LANSDALE — The message, one of many in a stunning time of grief, was posted as clear and concisely as possible on the Cardinal O'Hara football website.
Coach Dan Algeo's funeral, it stated, would be attended by his players "AS A TEAM." The message went on to list the details about the second-day calling hours and funeral Mass at St. Stanislaus in Lansdale, and how the team would be transported by bus, with all players reporting to the locker room Wednesday by 9 a.m.
And by the way, the message went on, "that's 8:45 a.m. by Coach Algeo time!"
One last and lasting message passed down about a coach and teacher that all of these kids will never forget.
They buried Danny Algeo on this morning, the line of mourners like the one at the previous night's calling hours stretching in loops around the large church. Members of the Algeo family — Danny was one of nine kids who Jim and Mickey Algeo raised in Lansdale — would eventually leave their reception posts and go into the endless line to greet their visitors.
Family members, fellow football coaches, teachers, friends, O'Hara students and even casual acquaintances who always appreciated Algeo's innate respect for people were there to say goodbye. And then came the football players, those who were always drilled in being on time, being in uniform, being kept in line and always respectful ... they came in just such a style.
But the way the Blue Route can be, would they be able to gather at the school and get there in plenty of time? One guy thought of a way to make sure.
Paul Strus, the longtime special teams coach on Algeo's staff, contacted Collingdale Police Chief Bob Adams for assistance. Adams, who never shies away from lending a helping hand, made certain the team bus arrived safe and on time.
"I told Paul that whatever I can do, call me," Adams said. "He calls back and said can I ask you something and I said, 'I told you, whatever I can do.' He said, 'Can we get an escort for the bus to the church?' It was done."
Adams sent out a mass email to Delco Crime Stat Network informing the law enforcement stations of the plan. Police officers from numerous jurisdictions offered their service to ensure Cardinal O'Hara's football players were in Lansdale Wednesday to say their last goodbyes to their beloved coach, teacher and mentor. The departments represented in the escort, which included state police cooperation, were Aston, Collingdale, Darby Twp., Marple, Radnor, Upper Darby, Towamencin Township and Lansdale.
"Almost every one of these guys either went to, played at or their kids go to O'Hara," Adams said, referring to the police officers from the various municipalities.
It was appropriate, then, that Algeo received a hero's sendoff. Algeo was a man who served a lifetime of good deeds, but for those who knew him even remotely well, his sudden departure remains so enormously difficult to fathom.
"It's one of those things where you wake up and think, 'Wow, that was a weird dream.' It's just not real,'" said David Kelly, a fellow teacher at O'Hara and former track and field coach at defunct St. James Catholic High School in Chester. "It was a state of shock after I saw that email (announcing the news). It's like you're not even feeling all sorrow right now, because you're still in shock. He was so young, so vigorous and so good with the students."
After an emotionally draining day, the players on the team bus returned to O'Hara late in the afternoon. Algeo's players, all of whom wore their O'Hara gameday jerseys to the service, convened in the rear parking lot. When the time comes to strap on the pads and helmets, they'll go about their business with honor and pride. New captains Brandon Laughlin, Nick Mariotti and Andrew Gallagher know there is a legacy to uphold, and they intend to fulfill their duties the Algeo Way.
"We have to come together as a team and whoever the next (head coach) is, we've all got to be behind him," said Laughlin, the team's quarterback. "I know us captains have to make sure of it and we just have to work harder."
"Everyone knows with the loss of Coach Algeo, we've got to step up and we expect a lot out of these guys on the team," Mariotti added. "We know what we've got to do."
They'll do what Algeo instilled in them, the qualification to lead a football team on and off the field, to set an example for their teammates, and to win or lose with class.
"He wanted us to .. take that leadership role to a whole new level, more than at any other time since I've been here," Gallagher said. "He expected us to take the reins and that's what we'll do.
"The past four years, I spent more time with coach than I did with my family. You're here so often — for school, football and other activities — that you would see him all day. It's like losing a parent, that's how much he meant to us."
After a decade's worth of him inspiring his students and football players at Cardinal O'Hara, Wednesday was a day to pay tribute and to say farewell to Dan Algeo, whose memory will live forever.