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Catching Up With ...
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2020-12-02

Faye Bardman Donovan   

            As a high school and college coach, Faye Bardman Donovan led the sports she

Faye Bardman Donovan

knew, and one she had to learn on the fly. At the University of Pennsylvania, an administrator informed her she would be coaching the archery team.

            The Red Hill native – who also coached basketball, field hockey and softball at Penn, New Hope-Solebury and the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr – went to camp, and took private lessons, to learn how to shoot. In 1965, she earned a spot on the state archery team.

            After graduating from Upper Perkiomen in 1956 and Ursinus College in 1960, Donovan earned a gold medal from the U.S. Rowing Association as a member of Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club.

            She also continued to excel at field hockey and basketball. From 1965 to 1967, Donovan competed on the national field hockey team. She played in more international games than she could remember, including in the World Championship tournament in Germany.

            Between 1960 and 1964, Donovan competed against basketball teams from Canada and Mexico through an entity separate from the International Olympic Committee. She described the rules, which resemble the way the game is currently played, as superior to how she played in high school.

            In high school, Donovan played basketball, field hockey and softball. She described basketball as her best sport. Additionally, she played in the Philadelphia, Lancaster and Reading softball league while she was in high school until after she graduated from college.

            At Ursinus, she played field hockey, lacrosse and softball. The first baseman did not strike out at the plate in four seasons for the Golden Bears.

            "I'm very proud of that," said Donovan who lives in Kimberton.

            She worked her way through college by lifeguarding and teaching swimming, as well as directing and participating in the annual water show at a pool in the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

            Donovan also refereed basketball games and umpired softball games.

            As a young teenager, she spent two weeks traveling with the South Bend Blue Sox of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. According to Donovan, an appointment to babysit at her aunt's house ended up with her hitting the road after receiving an invitation from Jean Faut, who played on the team. The 13-year-old was given a uniform and was allowed to warm up with the team.

            "I had some fun," she said.

            Donovan and her family moved to Kansas in the late 1970s. After they returned to the area in 1987, she earned a Bachelor's degree in Nursing from Neumann University. She started working at a long-term care rehabilitation facility in the mid 1990s and retired after 14 years.

            "I was very good with old people," said Donovan, who also ran a library in Chester Springs.

 

John Brunner

            In high school, John Brunner aspired to lead the top football team in the Lehigh Valley. Brunner said he admired Dave Pritchard, Upper Perkiomen's head football

John Brunner

coach, and thought becoming the head coach at Allentown High School would be a destination job. 

            "That was my ultimate goal," said Brunner, who helped the 1953 Tribe team post an undefeated 7-0 season. "They were pretty good in those days. They played all over the place."

            The East Greenville native, whose family owned and operated a bakery on Main Street in the borough, accumulated a coaching career that far exceeded those expectations. In 2009, Brunner retired from a 26-year coaching career in the NFL. He worked for five teams, earning a Super Bowl title with the San Francisco 49ers in January of 1995.

            "It was very exciting," he said. "It was something I always dreamed about."

            After graduating from Upper Perkiomen in 1955, Brunner played freshman football and baseball for a year at the University of Maryland. After getting married, he transferred to East Stroudsburg University. For three years, he played both sports.

            In 1987, he was inducted into ESU's Hall of Fame. As a senior in 1959, Brunner won the school's initial outstanding football player award. He served as a co-captain twice and was twice named all-state as a fullback. He excelled on the baseball diamond as a pitcher and outfielder.

            Brunner started all three years for the Warriors. As a senior, an injury forced him to play quarterback. The team finished 6-2.

            After college, Brunner took an assistant coaching job at a high school in Middletown, N.Y. He remained there for seven seasons, serving as head coach for the final four.

            He spent 13 years coaching at Villanova, Temple and Princeton universities. Brunner joined the Detroit Lions for the 1980 season after getting a call from Tim Rooney, recently hired as the team's director of football operations. Brunner and Rooney had coached together at Villanova.

            During his initial season, Brunner coached Billy Sims, a Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma University. The coach said the rookie running back was eager to learn. Simms averaged 4.2 yards a carry, running for 1,303 yards and 13 touchdowns.  "Billy could cut on a dime," said Brunner, who now lives in Clearwater, Fla. "He was a great guy to coach and a really good kid."

            In November of 1989, Brunner was coaching for the Minnesota Vikings under head coach Jerry Burns when the team acquired Herschel Walker from the Dallas Cowboys. The Vikings gave up five draft picks in exchange for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

            Brunner had similar stints in Green Bay, Tampa Bay and San Francisco. In 1983, he jumped from the Lions to Green Bay, where he worked on the staff of Bart Starr. The following season, he served as the Buccaneers offensive coordinator under John McKay.

            Ten seasons later, Brunner reached the pinnacle of his profession when the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX. The team reveled all night in a hotel parking garage in Miami.

            A few months later, the 49ers celebrated their fifth Super Bowl title during a five-day party at a resort in Colorado Springs. Players coaches and staff received their championship rings during a banquet on the final night.

            "It was definitely the highlight of my career," said Brunner, whose son Scott played quarterback for six seasons with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s, and whose other son Todd is currently a scout with the Seattle Seahawks.


 

 

 

 

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