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Abel Joe, the ‘best all-around athlete in Coatesville history,’ dies

CALN >> When people talk about the best all-around athlete in Coatesville history, is it is usually a contentious argument. 

For a school and town that has produced so many great athletes in many different sports, the debate can be a tough one. 

But when the debate is over, the man atop that list will often be Abel Joe, who died Sunday after a illness, at Hannehman Hospital in Philadelphia. Joe was a three sport star at Coatesville, playing football, basketball, and running track and field. In 1972 Joe was awarded the Maxwell Award as the area’s best football player.

In his senior year at Coatesville in 1972, Joe earned All Ches-Mont League honors in all three sports and was voted first team running back in football. He was chosen to participate in the Big 33 game, where he started in the backfield with Tony Dorsett of Dallas Cowboys fame.

Longtime Coatesville legend and head coach of the only Coatesville boys basketball team to win a PIAA state title in 2000-01, Jim “Scoogie” Smith, talked about what a great athlete Joe was at Coatesville and later at Cheyney University.

“He was just an awesome athlete,” Smith said. “He was a star in all three sports and he even kicked extra points for the football team. I never saw Abel Joe being tackled by just one man. The other teams used to have to gang tackle him and it would take four or five guys to bring him down. I think he set a record his senior year by scoring five touchdowns against Downingtown on Thanksgiving Day. In basketball he was the center on the team and let me tell you, he was a beast. He could rebound the ball as well as anybody and he could go to the basket and score. He was so strong he made everything look easy.

“A funny story about Abel was when he outplayed Tony Dorsett in the Big 33 game, but they gave the Most Valuable Player Award to Dorsett,” Smith said. “That really bothered Abel and years later they were both on the Dallas Cowboys and Abel joked and said he was not too keen about blocking for Dorsett.”

Joe was also a track and field star and he still holds the Coatesville record in the shot put at 17 feet. He also was an accomplished discus thrower, and was a two time Ches-Mont League champion in the shot put and discus.

“Abel Joe was a name we heard about way up in Harrisburg and Steelton when I was growing up,” said current Coatesville football head coach Matt Ortega. “He was a legend. We always talked about what Abel Joe did this week. And the kids in school today know all about him. The kids treat his name as if he is the best all around athlete in Coatesville’s history.” 

After graduating from Coatesville, Joe attended Cheyney, where his brother Billy coached. He was named all conference first team in 1975 and 1976, and after college he signed with the Cowboys, where his career was derailed by an injury.

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