Join us on Saturday, August 24, for Wildcats Roar when we will induct the next class of alumni to the Saint Ignatius High School Athletic Hall of Fame. This year's inductees include Mike Sweeney '78 (basketball), John Spellacy '85 (hockey & football), Drew Haddad '96 (football & basketball), Anthony Kelly '99 (lacrosse & hockey), Anthony Gonzalez '03 (football & track and field).
Mike Sweeney '78
For Mike Sweeney ’78 and his family, Saint Ignatius High School is home. He grew up on Cleveland’s West side, raised by his alumnus father, the Honorable Gerald Francis Sweeney ’47 and mother Bride Ann, with brother Martin ’81 and five sisters.
Moving to St. Mel parish school in fifth grade, Mike remembers meeting a man who would shape his future. “A guy named Tom Pasko came over on his motorcycle and said, ‘You’re tall! Ever play basketball?’ I replied, ‘Not really,’ His team needed a center – and I said okay.” Right there, in best friend Brian Carey’s backyard, Mike began to learn the game.
Coach Tom Pasko Hon. ’96, a longtime English teacher at Saint Ignatius, lit the fire. Basketball became Mike’s passion as the St. Mel team won a few championships in green and white pin-striped polyester uniforms -- homemade by team moms.
In his freshman year at Saint Ignatius, 115 boys tried out for the freshman basketball team. Mike was one of 15 who made it. Coached by Tom Flandera ’63, he describes “a spirited group who played together and played hard.” In a 19-1 season, Mike earned a reputation as an “inside guy,” taking floor burns and doing whatever it took to win.
In the days of West Senate vs. East Senate, Coach Dale Gabor ’66 led Mike’s sophomore team to the top of the West side and to the 1976 City Championship against East side JFK High School in a packed Cleveland Public Auditorium. In his junior year under coach Marty Chambers ’52, Mike’s team went 22-2 – a school record at the time. It ended with a thrilling City win against John Adams High School by one point – in overtime.
In his senior year Mike was team captain, averaging 14.2 points per game and another historic City title. With seconds left, his free throws gave the Cats a two-point lead to win the last-ever City Championship for Saint Ignatius as the school opted for a wider range of opponents. Remaining close friends with his teammates, Mike still marvels at a squad that lost only seven games in four years together.
Awarded a college basketball scholarship, Mike played for Cleveland State University where he was a captain all four years on the most successful CSU team the school had to date, earning a spot in the CSU Athletic Hall of Fame. After earning a BA in History, Mike traveled to Oslo, Norway to play and coach for a year. He remembers exchanging cassette tape letters with Melissa Mayernik, the Ursuline College nursing student who would become his wife. As a married couple, they traveled to Norway for another brief coaching stint.
Returning to Cleveland, Mike was hired by the Cuyahoga County Treasurer’s office, where he has worked for more than 30 years as Tax Administrator. He smiles, saying “I’m still coaching people towards a common goal. I just turned in my whistle and high tops for wingtips and a tie.”
Mike loved coaching his sons on grade school basketball teams and was thrilled to give back to Saint Ignatius as freshman coach for five years. His sons Conor ’08, Patrick ’08 and now Regan ’11 have all coached Wildcat freshman teams.
Mike’s family includes wife Melissa, twins Conor and Patrick, Regan and Colin ’15.
John Spellacy '85
Sports have always been important to John Spellacy ’85. “I’m a big believer that sports can teach you so many lessons. Whether you’re the best kid on the team or not, it doesn’t matter. In football, everyone is important, everyone has a role -- whether you’re on the practice squad or the star quarterback.”
This wisdom comes from a man with a rich legacy at Saint Ignatius High School, from his grandfather William Leo Spellacy graduate of the Saint Ignatius Class of 1912 to dad Leo M. Spellacy ’52, brothers Kevin ’81 and Leo Jr. ’88 and his son John Anthony ’17.
Growing up in Rocky River, John was the fourth of six children in a home where sports reigned supreme. His earliest memories of Saint Ignatius include basketball games with his dad, admiring the talents of Mike Sweeney ’78, Marty Wise ’77, Oliver Luck ’78 and other renowned players coached by Marty Chambers ’52.
Though his freshman year was intimidating, John quickly adapted to a new normal: get up early, go to classes, football practice, eat, do three hours of homework, sleep, repeat. “It was hard, but it taught me to manage my time. I learned that it’s easier to stay focused when you’re pressed for time.”
In football, John played center and linebacker, was a two-year letter winner, achieved 3rd Team All-Ohio, was team captain his senior year, and made over 100 tackles on the season. But what stands out most in John’s memory are great friends and teammates eleven of whom were offered Division I scholarships. Additionally, John remembers the dedicated coaches – including Chuck Kyle ’69, just starting out as head football coach at the time.
Though he excelled at football, John describes hockey as a sport he loved. “Compared to football, hockey practices were always fun! Flying around on ice and just the speed of the game.” He lettered in hockey four times and was team captain his senior year.
John was thrilled to play college football on a full scholarship to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. “It was a great community with great people, still recovering from the tragic 1970 plane crash where they lost their entire football team. When I was there in 1985, they hadn’t had a winning season since way before the crash.” John’s team earned Marshall their first-ever Division I AA National Championship appearance and a 10-1 senior season, catapulting the Thundering Herd into the team it is today. In 2016 John was inducted into the Marshall University Athletic Hall of Fame.
With his BA in Political Science, John went to work for The Cincinnati Insurance Company and at night earned his JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Since 1995 he’s run a private practice in Cleveland focusing on criminal defense and personal injury and serving as municipal prosecutor for Parma and Westlake. “Sports taught me hard work, perseverance and how to handle failure – and that applies to the work I do every day. Law gives me a great opportunity to help people, both in prosecution and defense, making sure people are treated fairly. On the football field, I never wanted to let my team down, and I try to do the same for every client I serve.”
John’s family includes wife Kathy DiSanto Spellacy and children Ashley, Nicole, John Anthony ’17, Logan, and A.J.
Drew Haddad '96
Drew Haddad ’96 grew up in Fairview Park, attended St. Angela Merici School, and played basketball and football down the street from his house at Morton Park with brother Eric ’94. “I would eat, breathe, live sports, moving at 100 miles an hour.”
As a freshman at Saint Ignatius High School, Drew remembers walking onto Wasmer Field and feeling overwhelmed by the number of boys trying out for football. “From day one, I was challenged. But that’s what made Ignatius special. It instilled in me a habit of setting goals to achieve success, combining athletics, academics, and spirituality.”
Drew became one of Saint Ignatius football’s main offensive weapons as a wide receiver and kick returner on teams that won three State titles and two National Championships. In his four-year career, they had only one loss, with a record of 41-1. He still considers his Saint Ignatius senior year championships the greatest accomplishments of his life in sports. “It was all about the journey – the friendships and bonds on that team.”
He also earned All-State, All-District, All-Independent, Plain Dealer All-Scholastic honors, and was voted Co-Most Valuable Receiver. On the basketball court, Drew played two years as a guard on varsity, earned two varsity letters in track. He also won the 1996 John Wirtz Award.
Always viewed as a smaller player, Drew felt he had to prove his value -- and used the doubters to feed the fire of his determination in sports and in his personal life. “Sports can teach us about life," reflects Drew. "The discipline, the drive, the work ethic. It comes down to getting knocked down and getting back up. With faith and family as a foundation, you can get back up multiple times. If you trust in God and believe in yourself -- anything is possible. All of this was formed in my experience at Saint Ignatius."
Drew received a football scholarship to the University of Buffalo where he set 13 school records for receptions and returns. He is UB’s all-time leading pass receiver (240 receptions for 3,409 yards), holds the record for longest punt return (94 yards), and is a career and single-game leader in all-purpose yardage totaling 5,000 yards. He helped build a legacy at UB as a team captain and was inducted into the UB Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. “I had left Ignatius, but Ignatius never left me,” recalls Drew. “I kept setting my goals and achieving them – to be All-American and then to be drafted by the NFL”.
Drew was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the 2000 NFL draft. He later signed with the Indianapolis Colts, making a splash in his first game with an unforgettable 94-yard punt return. He still remembers seeing the joy and the pride he brought to his family in that game -- including his future wife, Colleen O'Neill. They met in a classic “love at first sight” moment in Drew's freshman year at UB, where her father was the defensive coordinator.
Leaving Indianapolis in 2003, Drew played with NFL Europe, returned to the Bills in 2004, and ended his career in 2005 with the San Diego Chargers. “Success is defined by maximizing the abilities God has given you. As I walked away from the game, I knew I had gone above and beyond, and was proud of my athletic career. It made me who I am today.”
Drew returned to Cleveland to work in orthopedic sales for Johnson & Johnson as regional VP of Sales and is president of BCT Medical. His wife and family are his inspiration and motivating force in his life now. He enjoys coaching his sons in football and basketball at St. Raphael School. Drew continues to believe no dream is too big – and success comes with relentless pursuit of goals every day, no matter the obstacles.
Drew’s family includes wife Colleen, sons Brady ’23, Cody, Trey, and daughter Macy.
Anthony Kelly ’99 is a lacrosse evangelist. After 17 seasons on professional teams, he co-founded Resolute Lacrosse to train and develop young players and inspire a passion for lacrosse in the Midwest. Anthony is the first lacrosse player ever inducted into the Saint Ignatius Athletic Hall of Fame.
Anthony Kelly '99
It all started in his North Olmsted home where sports were a priority. Anthony remembers shooting hockey pucks in the backyard while his mom repeatedly called him in for dinner. He recalls memories of his pipefitter father welding a goal while Anthony fashioned a net with discarded batting cages to accommodate his passion.
Immersed in North Olmsted public schools, Anthony resisted going to Saint Ignatius High School. “But now, I’m so grateful for my parents’ decision and the sacrifices they made for me and my brother Ryan,” says Anthony. “My father didn’t go to college and always wanted more for us. My mom was a teacher and understood what Saint Ignatius would do for us academically and how it would mold us.”
Anthony’s first love was hockey. He played on junior teams and during all four years at Saint Ignatius. As a sophomore, he was on the state Final Four squad and was team MVP his senior year. But it was on the lacrosse field where Anthony made his mark under Coach Ed Aghajanian, who started the school’s program in 1986. As a junior, Anthony led the Lax Cats to an Ohio High School Lacrosse Association Final Four, was team captain and MVP his senior year, and earned 1st team All-Ohio and 1st team All-Midwest accolades as a midfielder.
Anthony chose The Ohio State University and earned a spot on their lacrosse team. Among talented East Coast teammates “who had played since they could walk,” he considered himself “the worst guy on the team.” He’d sneak out on the field at night, turn on the lights and shoot buckets of balls alone. “My father always said, ‘Control the things you can control,’ so I worked hard on my skills, fitness, and grades.” His strategy worked. Anthony became an OSU Big Ten Scholar Athlete, four-year starter, senior team captain and the only player in OSU history to lead the squad in recovering ground balls four years in a row.
With his B.A. in Education, Anthony taught high school physical education for four years, then coached lacrosse at Harvard University and OSU. Three years out of college, he achieved his dream to play pro lacrosse, “I was a late starter – a 26-year-old rookie,” he smiles. But again, Anthony transformed hardship into success, becoming a six-time All-Star in Major League Lacrosse, 11-time team captain, 2006 US Lacrosse Newcomer of the Year, selected for the 2007 USA Indoor World team, and in 2008 he earned the world record for fastest shot at 109 mph. In 2018, he was inducted into the Ohio Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Anthony formed Resolute Lacrosse in 2009 with former OSU and pro teammate Greg Bice. Resolute works with hundreds of kids and nearly 80 coaches in Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland to groom the best players in Ohio and showcase them to college coaches.
“At an important stage in my life, Saint Ignatius surrounded me with great people and put me on the right path. Being a Man for Others stuck with me,” says Anthony. “Now I can help other kids understand that and open the door to opportunity for them.”
Anthony and his wife Aly live in Columbus. His family includes parents Mike & Linda Kelly and brother Ryan ’96.
“The places I’ve valued most are those that develop the entire person. Saint Ignatius High School always made me feel like I was growing spiritually, academically, athletically and personally,” says Anthony Gonzalez ’03. Throughout his life, he considers himself fortunate to have been formed by great leaders who challenged him – including his parents, Coach Chuck Kyle ’69, and The Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel.
Anthony Gonzalez '03
Growing up in Avon Lake as the son of a Cuban immigrant, Anthony describes himself as a kid “obsessed with sports,” playing everything he could convince his mom to sign him up for. At Saint Ignatius he excelled in both track and football, where he was a stand-out wide receiver and defensive back. He is most proud of the Wildcats’ 2001 state title his junior year. “Our team overcame a lot, almost missing playoffs and being written off. We rallied around captain Ryan Franziger ’02 and had an incredible run, culminating in the title win against Cincinnati Xavier. I learned a lot about great leadership and how to be a team player.”
His senior year, Anthony earned 1st Team Plain Dealer All-Scholastic and Defensive Player of the Year Award, 1st Team All-Ohio and Associated Press Ohio Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was the 2003 recipient of the John J. Wirtz Athlete of the Year Award. In track, he was a three-time state qualifier. During his sophomore year, his 4x400 team set a school record and claimed first place to help earn Saint Ignatius its first-ever team State Championship.
Selected as a wide receiver at The Ohio State University, Anthony was a two-year starter, completing 87 catches for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns, and became an All-American Scholar. He is most proud of his undefeated seasons against Michigan – and his personal formation at OSU. “The OSU locker room was a lot more diverse than Saint Ignatius, and that shaped the work I do today. I experienced the challenges faced by teammates who I came to love as brothers.” He was also deeply affected by coach and mentor, Jim Tressel with his “Block O of Life” approach to developing players in all aspects of life.
Picked up by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round NLF draft in 2007, Anthony went on to a successful five-year career receiving 99 passes for over 1,300 yards and 7 touchdowns. He thrived under the guidance of outstanding leadership from coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning.
After his football career, Anthony earned a MBA at Stanford and ran a business – but the idea to enter politics was always on his heart. “I wanted to honor the values I learned in my life. The challenge in politics is to remain true to your values -- no matter what’s going on around you.” As a newly elected Republican U.S. Congressman in Ohio’s 16th district, he represents Cuyahoga County’s western suburbs and serves on the House Committees on Financial Services and Science, Space and Technology.
“I always had a desire to see my community do better and after the 2016 election I wanted to apply the values I’ve learned all my life. I’ve been surrounded by great leaders and I believe I can bring that to bear in our local community and in Washington. What I’ve learned through sports will stay with me forever. It’s never just about the game."
Anthony resides in Rocky River and Washington, D.C. with his wife, Elizabeth, and their one-year-old son, Alexander.