Hudson grad recalls injury, recovery, athletic success

HUDSON–A Hudson High School graduate summarized his trajectory from a near-fatal accident to professional football, two masters degrees, and book writing, at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting August 6.

The meeting also included possibilities for athletic facilities on the grounds of Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS).

Leroy Collins, Jr., author of “Running Back: True Story from a Wheel Chair to the NFL,” was born in Hudson and when he was six, a truck hit him. During his long recuperation, when he watched football games, even before he could walk normally again, he decided, “I want to play that!” Play football he did: for Hudson High School–he graduated in 1995, for the University of Louisville, and professionally for four teams from 1999 to 2003. He got a master’s degree in sports management from California University of Pennsylvania, got a master’s degree in sports administration from the same university, and in 2015 stared his own amateur football team. Now 43, he lives in Fulton near Syracuse, works as a personal trainer and a motivational speaker, has written a book, and owns the football team he started: Syracuse Strong.

“He’s a miracle, someone to look up to,” said district Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier.

“My passion has always been and will always be Hudson” Mr. Collins said.

Plans for current student facilities dominated both the report by board member Sage Carter on a recent well-attended Facilities Committee meeting and comments by people attending the August 6 meeting. Most concerns involved the grounds behind MCS. The school building was built as the high school in the 1930s, and high school sports events have continued on its fields for years after the current high school opened in 1972 and MCS filled with younger students. Varsity baseball and tennis teams still play there. In addition, elementary school gym classes use the grounds, including the track, Ms. Carter said. (The high school track team uses a new track on high school grounds.) Furthermore, outside of school time, people from the surrounding community use the MCS fields for their own recreation.

“At the Facilities meeting, it became clear that coaches and parents want the varsity baseball facility to stay,” at MCS, Ms. Carter reported.

At most board meetings, the comment section has no speakers. But at this one, there were several.

Kate West of Union Turnpike said, “We need a timeline for construction on the baseball field. Time is running out.

She said George Keeler, district superintendent of buildings and grounds, is doing the best he can, but winter comes fast in upstate New York. “We can compromise,” Ms. West said, taking into account both what school sports backers want and what the community wants.

Some people voiced concern about the effect of a new fence around the baseball field. But Derek Reardon, head of the HCSD Athletic Department and Principal of the Junior High, said, “I have a lot of respect for the MCS field. There is no more an enjoyable place to watch a game. But this year a Varsity baseball player was seriously hurt running to get a fly ball. If there had been a right kind of fence in the right place, he would not have been injured. I also want the track maintained for community use.”

Dennis Marino, who said he’s been a resident of the area for 10 years. “A ballfield with a fence around it is something we can be proud of,” he said.

But a woman from Bells Pond Road urged the board to move varsity baseball to Greenport Town Park.

Some speakers reminded the board that the MCS field is school property, not a public park, and decisions about what to do with it should consider the students first.

The day of the meeting, the district issued a statement: “The HCSD is planning repairs to the original baseball field and athletic facility at MCS,” including new dugouts, replacing the backstop, adding fencing and removing the bleachers behind home plate. The statement says the bleachers will be replaced by portable bleachers owned by the district and purchased with Capital Project funds. The other improvements “are funded outside of the Capital Project and are to be completed as part of our regular facilities program….The current priorities are that the dugouts and batting cages be located in a manner which allows the old track to be maintained for elementary and community use, and that the fence not obstruct such use,” according to the statement.

As for other sports: New drainage behind the varsity softball field on high school grounds is under construction and should be ready in a couple of weeks, Ms. Carter reported. Once completed, the drainage ditch can be filled to help upgrade the field. In addition, the weight room will get new equipment.

Also at the meeting:

• Ms. Carter said the MCS auditorium is getting both new audiovisual equipment and new seats. The District offered the best old seats to the public and got a “tremendous response.” Now only two rows of old seats remain, one of which the district is considering putting in the vestibule, where parents wait for students

• Dr. Suttmeier presented a plaque to Maria McLaughlin, who just ended a term on the board. The plaque recognizes her five years of service on the board and its committees and was thanked her for her dedication

• The supervisor introduced two new teachers: Beth Utter for math AIS in the junior high, and Lisa Adam’s for special education in the elementary school.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, August 20, at the Junior High School library.

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