Bob Spicer '62 knew nothing about Saint Ignatius when he was in Sts. Philip and James grade school on Cleveland's near West Side.
He wound up with the Wildcats thanks to the influence of parish pastor Fr. James O'Brien and coach Thomas "T" Gallagher, whose longtime impact in his community was immeasurable.
"They told me I was going to Ignatius," Spicer says from his home in Lakewood. "It was a total culture shock."
This wide-eyed son of Irish immigrants went on to play for some of the legends of Saint Ignatius. Spicer's life in high school football culminates with his selection into the Saint Ignatius Hall of Fame.
"I'm humbled and grateful that they didn't forget about us old guys," says Spicer, now 78 and the grandfather of 16, including two Saint Ignatius student-athletes.
In an era of two tight ends, pound-it-out football, Spicer was a two-year starter as a 175-pound running back and defensive back. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards (he says there were no official statistics in his days) as the Wildcats were co-West Senate champs in 1961. That year he
was runner-up to Frank Solich of Holy Name for the Knute Rockne Award, given to the outstanding high school player in Cleveland.
Spicer's parents came from Newport in County Mayo, his father with a third-grade education. To get to high school, Spicer often hitchhiked and frequently was picked up by the same downtown workers (Yes, it was a much different era).
His head coach was John Wirtz, and his only assistant was Ab Strosnider; both are Saint Ignatius legends. Spicer played linebacker and covered the tight end in Wirtz's well-known 10-1 defense. He
remembers being taught by the late athletic director Rev. William Sullivan, S.J., for whom the school's gymnasium is named.
"I was only about 110 pounds when I first went there, and when I put on the gear for the first time, I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story – I could hardly walk," Spicer says. "We rode half an hour to Brookside Park in our gear to practice. They beat the heck out of us for whatever time practice lasted; we'd take the bus back and go home and do two hours of homework.
"During the day it was two periods of Latin, Math, Science and History. We couldn't talk in the halls. It was really, really something. Looking back, we thought a lot of guys would quit. But nobody quit. Ignatius guys don't quit."
He and Pamela, his wife of 51 years, raised two daughters and two sons. Scott '86 was Chuck Kyle's '69 first quarterback, and Ryan '90 was a linebacker on a national title team. One grandson played receiver for a state title team; another is a standout on the most recent national champion soccer squad.
Spicer spent his career in financial advising, but football never left him. He coached for 23 years at his alma maters—Saint Ignatius and John Carroll—as well as at Hawken, Chanel, and Gilmour, where he went 63-17 in seven seasons and was the Greater Cleveland Coach of the Year in 2004.
He's now in the Hall of Fame for three schools: John Carroll, Gilmour and Saint Ignatius.
"To be honored by Saint Ignatius," Spicer says, "it's the highlight of my life. No doubt about it."
Spicer and the other four inductees will be celebrated at Wildcats Roar on August 13. More information can be found here.