By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—For a second there, it was as if he was a wide-eyed freshman walking through the halls of St. Joseph’s Prep again. He was excited, emotionally invested and had no trouble proclaiming a special day for his alma mater.
Almost forty years ago, Michael Nutter had dreams. They landed him in the mayor’s office of Philadelphia. He launched his start at The Prep.
So excuse Mayor Nutter for showing some bias Friday morning when he surprised the St. Joe’s Prep student body by popping in and officially proclaiming Dec. 20, 2013, as “St. Joseph’s Prep Day,” after the Hawks captured the first PIAA Class AAAA state title in school history on Sunday.
“It’s really emotional, quite frankly, because I spent four wonderful years here and have been on the board here at The Prep a bunch of years ago, it’s just a wonderful school,” said Mayor Nutter, a 1975 Prep graduate. “I played football three of my four years here. When you think about this school, it’s relatively small. It’s an all-boys school filled with a lot of really smart kids.
“They were out there playing a game where they just gave an all-out effort. I’m just really proud and happy for them. The school has had a wonderful impact on my life. I just remember the first day I came here. It was intimidating that first day. I was 14-year old walking into this incredibly huge lobby with a whole bunch of people. I get the same feeling every time I come here.”
The Hawks destroyed previously undefeated Pittsburgh Central Catholic, 35-10, after going into halftime trailing 10-7.
“This place really prepared me for life and I’ve been out of here almost 40 years,” Nutter said. “I know Prep wasn’t supposed to win that game, and I know a lot about when people say you’re not supposed to do something, or you can’t win. I’ve had that experience. They just never gave up and that second half was incredible.”
The Prep was grateful one of their esteemed alumni returned. But Nutter was one of many who have come back to congratulate the school and the team. For coach Gabe Infante and his players, there’s been an overwhelming outpouring this past week on the Hawks’ trifecta—winning the Catholic League championship (the first since 2005), winning the District 12 championship (or city championship, the first since 1977) and topping it off with the state title (the first in school history).
“Just to know how many people care, and what a big deal this was to so many people to bring that type of happiness and sense of fulfillment, it can be overwhelming on the receiving end,” Infante said. “I had an alum came in and said his wish for Christmas was to take a picture with me and the state championship trophy. It typifies the swell of emotion it’s been in our community. It’s been great for the kids to connect the dots and see how their hard work and sacrifice had brought such good will to so many people that they don’t even know.
“To have the leader of your city take time out of his busy schedule to come here right before Christmas break and acknowledge you, formerly through a proclamation, that will really drive the point home to these kids that they’ve done something special.”