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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Nov 01, 2017

RBR Legendary Coach Robert Strangia Honored as “Father to His Players”

On September 15, at the Red Bank Regional (RBR) first home football game, history was memorialized as RBR’s legendary football coach Robert Strangia was honored by friends and family, inclusive of the many students whose lives he touched and changed forever. Two former students, Jerry Agee and Pete Soviero, petitioned the RBR Board of Education to honor their hero and mentor and raised funds for the event. Mr. Strangia now lives in Florida and his health prevented him from attending. A plaque was erected under the street sign, designating the road that leads around the school building to the football stadium as “Robert Strangia Way.” Part of the dedication plaque states, “Dedicating Robert Strangia Way as a path to the stadium field where the historic 1975 Central Jersey Group II Championship Game was played symbolizes the past, present, and future of Red Bank Regional.  Coach Strangia is a legend and a leader that put Red Bank Regional’s Football Team in the record books and RBR on the map.”

Robert Strangia joined the RBR teaching staff in the late ‘60s and enjoyed an educational career spanning four decades, which included his elevation to supervisor of the history department.  Coach Strangia’s historic career as the BUCs football coach was highlighted by three undefeated teams in 1971, 1974, and 1975, and one of the longest winning streaks in the Shore Conference history of 28 and 0 from 1973 to 1975. His players included two future NFL players: Lonnie Algood (Syracuse University, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals) and “Big” John Lee (Nebraska University, who played for the San Diego Chargers). Coach Strangia is a member of the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the RBR Distinguished Hall of Fame in 2002.

Beyond his coaching success, it was the person he was to his players that caused them to clamor for this accolade. Lonnie Algood explains, “During the ‘70s, the country was going through a lot of crazy stuff. Lots of the boys in our locker room were from broken homes, with no dads around. He would leave all that outside the locker room and would ask the question, ‘Are we all in?’ He told us there is a champion in each one of us. His job was to bring the champion out and together we could win championships. That was the secret. It wasn’t just about football; it was about life, to be a champion in life. That is what he taught me and everyone else on our team.”

Pete Soviero told the assembled crowd, many of whom were wearing “Robert Strangia Way” t-shirts, “Robert Strangia was so much more than a great football coach. He was an educator, disciplinarian, and mentor to hundreds of students and athletes. There were numerous times I can recall, and more I don’t know of, that these men and women could have easily been derailed and taken the wrong path in life if it wasn’t for Robert Strangia. He would open his doors, not only to his office here at the school, but this man would open his doors to his home. I was one of them.”

Jerry Agee thanked the RBR administration, including Athletic Director Del Dal Pra and Principal Risa Clay, RBR Board of Education President John Garofalo, and the RBR Board for working with him and Mr. Soviero to make this honor happen. He brought along five pages of notes from the honoree. Mr. Agee stated, “He wanted to share with you one of the big disappointments – the kids no longer with us (he then named them all). It was never about him and always about the kids.” He added that Coach Strangia was also disappointed that his health precluded him from traveling, but sent his goodwill ambassadors instead: his daughter Michele and grandson Matt, who unveiled the plaque and street sign to much applause.

Michele Hale later spoke about her father at halftime. She mentioned, “My dad is all heart. Anything he has ever done was directly from his heart and for the wellbeing of others. I know that he sent five pages of notes, but really that is because he is speechless about this great honor.”

 

Photo caption: Friends, family, RBR administration, and board of education members celebrate the dedication of the street to the RBR stadium after the beloved and most-winning coach in RBR history, Robert Strangia.