A standout football figure made history come to life Sunday for two Oneonta elementary school boys.
Mark May, a 1977 Oneonta High School graduate who played 13 years in the National Football League, stopped by the Greater Oneonta Historical Society to meet Dayne Bissell-Smith and Matthew Shultz. The boys, 10, separately had chosen May as the topic of a fourth-grade history research project.
“I definitely appreciate it,” May told the young biographers.
May was among about a dozen Oneonta figures chosen by local pupils to study in the ninth annual Sally Mullen Local History project, which is sponsored by the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. This year’s focus was “Famous Oneonta People.” Sherman Fairchild and Griffin Brooks were among others selected.
May played 10 years with the Washington Redskins, and he appeared in three Super Bowls. He was an award-winning athlete in high school and a Collegiate Football All-American at the University of Pittsburgh.
May is in Oneonta to participate in the Hospice Celebrity Invitational at Leatherstocking Golf Course in Cooperstown today and attend the Chicago concert in Oneonta tonight. The events are fundraisers for the Catskill Area Hospice. May said his visit also would include visiting the graves of his parents and ordering food from Brooks House of Bar-B-Q.
Matthew gave up his final traveling soccer team game Sunday to meet May — after checking with the coach that positions would be covered, said his father, Terry Shultz of West Oneonta.
May is a “great role model,” Shultz said, and meeting him was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s fantastic he took the time” to meet the boys, Shultz said.
“It was exciting,” Matthew said. “It’s pretty amazing that he came out of Oneonta.”
May said he heard about the students’ projects through a story in The Daily Star in June. On Sunday, he had an opportunity to see the projects and thank the boys.
“I’m honored,” May said. “You guys did a great job.”
Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director, said May is among many Oneontans who have achieved athletic success. The meeting was a “great opportunity” for the two pupils, he said, and arrangements were made within a day.
“It was a challenge getting all three parties together,” Brzozowski said.
Dayne, a pupil at Riverside Elementary School, said he wanted to study an athlete for his history project, but he hadn’t imagined that choosing May would lead to an opportunity to meet him. Dayne said his favorite sport is baseball but he also plays basketball and football.
Melissa Bissell of Oneonta said she and her son bought a football on Sunday morning, and May signed it.
“We wanted a new football,” she said.
For Matthew, the visit was a chance to ask May several questions, including which was his favorite football team.
“When I was growing up, I was a Jets fan,” May, 53, said. In response to another question, May explained that when he was a child, television pictures were in black-and-white, but many more viewing opportunities are available today.
May also shared some advice.
“Stay with your education — have fun with sports,” May told the boys. Football wasn’t his favorite sport when growing up, he said, and he encouraged them to participate in a range of athletic activities. “Enjoy sports because you never know what’s going to happen.”