News

At 61, Biglerville man still grinds on gridiron

Written by Matt Allibone, The Evening Sun | Mar 8, 2016 10:00 PM
greg day.jpg

Hanover Rhinos player Greg Day talks with teammates during practice near Moul Avenue in Hanover on March 6, 2016. (Photo: Clare Becker, The Evening Sun)

Biglerville High grad plays offensive line for Hanover Rhinos semi-pro football team

Greg Day wants to play football until he's at least as old as his jersey number.

He wears No. 62.

And the offensive guard for the Hanover Rhinos semi-pro football team is only one year away from reaching his goal.

Forty years after his college football career at Lock Haven ended, Day is still playing at age 61. He clearly stands out on a team consisting mostly of players in their mid-20s.

"We have some kids on the team who could be my grandsons," Day said. "I've sort of slowed down a step or two in my old age. I'm not as fast as I used to be or as fast as (other players) are, but I can still hit with them."

A 1972 graduate of Biglerville High School, Day began playing semi-pro football for the Cumberland Colts in Carlisle after he graduated college in 1976.  He played for 13 years until 1988, when he quit so he could focus on raising his two sons.

Although Day stayed involved in athletics by coaching his kids' youth soccer and baseball teams, he never lost the desire to get back on the football field.

"The first couple years were very hard," Day said. "I'd go to high school games and think I should have been out there. Even after that, when I'd go to high school games, I'd grit my teeth and muscles and turn around."

So after 19 years on the sidelines and at the age of 53, Day decided to give football another shot in 2007. His future wife, Mindy, encouraged him to try out for the York Silver Bullets, and he played for the team until 2011, when he tried out for the Rhinos' inaugural season.

Five years later, he has become a mainstay on Hanover's semi-pro team. Like each of his Rhinos teammates, he has to pay dues ($80 for veterans), provide his own equipment and drive himself to Glenville for home games and as far as Ellicott City, Maryland for road ones.

So what's his motivation to keep playing at age 61?

"It's just my passion," Day said. "It's still fun playing."

• • • 

Even in his 60s, Day looks like an offensive lineman at a buff 245 pounds.

He loves talking about blocking technique and the physical aspects of football. But when he first made a name for himself on the gridiron more than 40 years ago, it was by playing the least physical positions the sport has to offer.

At Biglerville and Lock Haven, Day was a punter and kicker while also serving as the backup quarterback. He even had a tryout as a punter with the New York Jets in 1976, but wasn't selected by then-head coach Lou Holtz and his staff.

He continued to punt and was a starting quarterback during his first stint in semi-pro football, but when he joined the Silver Bullets in 2007, he quickly learned that playing behind center would no longer be an option.

"I was actually trying out for quarterback, but they said I was too slow," Day said.

So after decades playing under center, Day had to learn to how to protect the quarterback. He credits the transition to his other passion: wrestling.

A wrestler in both high school and college, Day was no stranger to physical contact and knew a few things about overpowering an opponent. While defensive linemen at the semi-pro level typically outweigh him by more than 50 pounds, Day is still able to hold his own.

"The thing is, and some people don't understand this, bulk isn't everything," Day said. "With my wrestling background, you learn body positions, angles and leverage. And I use that a lot on the offensive line. Even though somebody weighs 300 pounds, I can block him because I can get in and get an angle on him."

Rhinos co-owner and general manager Chris Bunty said he's seen Day block men bigger than him on plenty of occasions.

"I remember last season, Greg got double-blitzed every down when we played the (Carroll County) Cannons," Bunty said. "And he held his own and stopped both of them every time."

Still, when he first joined the Rhinos at age 57, more than a few people doubted he'd be able to compete against players less than half his age.

Rhinos co-owner Adam Bostian, a linebacker on the 2011 team, saw Day show up at tryouts and thought the team would have to be "ready to call a stretcher." His opinion changed the first time he faced the older lineman in practice.

"He was on the offensive line and I was blitzing," Bostian said. "I was like, 'This old guy, he's not going to stop me.' And sure enough, it was like hitting a brick wall. I just said, 'Good Lord.'"

So what does Day enjoy more? Throwing a touchdown pass or successfully executing a block?

"I would have to say I like playing quarterback," Day said. "It's not that I set out to play quarterback in the beginning, but I understand the game. I don't want to say I'm Peyton Manning, but I can look at a defense and say, 'OK, here's what we need to do.' I'd still like the chance to play a few series."

• • •

In 31 years of playing football, Day has missed just one game to injury, when he hurt his knee in a semi-pro game.

Asked if he ever considers taking a game off to deal with the bumps and bruises that come with the sport, he simply said, "No."

When he first joined the team, the Rhinos made him get permission from a doctor, but Day said his physician still assures him he is capable of playing. He also has the continued support of his family, especially his wife.

"I love the game and I know he's strong, he can do it," Mindy Day said. "I like him hitting people. Then I can yell, 'Hit somebody, Honey.' People always ask me if my son is playing."

A former computer programmer for Cobalt, Day also volunteers as a coach for the McSherrystown Catholic Youth Wrestling Club. While he enjoys teaching kids, he stills loves the camaraderie he has with his teammates on the Rhinos, who've affectionately nicknamed him, "Pops."

He doesn't want to retire just yet, but now that he's one year away from being as old as his number, Day knows the clock is ticking.

"At some point I'm going to realize I need to stop," Day said. "I don't know. When I can't walk on the field anymore."

The Rhinos are happy to keep Day around as long as he wants to stay, even if that means giving him a new jersey.

"We'll have to change his number to 70," Bunty said. "It's awesome having Greg around because he teaches guys stuff that he's seen over the years. It's been great to have him. I hope he stays at least 10 more years."

Hanover Rhinos 2016 Season Schedule 

The Rhinos play their home games at Manheim Adventure Park in Glenville. 

March 12: at Franklin County Tigers, noon, Mount Hebron High School, Ellicott City, Md.

March 19: home against York Silver Bullets, 1 p.m. 

March 26: at Germantown Gladiators, time and location TBD. 

April 2: at Franklin County Tigers, time and location TBD

April 9: at Carroll County Cannons, 1 p.m., Carroll County Sports Complex, Westminster, Md. 

April 16: home against Harrisburg Sharks, 1 p.m. 

April 23: home against Anne Arundel County Colts, 1 p.m. 

April 30: at York Silver Bullets, 2 p.m., Eastern York High School, Wrightsville

May 7: home against Carroll County Cannons, 1 p.m. 

May 14: home against Franklin County Tigers, 1 p.m. 

May 21: at Harrisburg Sharks, 1 p.m., Steelton-Highspire Football Field, Steelton

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between The Evening Sun and WITF. 

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