C. Melvin Brooks Sr. was a three-sport athlete at Newark High School from 1935-1938. He won 10 letters (three in football, four in baseball, three in track) and was one of Newark’s most talented athletes and student leaders. He played American Legion baseball on a team, which went to the Regionals twice. He also played semi-pro baseball. Melvin won gold medals in the 100-yd dash and the medley relay in the 1938 Delaware High School Interscholastic meet, which featured 31 teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. He won gold medals in the half-mile and mile relays at the Jacob Tome Institute Invitational Meet. He also participated in the Penn Relays. At the University of Delaware Mel earned nine varsity letters (four in football, three in track, two in baseball). He was a football starter the third game of his freshman year. He earned the nickname “Ripper” Brooks with his style of running. At 170 pounds, he was a two-way performer, halfback on offense, linebacker on defense and he played 60 minutes three straight games. Featured by Robert Vance in a Journal Every Evening caricature, Mel played on the University of Delaware's first undefeated team in 1941. He was a brilliant ball carrier his first three years and leading ground gainer his junior season. He was hampered with nagging injuries in his senior year, but he played through them. Twice suffering a broken nose, Mel was one of the first players to wear a facemask. Mel was selected co-captain his senior year along with Jim Mullen.
Susan Delaney-Scheetz was an all-around athlete at Brandywine High School. Susan’s outstanding accomplishments playing lacrosse began at West Chester State University. She continued in lacrosse as coach at Indian Lane Jr. High for six years, then moved to Penncrest High School for seven years and compiled a 93-20-3 record, three league championships and one PIAA District/State Championship. She was Penn State University lacrosse coach 1986-1989 with a record of 67-9-0. Her teams were Division I runner-up in 1986 and 1988 and Division I National Champions in 1987 and 1989. During her career Susan also coached the USA/Canada Touring Team in 1985, the USA World Cup Team in 1986 (silver medalist), the Under 23 Touring Team in 1987 and the USA Squad from 1982-89. Susan was named College Senior All-Star Coach and National Collegiate Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1989. She was named NCAA Division I Lacrosse Coach of the Decade in 1991. Her service to lacrosse also includes: Under 25 Tour Clinician, NCAA Lacrosse Committee member (Chairwoman 1989-93), USWLA Collegiate All-American Selection Committee, Brine All-American Selection Committee and Nominations Committee IWLCA. Susan’s honors include High School Senior All-Star Coach in 1981, NCAA 10th Anniversary Award in 1991, IWLCA Recognition Certificate in 1991. She was inducted into the Delaware County Hall of Fame in 1989, the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1998 and the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2000. As Penn State Athletic Director she is currently responsible for 13 women’s sports.
Ace Hoffstein won 10 varsity letters in basketball, soccer and baseball at the University of Delaware while earning All-Conference honors in three sports. He became one of the state’s most successful basketball coaches. Ace was twice selected Junior College Coach of the Year at Goldey Beacom College in the early 1950s and won Delaware High School Coach of the Year honors in 1965 at St. Elizabeth High School. Hoffstein’s 1965 Vikings team went 18-0, and his St. Elizabeth teams won 138 games in 166 starts. Ace’s Goldey Beacom basketball teams also enjoyed a lofty winning percentage, compiling a record of 86-14 during his five years as head coach. He also served as assistant basketball coach at Delaware State University, Cleveland State and Texas A&I. He has been a scout for 25 college teams over a 25-year period. In addition, Ace took over head coaching duties in 1968 for the Wilmington Blue Bombers of the Eastern Professional Basketball League. His Bombers finished second with an 18-9 record. Ace has become a nationally respected teacher of basketball shooting techniques and has authored books on basketball theory that has drawn kudos from Texas Tech coach Bob Knight and many other prominent coaches. He has conducted shooting clinics in 40 states with some of the sport’s greatest names, including Billy Cunningham, Earl Monroe, Hal Greer and Jack McCloskey.
Bob Mattson was an All-American swimmer at North Carolina State and world record holder in college. He coached every Delaware swimmer to make U.S. Olympic swimming teams and nearly two dozen swimmers who competed in Olympic trials. As swimming coach and founder of the Wilmington Aquatic Club, Bob put Delaware on the national and international swimming map. Among the Olympians coached by Bob was Dr. David Johnson. Johnson’s brother, University of Delaware Athletic Director Edgar Johnson, also swam for Mattson. Edgar Johnson credits Bob for doing more to promote competitive swimming than any other person in Delaware. During his Delaware coaching career that spanned five decades, Bob coached hundreds of swimmers who excelled in college and high school competition, including numerous All-American selections. Jenny Franks set a world record that stood for more than five years and Mary-de Mackie Hand was a four-time All-American and an Olympic Trials participant. Bob continues to be recognized around the globe as a pioneer in training methods, ideas on stroke mechanics and sports psychology.
Tom Mees, a 1967 graduate of Brandywine High School whose media career covered basketball, hockey and football, was a member of the school’s Broadcast Club and served as a baseball team manager. Tom worked for WSER radio in Elkton, MD in 1970-71. A 1972 graduate of the University of Delaware, he helped start and run the first student-run radio station where he provided play-by-play for Blue Hen football and basketball games. Tom spent six years as Sports Director of WILM AM and hosted a weekly sports talk show. In 1979-80 Tom became sports director of WFCA-TV in Tallahassee, Florida, providing play-by-play at ESPN’s inception in 1979. Chris Berman joined him one month later. Tom served as anchor of ESPN’s Sports Center from 1979-1993, often mentioning University of Delaware football and basketball scores. He announced college football and basketball games including the 1992 North Atlantic League championship game in which Delaware qualified for its' first-ever NCAA tournament bid. Tom became ESPN’s lead NHL announcer in 1993. Tom was emcee for several Blue Hen Hoop Club banquets. His favorite interview was NBA star Julius (Dr. J) Erving, . Tom died in a 1996 drowning accident. Tubby Raymond commented “I am shocked and saddened. Tom was a fine young man and I admired his professionalism as he progressed through the stages of his career. He was extremely dedicated to the University of Delaware, carrying our banner wherever he went.”
Mike Neill’s remarkable baseball career included a stint with the Oakland As and ended with the Olympic Gold Medal team in the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. He was named Delaware Athlete of the Year in 2000. Mike, a perennial All-Star in the Seaford Nanticoke Little League, played on five state championship teams, three of which went to the Senior Little League World Series. Mike was a three-year starter at Seaford High School - a member of the Blue Jays 1986 state championship team. As a senior, Mike was named first team All-State First Baseman, MVP in the Blue-Gold All-State game and Delaware Amateur Baseball Player of the Year. Mike was also an All-State basketball player. At Villanova University he compiled a .417 career batting average, led the Wildcats to the 1991 Big East Conference crown and was named Big East Player of the Year. He established team records: 232 hits, 53 doubles and 379 total bases and several single season records. Mike won two minor league batting championships and had a .307 batting average over 11 years. He was selected to four All-Star teams and was a key player in the Vancouver Canadians’ 1999 AAA World Series victory. He was called up by the Oakland As in 1988 but was sidelined with an injury. Mike led the 2000 USA Olympics team to a 4-0 win over Cuba in the gold medal game with a first inning home run and a dramatic sliding catch in the ninth inning. His walk-off homer against Japan won the team’s first round Olympic contest. During the 1999 Pan American Games he had the game winning hit to clinch the Olympic berth for his USA team.
Joe Purzycki became a highly successful high school and college football coach after serving as captain of the 1969 University of Delaware football team that won the Lambert Cup. His coaching career began at Woodbridge High School where he turned around a floundering program. In 1975, Joe moved to Caesar Rodney High School and won the state football championship. Joe was named Delaware High School Coach of the Year. While at Caesar Rodney, his teams never lost a regular season game while compiling a 33-2 record. From 1978 through 1980 Joe served as defensive backfield coach at his alma mater. During Joe’s tenure the Blue Hens won the National Small College Championship and had a 32-7 record. Then Joe accepted perhaps his most difficult challenge, the first white head coach at Delaware State University. In four years the Hornets went from a 2-9 record to a winning 8-2. Joe was selected 1983 MEAC Coach of the Year and named National Coach of the Year in Black College Football by the Washington D.C. Pigskin Club. Joe then became head coach at James Madison, where he had a 34-30-2 record and won COSIDA Virginia Coach of the Year honors in 1987. Joe was inducted into the Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
John Taylor was the highest National Football League draft pick in Delaware State University history. He became one of the National Football League’s most feared receivers and was a two-time All-Pro selection with the San Francisco 49ers. He was a member of the 49ers 1989, 1990 and 1995 Super Bowl championship teams. He was voted punt return specialist on the NFL Silver Anniversary Super Bowl Team by NFL fans and named by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as second team punt return specialist on the NFL’s Team of the 1990s. John caught a Joe Montana 19-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers a 20-16 Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in 1989. John was named NFL Offensive Player of the Week setting a 49er receiving record with 286 yards on 11 catches against the Los Angeles Rams. He was named 1990 United Way National Football League Man of the Year for his public service efforts. John was Delaware State’s leading pass receiver in 1983, 1984 and 1985 and the all-time leader in touchdown (42) and receiving yards (2,426). He holds the DSU single game record for receiving yards (223) and for the longest receptions in school history (97 and 93 yards). John has the second highest total all-purpose yards in DSU history (3,733). He was named MEAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1985 and All-MEAC first team in 1984 and 1985.
John Townsend, nicknamed ‘Peach Stone Jack’ hailed from Townsend, Delaware and played baseball in 155 games for three Major League baseball teams from 1901 to 1906. He pitched for Philadelphia of the National League, and Cleveland and Washington of the American League. As a starting pitcher, his record was 36 wins and 84 losses with five shutouts and an ERA of 3.59. He pitched in 28 games as a relief pitcher with four wins and three losses with a 4.73 ERA. Peach Stone Jack’s major league statistics were: 1901 with Philadelphia - 10 and 6 with a 3.35 ERA, 1902 with Washington 10 and 19 with a 4.45 ERA, 1903 with Washington 1 and 11 with a 3.46 ERA, 1904 with Washington 5 and 26 with a 3.58 ERA, 1905 with Washington 7 and 16 with a 2.63 ERA, 1906 with Cleveland 3 and 6 with a 2.91 ERA. John walked 416 batters and stuck out 473 during his career. His career batting average was .166 (71 hits, including 14 doubles, three triples and one home run). He drove in 29 runs, scored six, had three walks and three stolen bases.
James F. Walls was considered by many to be one of the finest athletes in the history of Sussex County. He played four sports at Georgetown High School (football, track, basketball, baseball). In football he was co-captain, a single wing tailback featuring speed, passing, running and kicking skills, a star defensive safety and a ferocious tackler for a team that was undefeated three years. Jim never lost in the javelin and discus throws and scored more points in track meets than any other participant. He ran the 220 and 440 yard sprints and anchored the winning mile relay team at the Penn Relays. At one meet he won the javelin (150 ft), shot put, discus, broad jump and tied in the pole vault. Jim was basketball center, baseball pitcher (one no-hitter), and utility player with a rifle throwing arm, power hitter, and great base runner. Jim played football for the University of Delaware’s freshman team. Coach Murray dubbed him “the greatest of high school passers”. In 1943 Jim joined the army and was assigned to the football team at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma. As a teenage star, he was a leader on a team of mostly college graduates. He also played volleyball, basketball and baseball and was announced at games as “Here’s Big Jim Walls from Delaware”. After the military Jim was instrumental in organizing the Eastern Shore Basketball League and was a mainstay for 12 years on the “County Seaters” that won three championships and once won 25 consecutive games.