Tony Pusateri said he was surprised and deeply humbled when he learned he would be inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Pusateri, who was inducted along with five other coaches during a ceremony June 20, compiled a 130-74-2 record over a span of 20 seasons. He coached DeSales from 1977-85, followed by Westerville South from 1986-90 and Reynoldsburg from 1996-2001.
In 1985, he guided DeSales to a 14-0 record and the Division III state title in its first playoff appearance. The Stallions defeated Orrville 21-13 in the state final at Ohio Stadium.
Pusateri also directed Reynoldsburg to its first -- and only -- playoff appearance in 2001. The Raiders set their program record for wins that season, going 9-3 and defeating Worthington Kilbourne 24-20 in the first round of the Division I playoffs before losing to Dublin Coffman 28-14 in a regional semifinal.
In between his stints with DeSales and South, Pusateri coached at the college level. He was the special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Bowling Green from 1991-95, helping to guide the Falcons to two Mid-American Conference titles and victories in the California Bowl in 1991 and the Las Vegas Bowl in 1992.
"I'm still in awe about this because making it into the state football hall of fame is something I never would have expected," said Pusateri, who was an assistant coach at Liberty Union in 1973 and '74 and DeSales in 1975 and '76. "When I look at the past hall of fame classes and see names like Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Earl Bruce and Jim Tressel, it doesn't seem possible that my name can be in there alongside those guys. I was completely honored and humbled by this whole experience."
Bob Jacoby, who was an assistant coach under Pusateri at DeSales from 1982-85, said anyone who coached with or played for Pusateri wasn't surprised to see him be inducted into the OHSFC Hall of Fame.
"Tony is the most outstanding coach that I've ever been around," said Jacoby, who was DeSales' head coach from 1990-2006, leading the Stallions to state titles in 1997 and '98, 15 playoff appearances and a 157-52 record. "Tony's a special person and his integrity is heads and shoulders above everyone else. He's the most disciplined person I've ever been around and he's completely unselfish. Tony has gone out of his way to help every coach and player he's worked with.
"I had no idea how to coach football the right way before I spent time with Tony. The only reason I was successful as a head coach is because I did my best to follow in Tony's footsteps, because I didn't want to let him down."
Dublin Jerome coach Mark Hundley, who was an assistant coach under Pusateri at Reynoldsburg, said Pusateri knew how to bring out the best in his players as well as his assistants.
"The biggest thing I learned from Tony is how to deal coaches, players and people in general," Hundley said. "Tony's a master at making people feel good and his players would run though a wall for him.
"He's also got a good sense of humor. When we would run 7-on-7 drills, Tony loved to get in there at quarterback, and he would tease players to no end when he would complete a pass with what I would call a less-than-average arm."
Coffman coach Mark Crabtree has a unique perspective of Pusateri. Not only did Crabtree play for him at DeSales and serve as an assistant on his coaching staff at DeSales, he coached against him in a playoff game and has worked with him for the past 10 seasons.
Crabtree was coaching the Shamrocks when they defeated Reynoldsburg in the 2001 playoffs. Pusateri walked away from coaching after the loss. Since the fall of 2004, he has been the athletics director at Coffman.
"When I was a player, I saw how passionate Tony was about DeSales and football in general," Crabtree said. "I hung on every word Tony said to our team and to me personally, and he made me want to become a football coach.
"Tony would do anything he could to make his football team and everyone around him better as long as he could do it the right way, and he's been a major influence on a countless number of coaches and players."
Pusateri, a 1969 DeSales graduate who played football at the prep level as well as for Capital University, said he was touched by how many of his former players and coaches attended his hall of fame induction ceremony.
Also in attendance were his wife, daughter, father, brother and five sisters. When Pusateri announced during his acceptance speech that his father was celebrating his 87th birthday, Tony Sr. received a standing ovation.
"To see that many people go out of their way to come to the ceremony at their own expense took my breath away," Pusateri said. "Having my entire family there made it even more special. It was neat that I was able to share this experience with my dad because he was so proud and he really had a great time."
Pusateri said the game of football taught him life lessons that he has passed along to his daughter, Antoinette, who recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with honors and is enrolled in medical school at Ohio State.
"Football gave me so much more than I could ever give back to the game," he said. "I proudly say that football helped me raise my daughter. I didn't know anything about raising a daughter when Antoinette was born, but I saw how the great football coaches in this state treated their families and their players and I tried to apply a lot of that same wisdom to how I raised my daughter.
"When I see how well she's turned out, it makes me grateful that I was part of the game for so many years because I had the best job ever and I learned so much from football."