Altoona’s 1962 team turns back clock

For Mountain Lions, memories of unbeaten season never get old

In the fall of 1962 for 14 weeks, 51 young men started on a journey that continues to this day.

It has been 54 years since those young men completed, and competed, on the football field. Their record still stands as the last undefeated football team at Altoona Area High School.

We all live on our memories as we approach the fourth quarter of our lives.

Many things have changed since 1962. One of those changes was the creation of social media sites.

I was totally taken back 54 years when I saw a huge photograph of the 1962 Altoona High football team being displayed in my hometown at Hoss’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant.

How big was the picture? I really couldn’t see from the Internet posting, but it did look big.

I knew I had to make a trip home to see the picture in person.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I sent out email invitations to all the living players on the 1962 team.

I wasn’t sure how many of us still have family members living in Altoona and would be traveling home for a visit.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, I started my journey back to my hometown, arriving at the restaurant at about 11 a.m.

There were a few cars in the parking lot, and I wasn’t sure what time the restaurant opened. After observing customers exiting the restaurant, I decided to go ahead and see if any of my fellow teammates had arrived before me to see the picture.

I was the first one to arrive.

Standing in the reception area, wearing my maroon and white jacket given to the players at the 25th reunion of the team, I was totally taken back by the size of the picture.

As I stood there and looked at those young men, tears came to my eyes as I remembered those that have passed at such a young age and seeing others in the first, second, third and fourth rows looking so young.

Bob Fogle arrived shortly after my entrance, and he, too, was amazed at the picture.

Jerry Sanker and his brother, Tom, soon arrived as did Rick Noonan and Dave Thompson.

All were totally taken back by the picture, and the memories it invoked.

Jon Masood, a sports writer for the Mountain Echo, Altoona’s high school newspaper, also arrived. Jon had started out as a manager on the team and then wrote about the team.

One hour turned into two hours as we ate and discussed the team and the coaches — memories that are indelibly marked in our minds and have been for 54 years.

I would say we talked about wins and losses, but there were no losses.

I am sure we all felt honored to be a part of that picture and more importantly, to have been a part of that team.

For 14 weeks in 1962, we brought recognition to the high school and the city of Altoona, and when I pulled out of the parking lot to head home, I had 100 miles and two hours to relive what I had just experienced.

It was going to be a good trip.

McKnight was an offensive and defensive end for the 1962 Altoona Mountain Lions who earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland. He is now a retired state policeman.