Football, Family, and Faith: The Story of Lou Michaels

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SWOYERSVILLE -- One of the best athletes to ever come from northeastern Pennsylvania has passed away.

Lou Michaels is in the College Football Hall of Fame, he was a Pro Bowl member of the NFL, and he was a proud resident of Swoyersville in Luzerne County.

The local legend died Tuesday.

We talked to his children about his life of football, family, and faith.

Lou Michaels' story of football glory is legendary in the Wyoming Valley. He was one of the best players in University of Kentucky history, then a Pro Bowler during his 13 years in the NFL.

"Point blank -- and I tell it the way it is -- to me, he's the best player to ever come out of this area," said Lou's son Ed Michaels.

We talked with Michaels' three children the day after the 80 year old lost a short battle with pancreatic cancer, in a basement filled with honors for their football great dad, showing what the boy from Swoyersville accomplished.

He did it all at Kentucky: offense, defense, even kicked.

He played in Super Bowl III for the Baltimore Colts, although never liked to talk about that loss to the New York Jets.

"His family worked in the mines and the only way he could get out of here was football, and he knew that early," said Lou's son Matt Michaels.

"He was the man, period," said Ed Michaels. "You don't finish fourth in the Heisman, you're not two-time all-pro, you're not the SEC Player of the Year, and not one of the top 25 players ever to play in the Southeastern Conference."

"He never bragged about it, 'Hey, this is what I did.' But we knew what he did," said Lou's daughter Michele Grochocki.

It's no surprise Matt, Michele, and Ed are proud of their dad, but their pride is in a lot more than just football.

"Everybody thinks of Lou Michaels and the first thing they think of is an athlete, but how much of a family man he truly was, and how much he cared about his kids and kids in general," said Ed.

And he loved his community. We just talked with him at a fundraiser last summer. He loved to chat and to pray.

"Oh, my God, his faith, rosary beads and prayer books; you'd call him and he'd say, 'I'm sitting in church. I'm praying for you,'" Michele recalled.

"He was Polish and he was Catholic and he was from Swoyersville and that's what he was," Matt added.

His family will remember this football star for much more than just his heroics on the field.

"I can't even tell you how proud I am to be his daughter," said Michele. Words can't describe when I read the articles and say, 'that was my dad.'"

Lou Michaels is being remembered in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, and other places where he made his mark in football, but he clearly made the most impact in the Wyoming Valley.