CAMPBELL, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Tony Cougras, local football legend, dies at age 85.
A trifecta Athletic Hall of Fame inductee for Youngstown State University, Campbell Memorial High School and The Curbstone Coaches’ Association, valley native Tony Cougras passed away peacefully in the home that he had built for his family, on Sunday morning, March 1, after an extended illness and a heartwarming evening with his family and caretakers who all rallied around him.
A loving husband, an amazing patriarch, grandfather, great-grandfather, leader, mentor, coach, teacher, athlete, teammate and businessman, Tony’s greatest attribute was that he had a heart big enough to embrace us all. He had an impact on everyone he touched in each of these roles during his full life of 85 years.
Most widely known in the valley for his athletic prowess, Tony was a lifelong Campbell native who played football for legendary Red Devil Head Coach John Knapic. A 1952 graduate of Campbell Memorial High School, he was a letterman from 1949-1952 in 3 sports – baseball, football and track. In 1951, he helped lead Campbell to their first ever Steel Valley Conference crown on the baseball diamond. It is as a football player, however, that he made his mark as an athlete and what an athlete he was! His play was as hardnosed as it comes, contributing to very competitive SVC league titles in 1950 and 1951 for his alma mater. At the tender age of 16, he served as Co-Captain of the 1951 squad and thereafter until graduation, earning First Team All-Steel Valley laurels as a junior and senior, also having been selected as the team’s MVP and an All-State selection as a senior.
Recruited by Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue and Arizona among other colleges and universities, Tony actually abandoned the train station while on his way to Arizona as he decided he could not leave his high school sweetheart and the love of his life, Doris and choosing to attend the then Youngstown College instead. It was a decision that he never regretted and one that made the late, great Penguin Head Coach Dwight “Dike” Beede and his staff very happy. He was a regular on the Penguin grid squad from the moment he stepped foot on the campus when you were only permitted one substitution per quarter. He started four seasons for the Penguins earning four letters while serving as Captain of the team as a senior. Selected by a panel of sportswriters, sportscasters and college officials as the Alpha Phi Delta Outstanding Athlete for the 1956-57 season, he was also afforded Little All-American honors in his senior season. A member of Theta Chi Fraternity, he was named to Williamson Rating System Mid-Bracket All-American Squad, also garnering All Ohio Collegiate All-American Honors according to the UPI wire service in 1956. Known as the “glue-tip-fingered-end” because he never dropped the ball once he received it, he graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with the dream of becoming a teacher and football coach in the place that he always called home.
There was no NFL Draft at that time, but Tony received invitations to try out for numerous professional football teams, namely the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts. Once again, he opted to stay home for reasons of love, marrying his high school sweetheart, the former Doris Jean Poulos, turning his high school’s Homecoming Queen into his queen for life on June 8, 1957.
From the playing field to the coaching box, Tony’s career in football did not skip a beat when his playing days were over, beginning his coaching career in 1957 as an assistant coach in Lowellville then at North High School in Youngstown, returning to his alma mater in 1964 as an assistant until he was recruited back to YSU to coach under his own college coach, Dike Beede, in 1966.
There aren’t many former athletes who can boast that they had a chance to serve their alma maters as a player and a coach, but Tony had that opportunity in 1967 when he was hired as Head Coach of the Campbell Memorial Red Devils, holding that post until the end of the 1973 season. During his tenure with the Red Devils, he led them to a top 10 ranking in the final 1971 OHSAA grid poll in Class “AA” when the Red Devils were ranked 9th in the state that year, earning Mahoning Valley “AA” Coach of the Year honors the following season. He is credited with being very instrumental in helping his athletes pursue college football careers and developing young men of character. Regional Director of The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association for several years, he was chosen President of the Mahoning Valley Coaches Association in 1971, where he continued to serve on the Executive Board, developing friendships with many area coaches including Don Bucci of Cardinal Mooney High School who gave the address at his Testimonial Dinner in 1974.
Upon his retirement from teaching in the Campbell City Schools, Tony began a painting business, Anthony Painting and employed his sons in their early work years from which they made many memories working together.
A member of Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church, Tony served on the Parish Council at one time and was also a member of the Prodromos Kalymnian Society in his younger years.
Although football was his first love, it took a backseat to his love for his family and in return, he was loved abundantly by them. His beloved wife of 63 years, Doris, was the love of his life and his most devoted caretaker. Tony leaves as a legacy in his loving children, Maria (Pappas), Cathy (Jerry) Suess, Christine (Jim) Ciccolelli, Ted (Sheila) and Tony Cougras who, through their care and sacrifices, made it possible for him to remain in his home during an extended illness. He will leave a great void in the lives of his precious grandchildren who were his pride and joy, Doris Jenna (John) Stanko, Elizabeth Suess, Jim (Arianna) Ciccolelli, Anthony Ciccolelli, Theodora Taylor, Michael Theodore and Concetta Maria Cougras who love and adore him with all of their hearts. He also leaves a great-granddaughter, baby Aiana Christine Ciccolelli and a host of nieces and nephews who all admire him.
Preceding him in death were his beloved parents, Theodore and Maria Koumianou Cougras; a sister, Katharine Darkadakis; an infant son, Theodore Peter; an infant grandson, Anthony James Cougras and a daughter-in-law, Pamela DeNiro Cougras.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, March 6, 2020, at Noon at Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church, 401 12th Street, Campbell. The family will accept condolences at the church two hours prior to the service from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Tony’s memory to the church or to YSN (Your Sports Network), a media company that broadcasts local sporting events via live streaming. Their website www.YSNlive.com enabled Tony to enjoy watching his grandchildren, Michael and Connie, compete as star athletes for the Poland Bulldogs while he was homebound, which brought such joy to his life. Contributions can be sent to YSN, 169 East Taggart Street, East Palestine, OH 44413.
Arrangements handled by Wasko Funeral Home.
To send flowers to Anthony M. “Tony” Cougras’ family, please visit our floral section.
A television tribute will air Wednesday, March 4, at the following approximate times: 6:43 a.m. WYTV, 9:32 a.m. on WKBN, 10:58 a.m. on FOX and 8:12 p.m. on MyYTV.