Growing up in Portsmouth and going to Notre Dame High School, the name Chuck Ealey was synonymous with local football legend. Stories were abundant as to his exciting and winning ways on the old gridiron. Saturdays at Spartan Stadium was the highlight of the week; that is when Chuck would work his magic on the football field. Chuck Ealey the undefeated quarterback that holds the longest QB winning streak in amateur football history! Chuck was 33-0 at Notre Dame High School in Portsmouth, Ohio and 35-0 at The University of Toledo. Ealey was a star athlete at Notre Dame, playing football and basketball. He quarterbacked the Titans to the legendary Class A state championship his senior year and help lead the team to three undefeated seasons. Ealey was a star football and basketball player at Notre Dame High School. He was starting quarterback in his junior and senior years, and his Titans never lost a game, and were selected as the first Ohio High School Athletic Association state football champions.
It was reported that “Bo Schembechler was the coach at Miami of Ohio, the year before he went to coach at Michigan,” Ealey recounted. “He came to recruit me. He wanted me to come in as a defensive back and a third-string quarterback, but he only offered me a partial scholarship. The University of Toledo gave me a full scholarship as a quarterback. I was determined to play the position. I just wanted them to give me a shot. I just said, ‘Give the guy, whoever it is, a shot.’ ” “The recruiter from Toledo came to see Ealey at Portsmouth’s Notre Dame High School too late in the year to scout him on the gridiron. Instead, he saw Ealey playing basketball. Ealey signed his national letter of intent with Toledo on the basketball court at Notre Dame – shortly after sinking a last-second jump shot to win a game.”
In an interview in 2016 with Sunni Khalid, Chuck recalled “When I was in high school, they told me that they had no doubts about me playing in college.” Standing 6-feet-1 and weighing 195 pounds, Ealey was regarded as slightly undersized to play quarterback in the NFL, even though white quarterbacks about the same size, like Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, were starring in the league. Shortly after graduation day in Toledo, the Portsmouth, Ohio, native retraced one of the routes of Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad. He left his hometown and traveled north to Detroit, crossing over the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River across the border into Canada, then on to Hamilton, where the freedom to play quarterback awaited. Yes, he showed the world he could be Pro Quarterback.
Don Radebaugh whose story of March 2017 – Providing a glimpse into Ealey’s, life. “Ealey came into the world on January 6, 1950. Fortunately he got the love and support he needed from his mother growing up, but Ealey had very little memory of his father, who checked out on his family early on. I don’t even recall my dad being in the same house with me,” said Ealey in a documentary that aired on a local PBS station in Toledo, Ohio. His mother, who had no education beyond the 8th grade, worked multiple jobs as a cleaning lady to provide as best as she could. If poverty was a less than ideal environment, Ealey learned early on that athletics, combined with education, could be his ticket to a better life. Fortunately, his mother believed in education and encouraged her son every step of the way. From the playground to the grid iron, Ealey played football. By the time he went to high school — Notre Dame High School in Portsmouth — he was a well-conditioned athlete. His high school football head coach, Ed Miller, recognized his potential. “We recognized his ability and he didn’t let us down,” said Miller. “When he walked on the field, he was in charge.” Indeed he was “in charge” as reflected on scoreboards across the league. When it was all said and done, Ealey led his high school team to a perfect 27-0 record over three seasons and the state championship his senior year. He never lost a game as a starting quarterback. The lessons he learned in discipline along the way would pay big dividends in the years to come. “In many ways, Coach Miller was like the father that wasn’t in my household. He taught me discipline,” Ealey said.
As we celebrate Black History Month – let’s remember that African American kid that grew up in the “projects,” who went on to achieve greatness – yeah, that kid from Portsmouth. Of course there were many more black youngsters from Portsmouth that went on to accomplish their dreams and goals in life. This story like many more lives for every one of them!
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