PISCATAWAY, NJ – At halftime of the season-opening Rutgers-Buffalo game on Sat., Aug., 30, legendary high school football coach Donald Smolyn of Lenape Valley Regional High School in Randolph will receive the fifth annual John Bateman “Winners for Life” Award, named after former Rutgers head football coach Dr. John F. Bateman.
Bateman served as head football coach at Rutgers from 1960-72, and compiled a record of 73-51. In his first season at the helm, he guided the 1960 Scarlet Knights to an 8-1 record. The following season, Rutgers put together its first undefeated season, posting a come-from-behind 31-19 victory over Columbia in the season finale.
The impact he had on his players extended far beyond wins and losses. The award is sponsored by the Dr. John F. Bateman Foundation, a group of his former players. The foundation honors a New Jersey high school football coach who best exemplifies Bateman’s ideals of developing players’ character and academic competence along with academic skills. A committee of Bateman’s former players selects the recipient of the Bateman Award.
Alex Kroll, a 1961 first-team All-American center at Rutgers, who has been inducted into both the Rutgers Football and the National College Football Halls of Fame, is a committee member for the Bateman Award.
“Our committee, made up of men who played or worked with Dr. John Bateman when he coached at Rutgers, believe that a great football coach does more than win football games,” said Kroll. “He helps his players win throughout their lives. He can be a mentor, teacher, role model and part-time father. Dr. Bateman was a great role model himself. Football, to him was a way of enhancing a young man’s education, while it strengthened his character and capacity to contribute to the community. When he passed away in 1998, we decided that the best way to honor his memory was to honor coaches who bring his principles to life.”
Smolyn, who is also the Director of Athletics at Lenape Valley, embodies everything that John Bateman stood for as it relates to coaching young people in the game of football. Smolyn is an institution at Lenape Valley, where he has served as head football coach since 1976. He has led the Patriots to seven North Jersey Section I, Group II State titles (1977, 1981, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1999) and eight Sussex County League Championships (1977, 1978, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1994, 1998, 1999). Smolyn, a member of the Sussex County Hall of Fame, began his coaching career at Green Brook High School, where he served as head coach from 1971-76. His overall varsity football coaching record is 217-83-13. He has also been a NJSIAA Executive Committee member for six years, and is a member of the NJSIAA Strength Coaches Committee, the NJ Football Coaches association and the National Strength Coaches Association.
Regarded as a master of organization and preparation, many high school programs throughout New Jersey are modeled after the way Smolyn runs the Lenape Valley program. Smolyn earned a bachelor’s degree from Adams State College and a master’s from Kean University. He and his wife Joan are the proud parents of Alexis and Christopher. Smolyn’s younger brother Gary was recruited to Rutgers by Bateman and was a three-year lettermen for the Scarlet Knights (1971-73).
“ As a young coach starting out Dr. Bateman was someone I always admired and tried to emulate,” said Smolyn. “He represented everything that was right about the game of football. I was away at college when he recruited my brother but I always remember my mom and dad saying what a wonderful gentleman he was and how they felt so at ease knowing that my brother would play for him at Rutgers.”
In addition to building winning programs on the football field, Smolyn has been a builder of character and values in enhancing the personal lives of the many young people he has come into contact with off the field.
Previous Winners for Life Award Winners
1999 Pierce Frauenheim Immaculata HS
2000 Warren Wolf Brick Township HS
2001 Frank Bottone New Providence HS
2002 Jim Horner Haddonfield HS