major college and NFL players who played for St. Mary, Passaic, Rutherford, Lyndhurst and St. Cecelia, including Longo, Jack Tatum, Stan Walters, Bob DeMarco, Jim Garrett, Craig Heyward and Ron Mikolajczyk.
“We started planning for the exhibit back in the fall,” Leith said. “Like many museums, we struggle for visitation, struggle for support. With the Super Bowl being played at the Meadowlands, we felt this was something that could draw attention to the museum, and do it in a legitimate way. And we’ve been fortunate to have a great committee that’s worked on this exhibit with our museum director, Heather Kuruvilla.
“The exhibit is a great tribute to the schoolboy athletes who made up some legendary teams and their dedicated coaches who gave their time, experience and energy for the sport of football. It is a tremendous sports history well worth exploring, and we hope the public will enjoy it as much as we are pleased to present it.”
The Meadowlands Museum is located at 91 Crane Ave., in Rutherford, and Leith said shuttle service from the Kip Center Parking Garage (at the corner of Kip and Ames Avenue in Rutherford) will be available on the days the exhibit is open during Super Bowl Week (Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.).
The exhibit also will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays through the month of February.
Admission is free.
“If there are Marshall fans headed here for the Super Bowl or just passing through the area, we’d like them to stop by,” Leith said.
What visitors will learn is that a part of Marshall’s history is part of the fabric of Meadowlands football history, too.
To learn more about the Meadowlands Museum and the Historic Schoolboy Football Exhibit, contact the museum at 201-935-1175 or go to the museum’s website at www.meadowlandsmuseum.com.