Football legend lost to illness

James Evans

This past Sunday, after battling a long illness, defensive line coach Lou Ferry, one of the true legends of Villanova football, passed away. Ferry, 76, had been a main figure on the sidelines for the ‘Cats for the past seven decades.

Ferry’s path to Villanova began in 1945 during his days at St. James High School in Chester, where Ferry was a three-star athlete in football, basketball and track. However, it was not football, but a basketball scholarship that brought Ferry to the Main Line. Head football coach Jordan Olivar soon recognized that he had something special. Consequently, Ferry dropped basketball and stuck with football, where he excelled.

Ferry played in the days when it was common for players to play both offense and defense; however, Ferry was special because of the way he starred on both sides of the ball. On offense he played tackle and blocked for quarterback Andy Gordon, while on defense he was a terror to opposing quarterbacks and running backs.

After two mediocre seasons, Ferry and the ‘Cats headed to a bowl game in 1947 against Kentucky. ‘Nova lost but posted a 6-3-1 record for the season. The next year Ferry was named captain of a team that was comprised of six future NFL players (including himself), Steve Romanik, John Sandusky, Ralph Pasquariello, Ed Berrang and Gordon. That year the ‘Cats posted their best record in nine years, going 8-2-1, including a 27-7 win over Nevada in the Harbor Bowl.

Ferry then went on to play seven years in the NFL, two with Green Bay, a season with Chicago and four with Pittsburgh. He eventually retired in 1956 after a third knee surgery, though this did not diminish his sincere love for the game.

Ferry then went on to coach high school football before returning to his alma mater in 1960 to become the defensive line coach. He enjoyed success in this position for 10 years, before being promoted to head coach in 1970. Ferry worked four years as head coach and served as interim head coach in 1974 for three games after his successor left. Over those years he compiled a 20-26-1 career record, including a 9-2 record in his first year.

Ferry went back to coaching the defensive line after the 1974 season and stayed on until the football program folded in 1981. During that time, Ferry was a mentor and coach to football-legend and now broadcaster Howie Long.

During football’s four-year hibernation, Ferry and other Villanova football alums fought hard to bring back the football program. In 1985 they got their wish and Villanova football was back with Ferry on the sidelines and Andy Talley as head coach. Ferry provided guidance for Talley as he began to try and revamp a program that had gone under four years ago.

“He was a link to the past,” Talley said. “He was very popular as an assistant coach and was one of the most well-known and well-loved of any in his era.”

As Ferry coached those past few years, his words of wisdom carried inspired his players on the field. Senior teammates Baylen Botts and Mike Tesei both remember Ferry as a knowledgeable coach whose presence on and off the field helped them strive for their best.

“Coach Ferry was a respected coach on our team and was very wise and patient,” defensive tackle Botts said. “He loved football and was always out on the field or in the stadium office. Throughout his life, Villanova football remained in his heart.”

“My favorite memories of Coach Ferry would have to be his jokes,” Botts said. “His expressions and one-liners put a smile on just about everyone’s face.”

Senior defensive tackle Mike Tesei most appreciated Ferry’s constant presence.” My favorite memory of Coach Ferry is just him in the office and out at practice everyday,” he said. “The little things he used to say and do is what I am really going to miss. You could go into the football office anytime and Coach Ferry would be at his desk or around.”