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At IUP hall induction the ‘P’ is for Pesotini

Ed Paradis, left, made the trip to see Len Pesotini inducted into the IUP Hall of Fame.Len with his induction plaque.Len Pesotini at IUP circa 1975.

Ed Paradis, left, made the trip to see Len Pesotini inducted into the IUP Hall of Fame.Len with his induction plaque.Len Pesotini at IUP circa 1975.

Ed Paradis, left, made the trip to see Len Pesotini inducted into the IUP Hall of Fame.Len with his induction plaque.Len Pesotini at IUP circa 1975.

So how did the football player who caught barely over 20 passes at Pittston Area and played blocking tight end his first two seasons in college wind up leading the nation in receiving in his senior season?

“A good quarterback makes it easy,” Len Pesotini said with a laugh while talking about his induction into the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 20.

IUP did have a heck of a quarterback in 1975. Lynn Hieber was a two-time All-American who threw for 2179 yards in 10 games that season, a 217.9 per game average, and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. The numbers don’t sound like a ton, but 1975 was a time when running was everybody’s first option. “Lynn was just a natural. He was a super passer and a good runner,” Pesotini said.

But, Len’s humility aside, a good quarterback is only half the equation. Somebody had to catch Hieber’s passes and in 1975 that somebody was usually Len Pesotini. He caught 74 passes, no. 1 in the nation over all divisions, and averaged 108.8 yards per game, almost exactly half of Hieber’s 217 yards per game. The 74 receptions is still an IUP record. The 108.8 yards per game was an IUP record for 25 years. It was surpassed in 2001. In one game versus Westminster in ’75 Len caught 14 passes which is no. 2 on the IUP all-time list.

Len wasn’t a burner, but he had decent speed, good hands, was a route-runner, and at 6-2, 185 he was a big target. But talk to Len about football and he’ll steer the conversation towards players other than himself.

Asked about his memories of Pittston Area he talked about the legendary 1970 game in his junior season when the Patriots beat undefeated Wyoming Area 21-0 on Thanksgiving Day. “We just sat back and watched Rex run. He was amazing” Len said, referring to Rex Revesz who rushed for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

Asked about his senior year he talked about an unknown sophomore running back name of Jimmy Cefalo. “By the third game we knew we were witnessing something special.” Pressed, Len did recall a moment of personal glory. “The catch that stood out for me was when they put me on the front page of the Dispatch catching a ball between two defenders and they called it the ‘Impossible Catch’.”

When he talks about IUP he talks first about Eddie Paradis. Ed, who was a few years ahead of Len at PA, was a tackle at IUP when Len got there. “I looked up to him and then I wound up not only playing with him, but lining up right next to him at tight end. I’d get excited and say something like come on we got to do it on this play and he’d say, ‘calm down, take it easy.’ That’s how he was. He was a leader. They loved him at IUP. AS much as he was a mild mannered gentleman off the field he was a fierce competitor when he put the helmet on.”

It wasn’t until about the seventh week of Len’s senior season in 1975 that he learned he and Hieber were among the statistical leaders in the nation. “The coaches called us in. They told us to keep the season in focus, we had a chance to go to a bowl game. It wasn’t a problem. We didn’t look for individual stats. When it was all over and I looked back, I thought, ‘did that really happen?’ it was like a dream season.”

IUP finished 8-1-1. The one loss was to Edinboro and that cost them a trip to a bowl game which pitted the best state school teams in the East and the West

Len’s acceptance speech at IUP was peppered with “thank yous” for coaches, family and friends. Among them was Rich Hornfeck, the IUP offensive coordinator when Len played and the Northeastern Pennsylvania recruiter who brought Len to IUP. Hornfeck got connected to NEPA when he played at George Washington with Bob Barberi, later Pesotini’s coach at Pittston Area. He also talked about head coach Bill Neal. And he talked about the day he graduated saying, “I will never forget Dr. Stilwell at department graduation introducing me as the nation’s leading receiver when he presented me with my diploma. That was something I never expected and will always remember.”

After leaving IUP Len was teaching high school in New Jersey when a school secretary told him the New York Giants called looking for him. “I figured it was a joke on me and I said all right who’s the wise guy, but it turned out to be true.”

The Giants invited him to a tryout camp. So did the Eagles.

“Close, but…” Len said.

Len Pesotini is a math teacher at Pittston Area. He lives in West Pittston with his wife of 26 years, Debbie. They have three daughters Concetta, Marietta and Lenetta, a senior at Wyoming Area.

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