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Obituary: George Roman / Played three seasons in NFL after starring at Penn Hills, Western Reserve

Thursday, July 18, 2002

By Ray Fittipaldo, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

George Roman, a former standout football player at Penn Hills High School who later went on to play three seasons in the NFL, died June 30 at his home in Columbus, Ga. He was 77.

Mr. Roman, who grew up in Verona, had suffered from emphysema and diabetes.

Large for his day at 6 feet, 4 inches and weighing more than 240 pounds during his pro career, Mr. Roman decided against attending better-known schools such as Notre Dame and Wisconsin to enroll at Western Reserve College in Cleveland.

Less than a year into his college education, the outbreak of World War II led to Mr. Roman being drafted into the Army. He served as a medic from 1943 to 1946, spending 2 1/2 years in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations.

After his tour of duty was over, Mr. Roman returned to Western Reserve for two more seasons before being drafted in 1948 by the Boston Yankees of the NFL as a defensive tackle. He also played for the New York Bulldogs in 1949 and for the New York Giants in 1950.

A back injury cut short his professional career.

"He was just so big that he'd just roll over you in games," remembered childhood friend Bill Patellos. "There wasn't just two guys on him. Sometimes it took three guys on him to knock him down. Back in those days if you were 180, 190 pounds you were a brute. He was 6-4, 220 in high school easy. But he was also a calm individual. Just because he was big, he wasn't one of those bullies."

During his travels in the Army and in professional football, Mr. Roman rubbed elbows with the rich and famous. He once dated singer Patti Page, befriended actor John Wayne and developed friendships with other up-and-coming players of the era, such as Tom Landry and Bobby Kennedy, who played for Harvard in 1948.

"When he was playing in Boston, George was walking down the street with his coach and there was a little man coming toward them," said his sister, Cathy Ray of Marietta, Ga. "George thought he was a strange-looking man. His coach said, 'George, I'd like you to meet Albert Einstein.'

"His path crossed [those of] so many interesting people. He could expound on any subject you wanted to talk about."

Mr. Roman brought his stories and life experiences to the classroom after his playing career. In 1956, he taught science and English at Boysville High School in Macon, Mich., and later at Brake Junior High in the Taylor, Mich., public school system until retiring in 1985.

He spent the past 17 years in retirement in Georgia.

He is member of the athletic halls of fame at Penn Hills and Case Western Reserve University.

In addition to his sister Cathy, Mr. Roman is survived by four children, Peter Schileci of Valencia, Calif., and Mark Schilecci, Paul Schilleci and Pamela Davis, all of Aubrey, Texas; and two sisters, Mary Lorraine Gruber of Bedford, Ohio, and Renee Dolores Duda of Parma, Ohio.

Interment was in All Saints Cemetery in Braddock.

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