If not for his father’s understated, yet stern guidance one day 40 years ago, Peter McCarty might never have played high school football, let alone become one of Maine’s premier players.
The Fitzpatrick Award winner from Bangor High School certainly wouldn’t be taking his place among nine sports figures being inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame at the Bangor Motor Inn on Sunday.
“There was one time in eighth grade where I didn’t want to play football anymore,” McCarty said. “I came home and told my dad I was going to quit. He told me I could — at the end of the season. I might have quit if not for him.”
Instead, McCarty went on to win the “Fitzy” as the state’s top senior football player after distinguishing himself as fullback (95 rushes for 556 yards) and defensive end while helping lead the Rams to the 1973 Class A state championship.
He also snagged a full athletic scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, where he became an All-Yankee Conference linebacker and co-captain. At UMass, McCarty played three games against his brother, Paul McCarty, who was a receiver for Boston College after also turning in an outstanding athletic career at Bangor High.
Peter McCarty’s close association with football continued after he put away his cleats as he came back to be an assistant coach at Bangor following his college graduation.
From there, it was on to Pittsfield for a year as an assistant at Maine Central Institute, then as a graduate assistant at Syracuse University, three seasons at American International College, five seasons each at Holy Cross and Maryland, four years at Illinois, a year at Georgia Tech, two at Stanford, then to the University of Central Florida for three seasons.
Now 53, McCarty is a third-year defensive line coach for Western Michigan University.
“I’ve been coaching since graduating in 1978,” McCarty said after settling into his hotel room during a recruiting trip in Jacksonville, Fla. “I think I was surrounded by so many coaches who had a great impact on me and I think that’s what got me into coaching.
“One thing that got me into it initially was [former Bangor football coach] Gabby Price. I was on Cape Cod and he told me to get my butt back here because he had a job for me.”
Price was one of many coaches to influence McCarty.
“I think I’ve grabbed a little bit from everybody who’s coached me,” McCarty said. “Norris Nickerson, Ron Geaghan, John Stubbs, Bob Cimbollek, Gerry Hodge, Gabby Price, Dick MacPherson and Bob Pickett … People who not only taught me skills, but also life lessons.”
McCarty says he’s humbled by his inclusion in the Maine Hall’s 2009 induction class.
“I feel honored and proud to be part of such a prestigious group,” he said. “It’s as high an honor, if not the highest honor, I’ve ever received.
“I’d like to say I’m going in as an individual, but there are many others who helped me get this honor. My parents, my teammates, and my coaches obviously had a major impact.”
McCarty’s only regret is that neither his father, Walter, or mother, Mamie, are alive to accompany him to Sunday’s ceremonies.
“I like to feel that both my mother and father will be watching the proceedings closely Sunday,” he said. “Both had a great impact on me. They basically said if you’re going to do something, go do it and do it the right way.”
McCarty did it right as a three-sport standout in football (one state title), baseball (four regional and two state titles) and basketball at Bangor.
“I’d have to say the state championship was probably the greatest moment for me,” McCarty said. “I always relate that somehow to guys I recruit because I really think we’ve lost track of the team context with many athletes today
“I don’t associate myself with personal greatness at all. I was just fortunate enough to be at Bangor when they had some great teams. Team success breeds individual success.”
McCarty continued to succeed as a college student-athlete.
“I was no Rhodes Scholar,” he said. “But you know you have to work hard and appreciate the value of education.”
The other inductees are longtime Bangor broadcaster George Hale, former UMaine baseball coach and major league scout Jack Butterfield (posthumous), former Bangor High baseball coach Bob Kelley, UMaine and Lawrence High School star basketball player Cindy Blodgett, ex-Brewer and John Bapst football and baseball coach Ken Perrone, former Georges Valley of Thomaston boys soccer coach Charles “Sam” Pendleton, former Ellsworth High three-sport star and current Toronto Blue Jays player development director Dick Scott, and former Stearns High and University of Maryland basketball standout Jon MacDonald.