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Jimmy the Jet, the Jimmy Cefalo story

He was nicknamed ‘Jimmy the Jet’, a once in a generational player who burst onto the scene in the early 1970’s. On his first varsity carry as ...

He was nicknamed 'Jimmy the Jet', a once in a generational player who burst onto the scene in the early 1970's. On his first varsity carry as a Pittston Area Sophomore in 1971 Cefalo ran 80 yards for a touchdown.  As a Junior, Jimmy had two 80 yard touchdown runs in the same game, that performance earned him a blurb in Sports Illustrated.  As a Senior, Cefalo became the first player in the state to eclipse 4,000 career yards. Cefalo was All-State, All-American, the Pride of Pittston.
"Pittston Area was really special place, said Cefalo back in late August, it still is. But, that time we didn't lose many football games, in a two year span, three years, actually and I think seven guys wound up going on playing college football and that was a big thing for us, a small community like Pittston.
That's what I remember most, Charlie Trippi stadium filled to capacity. The would bring buses in and park them on the track around the field and people would stand on top of the buses and we would have 15,000-16,000 people in a stadium that held 10-12."

Cefalo was the top college football recruit in the country, a later day Charlie Trippi who left Pittston, for a career at the University of Georgia, and was inducted into the college football and pro football hall of fame. Cefalo almost followed Trippi's footsteps to Athens, Georgia, but then Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno won over Jimmy's mom  and year's later Cefalo is indebted to his college coach.

" When you get near Penn State that concentric ring, he is still on this high pedestal, I mused. As you get farther and farther away even South Beach, Miami it's not the same. How do you wrap yourself around what it's like here and what's it's like everywhere else? Where Joe Paterno belongs in your state of mind?"

"I tell them who Joe Paterno was, replied Jimmy. What he represented and what he did. What he did was he turned a lot of people, like me, into good citizens in the country and people forget that, and that's foremost in my mind, we're going to do that for as long as I'm alive."

Cefalo played seven seasons with the Dolphins and was on the losing side in Super Bowl XVII and XIX. It was after that Super Bowl XIX loss to the 49'ers, that Jimmy went to Don Shula's office to tell the Head Coach he was retiring from the NFL to pursue a television career,

"...And I flew back went right to Shula's office and I retired. And he said, you're going to retire to do local T.V.? I said, no..I'm going to retire to go to the network and he said nobody quits the job. And I said, coach, I quit."

Cefalo never looked back, Jimmy worked on the NBA Today Show, was a Sports Director at a television station in Miami for 13 years, hosted a Miami based food, wine and travel show, and is currently the play-by-play guy for the Dolphins. But, again Jimmy's second career, also all started in Northeast Pa, with a radio gig at W-A-R-D in Pittston, and the host of Dialing for Dollars, at WNEP, which included the infamous 'gerbil races'.
"It's Happy Days, so gerbil #1 is the Fonz, gerbil #2 in Mrs. C, and #3 is Richie. Who do you think is going to win? And they try to pick one, and those three glass tubes with the gerbils in it and I'd have to pull something and some times they wouldn't go and I would have to smack the back of the case and they would start to scamper across. We have to go to a photo finish because people were betting on it. They would sit in bars betting on which gerbil would win and my call would be the final call and they had to go find one of the gerbil actually crossing the finish line."

Cefalo has a ways to go before he crosses his finish line. In the meantime, Jimmy moves forward, with purpose, with precision, and with his Pittston, Pennsylvania roots to keep him grounded.