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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:01:31 09:46:29

Rich Musinski and his children, Ava and Tucker, are all decked out in their Patriots gear.

Photo: ruda, License: N/A, Created: 2009:07:08 10:09:42

Rich Musinski watches as his 8 year old cousin Patrick prepares to catch football during camp exercise. cv09musinskip2 Warren Ruda / The Citizens' Voice

Rich Musinski wasn’t always a New England Patriots fan.

“Growing up I was a Raiders fan because of Bo Jackson. He was the man. He had power and speed. He played football and baseball, which is what I did. He was really good at both. Jackson would have been the best athlete of all time if it wasn’t for the injury,” Musinski said.

Musinski was a football and baseball all-star for Wyoming Area and played American Legion baseball. He is the offensive coordinator for Wyoming Area football.

As a senior at Wyoming Area in 1998, Musinski had a 1,000-yard receiving season and caught 10 passes for 120 yards in the District 2 championship win over Montrose. He went to William & Mary on an athletic scholarship and when he left he was the school record holder in receptions (224), receiving yards (4,168), 100-yard receiving games (21) and receiving touchdowns (31). He is in the William & Mary Hall of Fame.

He went undrafted in the NFL draft after William & Mary. He was signed as a free agent with the Titans, but wound up with the Patriots. He was in training camp with the Patriots in 2005 and 2006. He was cut early in 2005, but was allocated to NFL Europe and the Berlin Thunder. He made it through four preseason games in 2006, catching a touchdown pass from Matt Castle. He also played Arena Football for Nashville and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers.

While Musinski still has a soft spot in his heart for the Raiders, he said, “I became a big fan of the Patriot way. They are very serious. They strive for perfection to do things the right way all the time.”

Musinski said he likes how the Patriots win without a roster loaded with superstars.

“They bring in guys who fly under the radar. Diamonds in the rough. Role players who know what they are supposed to do. Guys who want to win. They bring (wide receiver Chris) Hogan in and he becomes a stud. You don’t see a lot of breaking of the rules.”

Though he never had one-on-one time with coach Bill Belichick, he sat in plenty of meetings with him. While Belichick could be funny at times at press conferences, he was serious at team meetings.

Musinski knows a lot of football fans hate Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots.

“It’s like hating the Yankees or Alabama,” he said. “A lot of fans hate people who succeed all the time.”

Musinski said Brady, for all his celebrity, is one of the guys. Even though Musinski was one of 10 to 12 recovers in camp, Brady knew him by name.

Though he’s concerned about the Rams defensive line and the pass rush by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, he said, “I still think the Patriots will win.”

Not so fast, Pats

Donald and Suh are on the mind of Ronnie Berlew, as well. He’s old enough to say they remind him of the first time the Rams were in L.A. and were noted for their “Fearsome Foursome” on the defensive line. Merlin Olsen was the most famous of the four and Deacon Jones was the most fearsome. “What goes around comes around,” Berlew said. “They’re back with the defensive line.”

Olsen and Jones are still Berlew’s all-time favorite Rams along with Roman Gabriel and Dick Bass.

Asked how he got to be a Rams fan, he said, “The helmets. Years ago the helmets had an effect on an impressionable young man. I was hooked. I may be the oldest Rams fan east of the Mississippi,” joked Berlew, who is in his early 60s.

He’s glad the Rams left St. Louis.

“They wandered in the desert for years, but they’re back in L.A. where they belong.”

He predicts a 27-21 Rams win in the Super Bowl.

jsmiles@pittstonprogress.com