More than 60 of the top high school football players in the Class of 2011 will suit up one last time July 29 for the 73rd annual Erie Lions Club Save-an-Eye Football Game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Veterans Stadium.
The history of the game is as intriguing as what happens on the field. Here’s how the game changed the life of one participant, Bill Vorsheck, and how he’s now returning the favor for players, fans and members of the community for years to come.
It was 1953 and at 18, Bill Vorsheck thought he knew exactly what he wanted in life – a high school diploma, marriage to his neighborhood sweetheart and a job in a local plant. Several colleges offered the young football star scholarships, but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t realize, however, how much he would miss football after graduation, and he soon learned that high school grads didn’t get the area’s dream jobs. Just two months after graduation, Bill faced what seemed like a long and dismal future.
Then came the invitation to play in the 15th annual Erie Lion’s Club Save An Eye Football Game. Bill knew it was a chance of a life-time to play his beloved game one last time in the prestigious event in front of 10,000 local fans, and played his heart out. According to The Erie Dispatch, “Vorsheck, easily the County’s outstanding performer, set up his team’s fourth-period (and only) score when he deflected a punt by Rocco deep in City territory.” And from The Erie Times News, “Bill Vorsheck, Lawrence Park’s sensational end, was the big guy individually for the County. … Vorsheck hauled down two straight passes in the fourth quarter for 19 yards and made 105 yards on the receiving end of five aerials as Ed Dalglish and Roger Brady pooled their talents for 111 yards through the air.” Although the County lost as predicted, Bill was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his outstanding efforts.
Exhilarated and ears still ringing from the thunder of the crowd, Bill entered the locker room after the game and found five college scouts awaiting his return with scholarship offers in hand. Life changed in a moment of team defeat but personal glory.
One week later Bill was enrolled and playing ball for Youngstown State University on a full football scholarship. After graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Education, Bill held several teaching jobs in the area including Ripley, N.Y., where he was a teacher and head football and basketball coach. He eventually settled down as a social studies teacher and head football and track coach at Girard High School. By the 1960’s life was steady and good for Bill and his young family.
Known as a solid and inspired football coach, Bill was invited to lead the County all-stars in both the 1965 and 1967 Save An Eye games. He was thrilled at the chance to experience the game again, especially in 1967, which he felt would be his last game. As he had played his heart out in 1953, Bill coached his heart out in 1967. Against all odds and every prediction, the county “Suburbans” wiped the field with the city “Slickers” in an unprecedented 25-0 win in front of a record-setting crowd of 16,000 hometown fans.
Once again, according to The Erie Times, “The hepped up charges of Coaches Bill Vorsheck of Girard and Joe Moore of McDowell did a better clean-up job than the Ajax White Knight as they white-washed the City, 25 to 0.” The Sept. 5, 1967, article goes on to say, “It was a clean, well-played game. …The City’s biggest mistake was showing up. The Slickers were in the game for most of the first half, but as play progressed it was obvious that the County was in better physical condition and had come to play.” They described Vorsheck’s style as similar to the “old style of Coach Jack Landry” and praised his outstanding job.
Two other fans of Vorsheck’s style were his 1967 co-coach, Joe Moore, and local physician, Dr. Daniel Snow. Bill credits the Save An Eye with bringing into his life these two men, who became his lifelong friends and mentors. As a result, his career took another dramatic turn and he followed his heart into the realm of psychotherapy and medical hypnosis. He and Dr. Snow founded and operated The Erie Institute of Hypnosis from the 1970s until Bill retired and passed the business on to his son, Bill Jr. When asked what was the best thing to come of his second change in life-course, he doesn’t hesitate to answer, “It’s how I met my wife, Betsy, when she interned for us!”
Bill and Betsy Vorsheck have committed themselves to support the Save An Eye Game as major sponsors this year and long into the future. The Erie Lions are grateful for their dedication to this outstanding athletic event, and Bill is emphatic in his gratitude to the Lions in return. For some, the Save An Eye is a last chance to play football in front of their hometown crowd; for others it’s the beginning of lifelong friendships; and for still others, like Bill, the Save An Eye Game is all that and more … it’s a life-changing event!
Thanks to Bill, and to Linda Hackshaw, The Sight Center of Northwest Pennsylvania’s chief executive officer, for sharing Bill’s story.