Pollock: Crist earned the nod for Buffalo’s ‘Hall’

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series on a pair area natives being inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Olean High wrestling standout Jeff Prescott and Salamanca four-sport star Chuck Crist, both alumni of Penn State, will be added at a ceremony this fall in Buffalo. Today, Crist.)

It is beyond argument that Chuck Crist is one of the greatest athletes ever produced by the Big 30 area.

And he made that point in high school by accomplishing a near-impossible quadruple. As a senior at Salamanca he was his team’s MVP in four sports: football (shared Big 30 Player of the Year with Walsh’s Dan Metzler in 1967), basketball (25 points per game, team won Section 6 title), baseball (first-team, all-league) and track (school records in both high and triple jumps, the latter, 45-1, still stands).

Upon graduation, Crist was faced with a rare choice, a scholarship to Penn State for either football or basketball. He chose the latter after disagreement about his position in football. More on that later.

Back then, freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity, but he was a three-year letterman who earned the Nittany Lions’ MVP as a senior for a team that went 17-8.

Crist didn’t see himself as a pro basketball player, but he hadn’t lost his interest in football. And, in 1972, the Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent.

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he played three seasons as a strong safety in New York, three more with the Saints (New Orleans’ defensive MVP in 1977) and ended his NFL career, at age 27, with a final year in San Francisco (team lead in picks and tackles) where he had been traded. In 92 games, he forced 31 takeaways (20 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries).

Eventually, his sport of choice became golf and he won six club championships in the 1990s at Holiday Valley.

And late last week it was announced that he was part of this year’s class of 13 inductees into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame that includes Olean native and fellow Penn Stater Jeff Prescott, a three-time New York state scholastic wrestling champion and two-time NCAA Division I titleist, plus Buffalo’s Joe Horrigan (executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame), Ed Hughes (former NFL head and assistant coach), Travis Mayer (U.S. Olympic medal-winning skier) and Peter Scamurra (first player from the city to sign an NHL contract).