Joe Hrezo

New Salem, PA native Joe Hrezo went off to college on a football scholarship and wound up on a world tour.

Hrezo played football, wrestled, and ran track for the Uniontown Red Raiders in the late 1950’s and was part of some outstanding Red Raider teams.

Chuck Muncie  

“I lettered in 1956 as a sophomore,” Hrezo recalled. “I played mostly on the kickoff team and some defense. In 1957, I played end and then my senior season I shifted to a guard spot and also played linebacker. I actually liked playing guard better than playing end because I was pretty quick, and I was able to pull and do a lot of blocking and of course, played linebacker on defense and I liked that.”
In 1956, the Raiders were 8-2 with losses coming at the hands of Mt. Lebanon 28-13 and Monessen 7-0. The 1957 squad was unbeaten at 8-0, but 16 players were stricken with the flu and two games were cancelled against Redstone and Baldwin. The Redstone game was rescheduled but Gardner points knocked the Raiders out of a chance to play for the title. In Hrezo’s senior year, Uniontown posted a 7-1-1 mark. The loss was an upset by German and a tie with Mt. Lebanon.
Hrezo was very adept at blocking punts and in his senior season he blocked five punts in the final three games.

“That was pretty interesting,” he laughed. “I think I got two in the last game and that helped me make the All-State team. I was pretty quick and our coaches had a great punt block scheme.
We were pretty good at blocking punts.”

The Red Raiders of that era were spearheaded by quarterback Sandy Stephens and halfback Bill Munsey. Stephens graduated in 1958 and Munsey in 1959.

“They were both great players,” Hrezo gushed. “Munsey was a great guy and I enjoyed blocking for him, he was tough and he could run. They were both good teammates. Stephens just had great
ability – he was good and he could tiptoe and he could run hard. He was pretty big and he had a good arm. Munsey was just a tough, tough guy.”

Bill Power was the Uniontown head football coach and Hrezo has high praise for his old mentor.

“He had good teams and he had good coaches,” Hrezo said. “His assistants were John Kruper, Al Brodhag, Max Zane and Bill Barren. Coach Power had the knack – we practiced hard and scouted really well and he used film, and we went over the film after every game he critiqued us.

He was a really good guy.”

Hrezo garnered All-State, All-County and All Western conference honors as a senior and was named to the Big 33 squad and helped Pennsylvania defeat the U.S. All Stars 18-0 in Hershey, PA.
“Five of us from the Big 33 team wound up playing at Maryland,” Hrezo said. “It was a great experience playing in that game, and there was nobody more surprised than me when I saw my name in the newspaper that I made it. That’s how I found out from
the newspaper.”

Still 1957 is a bitter pill for Hrezo to swallow.

“There was a lot of disappointment,” he lamented. “You go undefeated and all you get is an 8-0 record and no chance to play for a title.”
Hrezo also ran track for the Raiders and he was on the wrestling squad.

“I ran the sprints and low hurdles,” Hrezo stated. “I tried to throw the javelin and would always cross the line. I made the varsity wrestling team my senior year, and I lettered in track all three years. I enjoyed wrestling and we had a real good wrestling coach – Red Campbell. Abe Everhart coached track and he always had a smile on his face and he was a good coach.”

Hrezo also credits his time at Uniontown with helping him get through college football.

“Some of the basic fundamentals really helped,” Hrezo offered. “During the summer, Coach Power would give us a big tire tube folded over in kind of a canvas cover with holders on it and you would get another guy and you would get in your stance and pop up and hit it and forearm shiver it and he had a big punching bag hanging down and you hit that. When I went to college some of the players had never seen that. We had great fundamentals.”

When Hrezo graduated from Uniontown in 1959 he had to sift through some scholarship offers.

“I could have gone to Miami,” he remembered. “My dad wouldn’t let me – he said you’re not going to major in underwater basket weaving. I visited Tennessee, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Penn State and Maryland. Maryland recruited Pennsylvania and Fayette County well and Hrezo became a Terrapin.

“There were five of us down there from Fayette County,” Hrezo said. “Two the year before and three my year – Rich Novak and Tom Sankovich were down there and they showed me around and I said this is the place for me. Three of us joined those two – Tom Rae, Murnis Banner and me.”

Hrezo played freshman ball in 1959.

“I played in three games and then I got a concussion and a lacerated pupil my first year,” he stated. “I started as a guard my sophomore year and also played both ways as a linebacker and I played the up back on offense as a junior and then strictly linebacker as a senior.”
Hrezo won the Coaches Award as a linebacker in his senior season.
The coach at Maryland was Tom Nugent.

“He was a character,” Hrezo said of Nugent. “He had quite a staff including Lee Corso, but Nugent was a showman, an I formation guy.”
The Terps posted a 6-4 mark in 1960 and were 7-3 in 1961. In Hrezo’s senior season they went 6-4.

“We had great talent – Gary Collins made All-America,” Hrezo explained. “We could have gone to a bowl game my junior season, but we were upset by Virginia. My senior season we almost upset George Mira and Miami – I had an interception in that game. Dick Shiner played quarterback at Maryland while I was there and we had a good tackle in Walter Rock. Collins was terrific.”

Hrezo graduated from Maryland in 1963 and entered the service.
“I could have tried out with the Eagles,” Hrezo reported. “But I went through ROTC and got commissioned and two weeks after I graduated I was in the Air Force at Griffith Air Force Base in Rome, NY.”

The service set him up for what proved to be his life’s work in air transport. He was in the Air Force for four and a half years. Following his stint in the Air Force he went to work for Air America in Laos and Vietnam.

“I was trying to get into counter insurgency and go to paratrooper school,” Hrezo stated. “They didn’t have any opening for my AFSC – my service classification. I was color blind so I couldn’t go to pilot’s school. It was suggested that I go to transportation school, and I went there for three months and then went to Korea with the Military Air Transport Command. At that time Air America was flying a DC 4 and they brought the Stars and Stripes newspaper over from Japan every night. I got to know the Air America rep over there. I was extended for six months and then after that I got a job interview and I came back and then went to work for Air America.

“It was an interesting experience – it wasn’t as bad as everybody said it was. They were a contractor and they had some planes from the government and they did some really good things and some weird things.”

Hrezo worked for Air America for two years and then went to work for World Airways in Bangkok and Manila and some other projects.
“Right at the end when I was working for World Airways, I was on the last flight out of Da Nang in Vietnam that took off with about three hundred people on a 727.”

Hrezo then worked in Saudi Arabia and then to Singapore and then Indonesia and returned to the US and did some work with World Airways. He then went to work for Emory World Wide Airlines in Dayton, OH. He retired once, but then went back to work. He worked for Astar Air Cargo. Herzo retired in 2012.

Hrezo,76, resides in Jupiter, FL. He met his wife Carolina when he worked in Indonesia and they have been married 29 years and have no children.


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