A journey from Delone Catholic to the Super Bowl
Hanover native and Delone Catholic grad Pat Flaherty, right, is seen with his twin brother, Mike, center, before a Giants-Bears game in 2007. Pat Flaherty, offensive line coach for the New York Giants, received kudos for his line’s play in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Harry Hiestand, the Flahertys’ brother-in-law and offensive line coach for the Chicago Bears, is at left. Background posts: Susquehannock grads make national sports news, Lineup full of stars with York County links and Wiki profiles eight with national status bearing Hanover roots.
Sunday’s Super Bowl announcers were lavish in their praise of the New York Giants’ offensive line.
They used the normal cliches: ‘kept Eli Manning upright,” “not big names,” and “underrated.”
At one point, they named the offensive line coach: Pat Flaherty… .
Flaherty is one of York County’s own.
He grew up in Hanover, played at Delone Catholic, reached All-American status at East Stroudsburg, returned to coach at Delone and then paid his coaching dues at a number of colleges.
Then he reached the big-time as the New York Giants offensive line coach four years ago.
And now he has a Super Bowl ring.
Frank Bodani’s York Daily Record/Sunday News story on Flaherty (2/3/08) follows:
It’s been decades since the Super Bowl coach walked a block from his Hanover home to the football field each day.
Back then, he was just one of nine Flaherty kids in the house on Third Street. All the boys had to do was walk up the alley to the field where their father ruled over practice at Delone Catholic High.
What could be better?
Helmets cracking, whistles blowing, footballs flying. The boys fetched towels and carried water bottles, anything to be close to it all.
They were entranced, so much so that it seemed to shape their lives. The younger ones, Tom and Bill, grew up to become high school basketball coaches, teaching young men about games and life just like their father did.
Pat was a bit different, though. He seemed more preoccupied with the details of those summer and fall afternoons, especially with the way his father drilled the biggest players on the field.
“I think Pat watched Dad an awful lot on the sideline while the rest of us might have been throwing the football around,” Mike Flaherty, Pat’s twin brother, said with a laugh. “He was observing Dad a lot more than we were.
“I think it was because he saw what Dad did was something he really liked. … Pat knew from an early age that blocking (should be) just as aggressive as tackling. Pat didn’t just want to get in someone’s way, he wanted to knock you down.
“I think from an early age he knew that was his calling.”
* * *
From Hanover to the Super Bowl.
Of course, the road has had plenty of curves over the years for Pat Flaherty, a fourth-year offensive line coach for the New York Giants – the underdogs who will try to knock down the unbeaten New England Patriots tonight in the Arizona desert.
But it did all begin on that practice field in Hanover with his dad. The man who coached three sports and taught history and served as athletic director and even painted at Delone during the summers.
“He was the guy I always looked up to,” said Pat Flaherty, now in his early 50s. “He made sure I did things right. … At the time you don’t appreciate the effort and the love that go into coaching. I think I appreciated it more when I finished high school. He gave it a lot of tough love.
“I can remember the day in college when he asked me what I wanted to do with myself. I told him I wanted to coach. He sat me down and asked me, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?'”
John Thomas “J.T.” Flaherty had to be certain his son understood the amount of dedication and sacrifice needed to do such a job, and do it well.
The kid didn’t blink when confirming. He had watched from the best, right? And learned from him, too. J.T. Flaherty schooled his son on the finer points of playing the offensive line when he made the varsity team at Delone.
So it was the toughest thing in the world when J.T. died suddenly of a heart attack soon after Pat finished an All-America offensive line career at East Stroudsburg University.
But Pat Flaherty knew what to do next. He comforted his younger brothers, made sure his twin brother upheld a commitment to join the Peace Corps and returned to Hanover to be close to his mother.
And he coached.
He helped the Delone staff for two years until his twin returned. That enabled him to leave and pursue his dreams, hooking on as an assistant at East Stroudsburg for two years before joining the Penn State staff. He worked under line coach Dick Anderson and helped the Nittany Lions win their first national title in 1982 before following Anderson to Rutgers.
“The same things that stood out in him then are present now,” Anderson said. “There’s only one reason for Pat’s success, and that is he is a very determined and very hard-working individual. He’s reliable, a good person and has good values. He’s married to a great girl.
“It’s not very often you find people who are the combination of all of those things.”
Three more college stops prepared him for a shot at the NFL. He coached the Washington Redskins’ tight ends in 2000 before directing the Chicago Bears tight ends for three more seasons.
Tom Coughlin hired him to coach the Giants’ offensive line in 2004.
It was soon after reaching the big time, though, that he was hit with this: a colon cancer diagnosis followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments. The intensely private man was not only forced to inform his players and co-workers, he also had to deal with the publicity from the New York City media.
He beat it, though, and praises his doctors, his wife, Lynne, and their son and daughter for helping pull him through.
Not too long after that he underwent hip replacement surgery.
Now, he prefers to simply move on.
“Did it change me? It makes you stop and think, day in and day out, what you’re going through,” he said of the cancer. “I appreciate each and every day. … I really look ahead as much as anything. I don’t look over my shoulder.”
“He doesn’t blink,” Anderson said, “he just keeps going.”
The attitude has seemed to work pretty well, considering where it has taken him:
The Giants started 0-2 this fall, won a record 10 road games and somehow beat the feel-good Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre at frozen Lambeau Field.
Now he’s coaching in his first Super Bowl – a year after his brother-in-law Harry Hiestand (whom he met while coaching at East Stroudsburg) went as the Chicago Bears’ offensive line coach.
How big is this?
Consider how Flaherty and the Giants didn’t arrive back in New York until 4 a.m. the morning after beating the Packers – but were in the office working before noon.
“After a couple of hours of sleep you’re going 100 mph,” he said.
The Super Bowl was still two weeks away then.
Now, it’s a few hours away.
Through it all, the kid from Hanover remembers that practice field off of Third Street and the lessons he learned, the game he grew to love there.
How it started with his dad.
“I think about it all the time,” he said. “I think about the foundation he gave me and how I want to make him proud with everything I do.”