Montclair 150: Dozens of greats who have played sports in Montclair
Courtesy Vincent Tango
by Andrew Garda
Montclair has produced more than its fair share of fantastic athletes. Over the years, the three high schools — Montclair High School, the Montclair Kimberley Academy (and its predecessors) and Immaculate Conception — have sent many young men and women to play at the collegiate level and in some cases, beyond. And at various times in its history, world-famous athletes have called Montclair their home.
To celebrate 150 years of Montclair history, we’ve compiled a list of some of the greatest athletes to be associated with this town, whether they were Super Bowl or World Series champions or championship-winning Mounties.
This list was compiled with help from Patrick Dyer, vice principal at Immaculate Conception High School, Todd Smith, athletic director at Montclair Kimberley Academy, and Vincent Tango’s “Montclair High School Football History.” Statistics were used from Baseball-Reference.com, Pro-Football-Reference.com, USATF.org, IAAF.org, NJ.com and various university websites.
Buzz Aldrin — Before he walked on the moon, Buzz was the starting center on Montclair’s undefeated 1946 state championship squad.
Josh Allen — Allen grew up in Montclair but spent just one season at MHS. It was a dominant one, though: he recorded 20 sacks (best in the state) as a defensive end and caught four touchdown passes to help the Mounties finish a perfect 12-0 season in 2014. Allen currently plays linebacker for the University of Kentucky, where he was named All-Conference last season; he is expected to be a high draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Clary Anderson — One of the all-time great high school football coaches anywhere, Clarence Oscar Anderson won a remarkable 209 games over nearly three decades at MHS alongside with his trusted assistant coach, Butch Fortunato. He came to a middling Montclair program following the 1939 season; the Mounties won their first state title in Anderson’s second season. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Anderson returned to helm one of the greatest dynasties in high school football history, highlighted by a stretch from 1946 to 1957, when Montclair won 102 games and lost 4. Anderson’s Montclair teams won more than a dozen state titles before he resigned in 1968 to take over the football program at Montclair State, where he led them to a 46-20-3 record and five consecutive conference titles.
Alvin Bowen — An All-State performer on Montclair High’s 2002 state championship team, Bowen graduated in 2004 and played at Iowa State where he ranked second in the nation during his junior year with 155 tackles. After a senior year, he compiled 99 tackles, Bowen was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Bowen was on the roster for the Bills, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos. He also played with the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
Ron Burton — A First Team All-State starting quarterback on the undefeated 1964 squad that finished the season ranked No. 3 in the nation, Burton was a three-year starter at Colgate University, where he led the school to an 8-1-1 record in 1966. He became the first African American to start at quarterback at Colgate, and was later signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys.
David Caldwell — A 2005 graduate, Caldwell spent a postgrad year at Lawrenceville and played for William & Mary, eventually signing with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He started 13 games at safety for the Colts in 2011.
Rikki Cook — A powerful running back, Cook rose to stardom at Montclair High, rushing for more than 2,100 yards and 28 touchdowns to earn First Team All-State honors as a senior in 2000. He was rated New Jersey’s No. 2 college prospect and signed with Rutgers in 2001, eventually finishing his college career at North Carolina.
Garvie Craw — A fullback and key member of the 1964 Montclair squad, arguably the best team in program history, Craw went on to have a very successful career as a fullback/halfback for the University of Michigan in 1967-1969.
Royce Flippin — A halfback and one of the stars of the Mounties’ early-1950s dynasty, Flippin went on to excel at Princeton University, where he was named captain in 1955. He later served in a successful stint as Princeton’s athletic director beginning in 1972.
Butch Fortunato — In addition to receiving All-State honors his final two seasons under center at quarterback for the Mounties, Fortunato was half of the “brain trust” of Montclair football alongside Clary Anderson from 1940 to 1968, and served as head coach from 1942-45 while Anderson served in World War II. After winning state titles in 1943 and 1944, Fortunato assumed head coaching duties for good in 1969, and won 115 games in 15 seasons. His final season in charge (1983) saw MHS win its first state championship since the advent of the playoff system a decade earlier.
Marcus Hackett — A 1980 Immaculate Conception graduate, Hackett played wide receiver for Syracuse University and went on to play for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League in 1984 and 1985.
Khalif Herbin — One of the most electric players to ever grace Woodman Field, Herbin rewrote the record books as a senior in 2011, scoring an Essex County-record 43 touchdowns en route to being named the state’s Offensive Player of the Year by the Star-Ledger. A versatile player who starred as a running quarterback, kick and punt returner and wide receiver, Herbin’s 70 career touchdowns was a school record until Daniel Webb broke it in 2017.
Richard and Robert Haines — The Haines twins, known as the “Twin Comets” for their outstanding efforts as running backs on the Mounties’ powerhouse 1956 and 1957 state champion teams, were both three-sport superstars (football, basketball and baseball). Richard was the speedster, a high school All-American who left Montclair as the football program’s all-time leading scorer, while Robert was a bruising blocker and tackler extraordinaire.
Dave and Jay Johnson — Two more members of the 1964 Montclair High squad, the Johnsons (and Burton) gave Montclair three players on the New Jersey All-State First Team that season, back when only 11 players were so honored. Dave Johnson was a standout tackle for MHS, while Jay Johnson played end.
Sean Jones — A former Montclair Kimberley Academy standout, Jones played football, basketball and lacrosse before attending Northeastern University after graduating in 1980. He was drafted in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Raiders, but won Super Bowl XXXI with the Green Bay Packers.
Aubrey Lewis — One of the greatest Mounties ever, Lewis took part in three sports, winning two state titles in football, a track team championship with many individual records and starring in basketball as well. Lewis was named the Newark Star-Ledger’s “Offensive Player of the Century” for football in 1999. His number 17 still stands on the press box overlooking the Mounties’ Woodman Field. Lewis was the first African-American to be captain of an athletic team at Notre Dame, where he won a collegiate national championship in the 400-meter hurdles. In 1962, Lewis joined the FBI’s first training class for black agents, and he spent five years with the bureau.
Quintus McDonald — McDonald was named to the USA Today All-USA high school football team in 1984 as a linebacker, before going on to Penn State. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth round of the 1989 NFL Draft and was with the team from 1989 to 1991.
Ben Mobley — An All-State player in both football and basketball, Mobley was a star defensive end on the 1961 Mountie team, before going on to play football at Ohio State.
Jeff Mills — After graduating MHS 1986, Mills went on to play football with the University of Nebraska before being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He played one year with the Chargers before heading to the Denver Broncos, and finally the New York Giants.
Ben Sirmans — Sirmans graduated from Immaculate Conception in 1988 and went on to play football at the University of Maine. He joined the Maine coaching staff after graduation, later moving on to Kent State, Michigan State and Boston College before jumping to join Jeff Fischer’s staff with the St. Louis Rams. He was let go the year after the Rams moved to Los Angeles, before taking over running back coaching duties for the Green Bay Packers in 2016.
Robert Torrey — The oldest athlete on our list, Torrey graduated from Montclair in 1902, going on to play for the University of Pennsylvania from 1902 to 1905, when he was named First-Team All-American. He was captain of Penn’s 1904 and 1905 unbeaten teams. He was also involved in the Oct. 7, 1905, game which was the apocryphal source of the legend that President Theodore Roosevelt considered banning football due to the brutality. Torrey was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
David Tyree — Best known for the “Helmet Catch” that helped the New York Giants win Super Bowl XLII, Tyree earned three varsity letters and earned Second Team All-State honors with the Mounties before graduating in 1999. After completing an NFL career playing for the Giants and Baltimore Ravens, Tyree took a position as director of player development for the Giants.
John Tyson — An All-State halfback on the 1964 Mountie football squad, Tyson went on to become an All-Ivy League safety at Harvard.
Yogi Berra — It’s unlikely there’s a person around who is unaware of the 10-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, lovable mangler of the English language, and longtime Montclair resident. Berra helped create the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University in 1998. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Edgewood Terrace, near Berra’s former house, was commemorated as Yogi Berra Way in 2013; the road is the subject of the famous Yogi-ism, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.”
Dale Berra — Yogi’s son was a dominant baseball player at Montclair High School, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975 with the 20th overall pick. He was with the Pirates for their 1979 World Series championship and also played for the Yankees and Houston Astros during his career.
Len Coleman — A graduate of Montclair High School in 1967, Coleman was the final president of the National League before MLB abolished the position in 1999. Coleman played basketball and football in high school, earning First Team All-State honors during his senior year, and was the first black athlete to score a touchdown for Princeton University.
George “Mule” Haas — Montclair native “Mule” Haas was a center fielder for several teams including the Philadelphia Athletics, with whom he appeared in three straight World Series. His career spanned from 1925 through 1938.
Frank Herrmann — Herrmann played football, baseball and basketball at Montclair Kimberley Academy, graduating in 2002 as one of the few 1,000-point scorers in the school’s basketball history. After playing at Harvard University, Herrman was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cleveland Indians and spent parts of three seasons with Cleveland and one with the Philadelphia Phillies and then signed a contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball. Herrmann was inducted into the MKA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.
Gus Keriazokos — This former Montclair High School athlete had two stints in the Major leagues, playing for the Chicago White Sox in 1950 and then reappearing to pitch for the Washington Senators in 1954, and Kansas City Athletics in 1955.
Earl Williams — A 1965 MHS graduate, Williams was selected in the first round of the 1965 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Braves. Though he was a pitcher at Montclair High, Williams was converted into a full-time first baseman and outfielder in the minors, and ended up a catcher when he was called up the now-Atlanta Braves in 1971. He clubbed 33 home runs that season, en route to being named the National League’s Rookie of the Year.
Bianca Brown — She graduated from MHS in 2000 as the program’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,300 points, earning All-Essex County honors as a senior. She returned to the program as a head coach in 2010, and led MHS to back-to-back NJSIAA sectional finals in 2013 and 2014, and back-to-back Essex County Tournament finals in 2014 and 2015.
Kristina Collymore — Collymore broke Brown’s scoring record and held it until Myisha Hines-Allen surpassed her mark in 2014. The 2004 MHS grad totaled more than 1,500 points before going on to a successful four-year career at Bucknell University.
Myisha Hines-Allen — Touted as a five-star prospect by ESPN coming out of MHS, Hines-Allen was also a 2014 McDonald’s All-American. At the University of Louisville she continued her outstanding play, with honors including ACC Tournament MVP, First Team All-ACC, while also moving into third place all-time in scoring and becoming the second player in program history with 1,000 pts and 1,000 rebs. Hines-Allen was drafted by the Washington Mystics in 2018 and is former Mountie Josh Allen’s cousin.
Kyrie Irving — The current Boston Celtics point guard and 2016 NBA champion played ball at Montclair Kimberley Academy in 2006-07 and 2007-08, his freshman and sophomore seasons. He averaged 26.5 points, 10.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 steals in his two years before transferring to St. Patrick’s. At the time, he was only the school’s second 1,000 point scorer. In his sophomore year, he led MKA to its first New Jersey Prep B state title.
Major Jennings — The 1976 MHS alum was cut from the MHS varsity team as a junior, but worked hard and earned a scholarship to American International College, where he graduated as the school’s fifth all-time leading scorer (1,730 points). He went on to coach the MHS boys varsity team from 1993 to 2012, leading the Mounties to 300 wins and a sectional title in 1994.
Ron Simpson — After graduating from Immaculate in 1983, the Montclair-born-and-raised Simpson went on to an historic career at Rider University, eventually being inducted into their Hall of Fame. According to his biography on the Rider Hall of Fame website, among his accomplishments was scoring 1,735 points in his career, and boasting the highest scoring average ever among 1,000-point scorers at Rider.
Yael Averbuch — Averbuch appeared in 26 games for the U.S. senior Women’s National Team from 2007 to 2013, scoring her lone international goal in qualifying for the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Averbuch attended MHS but didn’t play for the Mounties, opting to focus on club soccer and the U.S. youth national teams. After graduating from the high school in 2005, Averbuch played for the University of North Carolina, and has since played both for the Women’s Professional Soccer league as well as European teams. She is currently a defender for the Seattle Reign Football Club.
Tim Howard — While at Montclair Kimberley Academy, and later North Brunswick Township High School, Howard was more of a midfielder. But even then it was clear goaltending was his future. Howard has had a long career at the professional club level, notably playing for Manchester United and Everton in England, but he is best known for his role in the successful 2010 and 2014 World Cup runs by the U.S Men’s National Team.
Jill and Kayla Jennings — Both sisters were four-year starters on wildly successful MHS soccer teams; Kayla (2011-14) helping the Mounties win four Essex County titles, three sectional titles and a Group IV state championship in 2014; Jillian (2013-16) played key roles on three county title teams, two sectional final winners and the 2014 group champion. Both are now important midfielders for Boston College, where Kayla will be a captain this upcoming season.
Andrew Lombard — Lombard played soccer at MHS and has also played for the New York Red Bulls Academy at the Under-14 level. After playing in college for Northeastern and Ohio State, Lombard signed with the Red Bulls’ USL team, Red Bulls II, in March 2017.
Meg Morris — Morris was the New Jersey Player of the Year in 2009 at MHS before becoming a three-year starter at college soccer powerhouse North Carolina. She was a member of the U.S. National Team at the 2010 U-20 World Cup and has played professionally in the NWSL.
Ingrid Wells — As a senior at MHS in 2007, Wells helped the Mounties win the Essex County Tournament en route to earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors. Wells had a very successful college career with the Georgetown Hoyas and also trained with the U.S. women’s national team. She also played for several professional clubs including international ones like Göteborg FC in Sweden and FFC Turbine Potsdam in Germany.
Track & field
Me’Lisa Barber — Along with her twin sister Miki, Me’Lisa Barber dominated track & field for Montclair High School. She still holds the Essex County Championships meet record in the 100 meters, and upon graduating in 1998 she continued to perform at a high level at the University of South Carolina. Among her post-college accolades were an international championships gold medal in Paris on Team USA’s winning 4x400 relay in 2003. In 2005, she won a U.S. outdoor 100-meter dash championship and a gold medal in the World Championships in Helsinki with the 4x100 relay team.
Miki Barber — Miki also had a stellar career at MHS and followed her twin sister to South Carolina after graduating in 1998. She went on to a remarkable career after MHS, winning four NCAA championships, a gold medal with the 4x100 relay team at the 2007 IAAF World Championships, and winning a gold in the 100 and silver in the 4x100 at the 2007 Pan Am Games.
Richard Kenah — The 1988 Immaculate High School graduate went on to run track at Georgetown University, where he saw a lot of success both individually and in relays including when won his first U.S. Championship at 1989 Junior Nationals. Kenah took bronze at both the Indoor and Outdoor 1997 World Championships, placed second at 2000 Olympic Trials and finished sixth in the first heat of the 800m during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Austrailia.
Ray Spivey — A member of arguably the greatest high school track team in state history, Montclair High’s 1955 squad, Spivey stood out. He set state and national records in both the 120-yard high hurdles and the 180-yard low hurdles, and he joined fellow legends like Jim Wooster and Robert Bowen to help the Mounties set state records in both the 4x100-yard sprint relay and the 4x220-yard relay. He went on to serve as MHS track’s head coach for 42 years before retiring after the 2012 season.
Steve Theobold — The 1986 Immaculate Conception graduate went on to run track at Rutgers, where he holds the record for most points in the indoor pentathlon with 3,822 from Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championships in 1990 and took home first place that same year in three of five of five decathlon events to win the competition at the Penn Relays.
Paul Edwards — An All-State midfielder who helped to raise the standard of the Montclair High School program before graduating in 1970, Edwards played for Johns Hopkins and helped the Blue Jays reach three NCAA championship games in the early 1970s. He returned to town to coach crosstown rival Montclair Kimberley Academy, where he led the Cougars to an overall Group IV state championship in 2012.
Gil Gibbs — While he never played a game of lacrosse, Gibbs forever changed the history of the sport in Montclair, establishing it as the first nationally recognized public high school program outside of Maryland or Long Island. There’s not enough room to list his coaching accomplishments, but among them are 11 state championships, 17 former players named to collegiate All-American teams and a 177-35 overall record. Gibbs died of cancer in July 1978, just six weeks after leading MHS to its fourth NJSIAA state title in six years.
Gary Mercadante — While he was a football player for MHS, Mercadante was probably better known as a lacrosse player. Oddly enough, though, he had never touched a stick before his freshman year. Under the coaching of legendary Gil Gibbs, Mercadante became known as a relentless defender and his physicality and aggression were a big reason for the Mounties’ 32-game win streak in his junior and senior seasons, 1971 and 1972.
Bob Ott — Ott was one of the top players in New Jersey and a High School All-American as a senior in 1974 before moving on to the University of Maryland, where he was a three-time collegiate All-American. Now a member of the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame, Ott was a dominant faceoff man and midfielder who helped the Terrapins reach four consecutive NCAA Final Fours.
Homer Robinson — Yin to Gibbs’ Yang, Robinson is honored each year with an all-day lacrosse celebration in Anderson Park, culminating in the Blue and White Alumni game. Robinson was a no-nonsense assistant under Gibbs and the two of them managed to take a burgeoning sports program to national recognition throughout the 1970s.
Sue Finney — One of the greatest athletes to ever play at Montclair High, Finney set a state record with 50 goals as a senior in 1985, lifting MHS to the overall NJSIAA Group IV championship and a No. 2 statewide ranking. She graduated from MHS with 138 career goals, good for second-best in state history at that point, before going on to star in both field hockey and ice hockey at Princeton.