I did not know. It is very likely that most people in our community did not know. We have a Hall of Famer in our midst, since 1967 no less. Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, he played high school football in Upper Darby, PA, in the 1950’s. The 1950’s and living right here in Cincinnati? Really, the 1950’s. I certainly did not know until about two weeks ago.
He does not talk about his Hall of Fame days in high school, nor does he talk about himself. But he remembers it with a big smile on his face…like it was yesterday. Two weeks ago, we had dinner together. When he mentioned something about playing high school football, I started to ask questions.
It was like pulling teeth. He really did not want to talk about himself. But I wanted to hear all the details.
I heard James Patterson once say that his book ideas came from everyday sights and sounds, “The Patterson Effect." Well, this sight and sound from a long-ago hall of famer caught my “Patterson Effect” quickly.
I know where Philadelphia is, I know where Pittsburgh is. I know Donora, Pa is the home of Griffey, Sr. I know you drive through the outskirts of Pittsburgh to get to Morgantown, WV and I know that interstate 80 turns into the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
But I had never heard of Darby Burrough, PA, or Upper Darby, that is until about two weeks ago. I thought he said Dorby, Pa. When I went to search the internet for Dorby, I discovered it was Darby, PA., right smack in the middle of nowhere, a stone’s throw from Center City in Philadelphia.
Darby, PA, in 2019 had a population of about 10,695. Who knows what it was in 1953? I did not ask but if there is a Lower Darby I would like to know.
Our Hall of Famer went to Upper Darby, PA high school. Upper Darby High School was founded in 1895. He was a running back and defensive back on their varsity football team in 1951, 52 and 53. He played on the only undefeated football team in Upper Darby history in 1953, technically that is.
After he told me this, I caught a little smile. He chuckled a bit when he whispered that there was an undefeated Upper Darby team in 1938, but then he grinned and said, “they were undefeated, but they had a tie, so they really were not undefeated."
It is not easy trying to find information about that undefeated 1953 team. David Lichtenfeld graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1953. I found his name at Upper Darby High School in 1953 but alas no undefeated football team. The internet missed it.
He was inducted into the Delaware County, Pa. Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Upper Darby High School Hall of Fame in 2014. Did you know that? Did anyone know that?
David has been a member of our community for 54 years. David’s personality does not allow him to talk about himself, he is a volunteer’s volunteer. That should tell you why he does not talk about himself.
Before Covid he volunteered at Jewish Hospital and helped feed the homeless. He read and has started again to read for a blind woman. There was and is nothing you could ask of him that he would not do. But if you know David, you might ask him to hold off singing his favorite melodies. He has spoken to Senior’s groups about the FBI and made them laugh with his jokes and his reindeer nose. He is one of a kind.
After high school David had several offers to play college football, among them several what we know today as Power 5 schools. He chose Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA.
He played for the Gettysburg team in 1954 and 1955. His college career was not like his high school career. In two years, he rushed for a total of 209 yards, caught eight passes for 115 yards, scored three touchdowns, and had four interceptions… straight from the Gettysburg book of football stats found on the internet.
He almost had an * by his name in the Gettysburg football annals. He intercepted an opponent’s pass 5 yards into his own end zone, took it out to the 20, then the 30 and the 40. He had no one in front of him and had he made it to the goal line he would have had a record hard to beat…anywhere, anytime, in any league, a 105-yard interception return for a touchdown.
No one was close. “Crazy legs," an Upper Darby nickname, lost control of the football at midfield. He fumbled. He did it of his own accord. The ball rolled out of bounds. His team kept possession of the football but 75 years later he still shakes his head at the missed opportunity. His opponent that day, Franklin Marshall, shook their collective heads and thanked David for their luck. David still laughs about that.
David would not make the record books. After Gettysburg David volunteered for the Army. Volunteering became second nature. He served in the infantry division of the US Army from 1957-59.
While he was unlucky fumbling the football, he was lucky after leaving the Army when several jobs later he was introduced to someone who had a working knowledge of the FBI. He applied and was accepted, entering the Bureau on July 26, 1965. The job brought him to the Cincinnati office of the FBI in January 1967.
He has remained in Cincinnati since. He retired in 1992. As an FBI agent he chased bank robbers, investigated kidnappings and extortion, and sought fugitives. He could have starred in TV’s “ FBI."
But alas, he could not hold onto a football. I asked David two weeks ago if he could still catch a football. He looked at his hands and that showed me all I needed to know “I had knuckles on both hands replaced," he said. I asked him if the surgery was done before the Franklin Marshall game or recently.
By the way David, as a postgraduate of Upper Darby, was voted the “Most Popular Football Player” by the Upper Darby community in 1957. Recently, he wrote to Upper Darby inquiring as to whether they had any records of others being voted “Most Popular Football Player." He was just curious. Maybe he wanted to form a fan club.
Of course, they had no such records. The school wrote back, though, that not finding any other records meant that he was the “Most Popular Football Player” in the history of Upper Darby Football.
I did not know that. No one in Cincinnati knew that. Probably, except for the person who wrote David back, no one in Upper Darby knew or knows that.
Unless asked about that, David will not tell you that either. But I will tell you this, David is a true Hall of Famer and if you know him you will understand how he also comes with a title of Most Valuable.
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