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Dick Shiner Was One of Lebanon’s Original Professional Athletes

BY DON SCOTT

In 1964, Dick Shiner became the first of three Lebanon County quarterbacks, who would collectively play 36 years in the National Football League.

Shiner’s time was 11 years (1964-74) with six different teams. Kerry Collins followed with 16 seasons (1995-2011), also with six teams, and Frank Reich had a 13-year career (1985-1998) as a player. An interesting bit of trivia is that Collins and Reich were both on the Carolina Panthers 1995 roster.

Shiner was also a very good baseball player, meaning he had to make a big decision following his high school graduation, as to which direction to go.

“The odds of playing minor league baseball, riding the buses and advancing weren’t as good as getting the education and see what happened from there on,” Shiner said. “At Maryland I got a full scholarship, but could only play football because unless the coach (Tom Nugent) told you before you came there that he’d allow you to play baseball, you couldn’t do it.”

“My scholarship cost $1,200 a year, the books were 99 cents, so my four years cost $4,800,” added Shiner.

Shiner said he was also proud of his part in Reich’s decision to attend Maryland, something that will be explained a bit later.

The game most area sports fans recall was Maryland’s 1961 victory over Penn State, which had a 35-1-1 overall record against Maryland going into that contest.

“That was my first start, when I was 19, and I connected for three first-half touchdowns for a 21-0 lead that ended with a 21-17 win, and I finished with 13-for-22 for 164 yards that were big numbers for the era,” Shiner said, with a laugh.

The Redskins signed Shiner for the 1964 season where he served as the backup for Sonny Jurgensen for three years before going to Cleveland for a year. Then he played for Pittsburgh until they were able to draft Terry Bradshaw, because he led the Steelers to a 1-13 season.

“Art Rooney called me in when they knew they would be drafting Bradshaw because he heard I wanted to be traded,” Shiner said. “He told me I’m number one and we’re not going to trade you because Wellington Mara and I have talked and we both agree you are the best back-up quarterback in the game. The next thing I knew I was traded to Mara’s Giants as the backup for Fran Tarkenton, and the next season I was with Atlanta, and then finished up with the New England Patriots behind Jim Plunkett.”

“Jurgensen knew more about football than most of the coaches in the league and Fran was also one of the smartest people I ever met,” continueds Shiner. “I’d watch him run a two-minute drill in practice and he’d have several interceptions, but come Sunday he’d throw four TD passes. When the coach gave him the game plan, he’d look at it and tear it up, then put his own plan in and would also draw up a play on the field during the game, just like we did as kids.”

As for Plunkett, Shiner said, “Physical-wise he was unbelievable throwing the ball 75-80 yards in the air, so it didn’t surprise me when he went to Oakland and they won two Super Bowls with him.”

When watching games now Shiner admitted what he really does is watch certain quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, because they understand and study the game, but he really likes watching Frank Reich-coached teams and roots for his teams every time.

Now 78, Shiner said aside from a back injury while with Pittsburgh that causes him a bit of a problem he has had no major physical problems.

Here is a little known fact on how and why Frank Reich Jr. chose Maryland, because of Shiner’s contact with the Reich family over the years.

“I got to know Frank’s family when his dad was coaching football at Lebanon High, but I never saw him play for Cedar Crest,” Shiner said. “At the time, he was one of three quarterbacks in the area that colleges were looking at, and I told coach Jerry Claiborne that Frank was the best one. The other two were Steve Bono from Norristown and Hershey’s Scott Campbell.”

“Frank had visited Maryland,” continued Shiner, “and after that Claiborne made a home visit where he talked about the reasons to choose Maryland for more than 20 minutes, before asking for a decision, and Frank simply replied he had decided yes 20 minutes ago.”

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