MU HOF Member Ed Prelaz Dead At 81

Edward James Prelaz, a standout Herd football player and Marshall's first athletic trainer, passed away last week at age 81. Prelaz taught at Marshall for 47 years after starring for the Herd in football under Cam Henderson in 1949 and Pete Pederson in 1950 and 1951, when he was second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference as a fullback and linebacker for the OVC's second-place Herd (5-4-1 overall).

Prelaz came to play football at Marshall in 1949 from Richwood, W.Va., where he had played baseball and football in high school, serving as captain of the gridiron team. He played in the 1943 North-South All-Star game, the year he graduated from Richwood. He then spent 26 months in the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving as a gunner. He was a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve when he came to Marshall as a 23-year old freshman in 1949. Prelaz played at 5-foot-9, 185-pounds and was a standout in 1949, 1950 and 1951 for Marshall, but was injured in 1952 and unable to play his senior year. His 1951 bio read: "Led Herd in rushing last season…4.63 yards per try…fast, hard runner…takes football seriously…will be counted on for much this year." Prelaz led Herd in rushing with 543 yards in 1950 and 543 yards in 1951, when he averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

"I recruited Ed from Richwood, where his family ran a restaurant," said Dr. Sam Clagg, who coached at Marshall from 1946 through 1956. He recruited Prelaz and then coached beside him at Marshall for three seasons in football and wrestling. "He helped me start the wrestling program here at Marshall. When he came to town as a recruit, though, we had to go to Star Sporting Goods to pick up some football shoes for Ed and on the way back to campus, he got the car's wheels stuck in the tracks at Second Avenue.

"I told him, 'Son, you better get us out of here or our next stop will be Point Pleasant on the front of a C&O train,' and Ed replied, 'This is the first time I've driven in a big city and I'm scared to death.' Ed had been running a bulldozer back home, near the mines, but I drove from then on. As a matter of fact, I gave Ed his first car because working at Marshall in the 1950s, you might as well been on the street with a tin cup for the money you made."

Clagg, a former player, coach, professor, Chairman of the Geography Department and interim President of Marshall University, said Prelaz being older and a veteran was not as odd for the late 1940s as it would be today. "We had a whole gang of those guys. Danny Clark, Claude Miller…Chuck Fieldson was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army." In fact, 20 of the 37 players on the 1949 Marshall roster listed military duties - eight in the Navy, six in the Army, two each in the U.S. Marines and Army Air Corps and one each in the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, and Clagg himself was a Marine in the war.

Prelaz was a person, Clagg said, who really put his heart and soul into what he did at Marshall, from running the Gullickson Hall steam room and athletic training to coaching and teaching. "Ed was dedicated to everything he did at Marshall, be it playing, acting as team trainer after he was injured, coaching or teaching," said Clagg. He added, "And he played the harmonica like a pro. He told me, 'I got stuck on it, then was determined to learn how to do it.' He practiced so hard he got blisters on his lips. Faithful is how I remember Ed," said Clagg.

After graduating in 1953, Prelaz joined the Marshall staff as an assistant coach and the Herd's first full-time athletic trainer. He saved a player on the field in his third season as a trainer with the use of the oral screw. Marshall fullback Dyke Six was hit hard during the Kent State game at Memorial Stadium in Kent, Ohio in 1955. Six's jaw locked from the hit when he swallowed his tongue. Prelaz inserted the oral screw into Six's mouth and recovered his tongue, saving the player's life, and the story received wide attention across the nation, including Sports Illustrated. Prelaz was named "Trainer of the Year" by Scholastic Magazine for this life-saving move. He later received a Master's degree from West Virginia University in 1956.

Prelaz was the Herd's trainer from 1953-69 and also served for awhile as the counsellor of Hodges Hall, at that time the men's dormitory at Marshall and home for many athletes. He was an assistant football coach from 1953-1964, working for head coaches Herb Royer and Charlie Snyder and helped the Herd to second-place finishes in the Mid-American Conference in both 1957 and 1964. Prelaz coached backs like Len Hellyer, Sonny Sirriani, Millard Fleming, Jack Mahone and Mickey Jackson. Jackson, Mahone, Fleming and Hellyer are Marshall Hall of Fame members.

Prelaz also served as Marshall's wrestling coach from 1957-58 until 1966-67, coaching MAC champion Bill Cyrus, who won at 130 pounds in 1962 and was second at that weight in 1961, leading for his induction in the MU Hall of Fame for wrestling. Football players who wrestled and were coached by Prelaz include Ralph May, Bob Pruett, Roger Jefferson (who was the 1963 runner-up at heavyweight) and Larry Coyer, who replaced Prelaz as wrestling coach in 1967, and all are also members of the MU HOF. In addition to his duties as football coach, wrestling coach and head trainer, Prelaz was an assistant professor in Marshall's Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation from 1953 until 1999, serving the University for 47 years in that capacity.

Prelaz belonged to many professional organizations including the American Red Cross, where he logged more than 4,880 hours of professional experience. He was inducted into the Marshall University Athletic Hall of Fame in the third class elected for football to the Hall in 1986. Prelaz was also inducted into the MU Sports Medicine Hall of Fame in the initial class of 2001 and was recently awarded a M-Club Blanket for his years of playing and serving the University in a variety of roles.

Here is the official obituary from Huntington's The Herald-Dispatch on Sunday, June 24:
EDWARD J. PRELAZ, 81, of Huntington passed away on Thursday, June 21, 2007, at the Hospice House of Huntington. The Funeral Liturgy will be conducted on Tuesday, June 26, at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, located on Norway Avenue in Huntington, with Fr. Jim Sobus.

Prelaz was a veteran of the United States Navy, having served in World War II, and was a member of Our Lady of Fatima. Ed was a professor at Marshall University with 47 years of service. He was the recipient of numerous awards as well as a member of the Marshall University Hall of Fame, Marshall University Sports Medicine Hall of Fame and was a member of the M-Club.

He was born on May 17, 1926, in Richwood, W.Va., the son of the late Lewis and Mary Cagali Prelaz. His wife, Anita Drosick Prelaz survives him along with children and spouses:
Edward J. Prelaz Jr., John C. and Deborah Prelaz, Jane Ann and Harry E. Meador II, Christine M. Prelaz, Teresa Prelaz and Thomas A. Prelaz. Prelaz is also survived by seven grandchildren:
Amanda Rene, Kaitlyn Ayn, Benjamin Scott, Natalye Brooke and Nicholas Andrew Meador, Annah N. and Isabella Prelaz.

He is also survived by three sisters and a brother-in-law:
Rose and Chris Mondores, Elsie Stanley and Mary Prelaz, and several nieces and nephews. Friends may call from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Fatima Church. Reger Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Contributions may be made to Hospice of Huntington. Condolences may be expressed to the family at www.timeformemory.com/reger (on the internet).


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