The football program features the oldest All-American tradition at Gettysburg College dating back more than a century to the team’s first national award winner in 1906. The tradition spans multiple generations for the Orange and Blue, but each nationally-recognized Bullet can look back on their time on the gridiron and easily identify the skills and opportunities that helped build successful careers on campus and beyond.
The forefather of Gettysburg All-Americans is the legendary Paul “Polly” Sieber ’07, who helped Head Coach Fred Vail resurrect the football program following a winless campaign in 1903. Voted a team captain in each of his final two years, Sieber punctuated his tenure by leading the College team to a 7-1-2 record in 1906, which included ties at national powerhouses Penn (6-6) and Penn State (0-0).
Sieber later attended the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and became a successful surgeon. He was awarded an honorary degree by Gettysburg in 1938 and the college’s newly erected infirmary was named in his honor in 1960.
The program was bereft of All-Americans for many years despite successful results against much larger universities, such as Villanova and Lehigh. In the 1930s, Frederick Hamilton ’40 and Harry O’Neill ’39 earned the nod as Associated Press Small College All-Americans, the former earning the award twice in 1938 and 1939. O’Neill, a three-sport star at Gettysburg, went on to play for the MLB’s Philadelphia Athletics and was one of only two professional baseball players killed in World War II.
Former football standout Hen Bream ’24 coached both Hamilton and O’Neill and later served as Director of Athletics when the program continued to rise in prominence in the 1950s as a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference University Division. Players like Bill Ewing ’53, Joseph Ujobai ’54, Frank Gagliardi ’56, and Alan “Bucky” Kempton ’58 were among the players gaining national acclaim in the decade.
Joe Egresitz ’67 was the football program’s first-ever first-team All-American in 1966.
The 1960s could be designated as the “Golden Age” of Gettysburg football with unparalleled team accomplishments. In 1964, the Bullets won the MAC University Division title, dispatching the likes of Hofstra, Bucknell, and Delaware. Two years later, Gettysburg ran off six consecutive wins to close the season, including a 21-19 victory over Temple which sealed ownership of the Lambert Memorial Cup as the top team in the east. The teams featured a slew of national award winners, including 1964 team captain Ken Snyder ’65 and future member of the NFL’s Baltimore Colts Jim Ward ’66. In 1966, Joe Egresitz ’67 became the football team’s first-ever first-team All-American, earning the acclaim as a two-way player at tight end and defensive end.
“What I remember most about Gettysburg is the relationships,” recalled Egresitz. “I cultivated many relationships with teammates, faculty, athletics staff, and students from across campus, some of which have continued over the last 50 years.”
Gettysburg joined NCAA Division III in 1974 and the accolades quickly followed with Bullets earning spots on the Lutheran Brotherhood All-American Team throughout the decade. Star running back Kirby Scott ’77 earned nods on the national team in his final two years to go along with All-America honors on the track. In 1979, Craig Swanson ’80was named first-team All-America at defensive end and joined teammate Richard Swartz ’80 as the program’s first Academic All-Americans.
Running backs became the dominant force on the All-America teams for Gettysburg with Scott Dudak ’82, Ray Condren ’85, and Paul Martin ’86 all earning first-team honors in their careers. Condren became the program’s first American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III All-America First Team selection since Egresitz in 1983 and he repeated on the team the following year.
“I’ve always believed that Gettysburg College is very much in the conversation when it comes to discussions about the very best place to enjoy the NCAA DIII football experience,” stated Condren. “There are 247 teams in DIII football. The number of schools that offer both a world-class education and a football program with such a rich tradition and history is a very elite group.”
Martin followed his former teammate by gaining first-team national status on the Pizza Hut All-America Team in 1985 after piling up a school-record 1,727 rushing yards.
“The best part about playing football at Gettysburg College was playing alongside a senior class that was so experienced and wanted to win so bad,” said Martin. “We developed a sense or priorities that came straight from Coach Streeter. The program always felt bigger than Division III.”
Martin teamed with defensive back Brian Barr ’86 to lead Gettysburg to the only unbeaten regular season (9-0-1) in program history in 1985. The team advanced all the way to the national semifinals and Barr set a single-season record with 12 interceptions on the way to first-team All-America status from the coaches.
“The best part about playing football was the teamwork and comradery with my teammates starting with camp in mid-August through the season,” said Barr. “Every week there would be a build from scouting the new team to seeing the other teams’ plays and executing the game plan on Saturdays. Every player was important whether they saw time or not. They helped the team prepare and up its game until Saturday. The build from Sunday film/scouting to games on Saturday and then from September to November was exciting and helped bond the team for playing and well beyond our playing days.”
The 1994 season featured an unparalleled offensive campaign that saw fullback Dwayne Marcus ’95 and wide receiver Chris Notarfrancesco ’95 garner All-America honors alongside defensive end Jeff DeLisi ’96. It was the program’s first trio of national award recipients since the glorious campaign of 1966.
Three-time All-American Paul Smith ’00 set a Division III record with 527 all-purpose yards versus Muhlenberg in 1999.
At the end of the decade, two players dominated the national team in fullback Paul Smith ’00 and linebacker Ryan Moore ’02. Smith was a three-time All-American, including twice earning first-team honors from the AFCA in 1998 and 1999 and finished as Division III’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage (9,104). Moore was also a three-time award winner and remains the only Bullet with over 400 career tackles.
“First and foremost the team and the coaches,” said Smith when asked about the best part about playing football at Gettysburg. “I played with some great people, many of whom I am still in touch with today. The coaches were there for their players to help them succeed at the College, not just on the field. That extends outside of football to the rest of the coaches and athletic staff too.
“A close second was playing in Musselman Stadium,” he added. “The crowd, train, battlefields, band, end zone cannon and the diamonds set such a great atmosphere, and the field was perfect. And of course, my offensive line.”
Gettysburg’s most recent member of the elite AFCA All-America Team was running back Tom Sturges ’08 in 2007. Sturges piled up 1,570 rushing yards and led the Bullets to their last playoff appearance en route to first-team national status.
“Some of the best parts about playing football for Gettysburg was the bond I had with my teammates that I will have for the rest of my life,” said Sturges. “I created lifelong friendships on that field. Playing football for Gettysburg was a high intense, emotional battle you experience with your teammates in a quest for a common goal that you cannot experience doing something else. I will cherish that forever.”
The page has turned on a new chapter in Bullets football with Moe Banks assuming the role of head coach prior to an unprecedented 2020 campaign. For the first time since 1945, no football games will be played at Gettysburg during the calendar year due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, but the program looks to the future to reload and build upon the strong championship character passed down through the generations of All-Americans that have donned the orange and blue.
This story was originally posted on the Gettysburg College Website.