Former Saratoga High star Mickey Walczak passed away at home in his sleep in the early morning hours of March 28th. He joined his parents and sister Sherry in heavenly peace following a lengthy and often private battle with cancer.
Born in Saratoga on November 22nd, 1959, Mick was the son of local business owners Jeannie & Eddie Walczak. In a cruel twist of fate, oldest sibling and only sister Sherry very sadly just passed away in January, making Mick's passing even more heartbreaking for his son Dillon and the entire family and their many friends.
From early on, it was clear to see that Mickey was destined to become a sports star. He quickly became a dominant force on the courts of Biddie and CYO Basketball in a precursor of what was yet to come. He was blessed to play for Bob King, the first of three legendary local coaches he had throughout his career and helped lead his CYO team to a State Championship. Even in his CYO days, Mickey already had a powerful physique that made him appear to be a man among boys.
In spite of only briefly playing Pop Warner because of weight restrictions and having not begun his football career until his Junior year, Mickey made the most of those two seasons under the tutelage of Blase Iuliano, Saratoga's legendary football coach.
When speaking to Coach Iuliano about Mickey's impact on the Saratoga program, he quickly stated that "Mickey was the best all-around player I ever coached. He could've started for any one of my 37 teams on offense, defense, and on special teams as a punter and returner." Mickey rushed for over 1000 yards both his Junior and Senior year and was Team Captain of the undefeated Foothills champions in 1977. He was named to the All New York State Team following his Senior year.
Coach Iuliano went on to say "I was very proud of Mickey's accomplishments at Saratoga and his outstanding career at West Virginia. He will always be remembered in Saratoga lore as one of our finest football players." In closing he added, "Thanks for the memories, Mickey. Rest in peace my friend."
When speaking of lore, Mickey's lifelong friends, classmates & teammates, Tim Doherty and Rob Bruce, recalled an epic punt that Mick kicked in a crucial play late in their championship game against Glens Falls. Mick's rain-soaked punt soared for well over 70+ yards and saved the victory. It was actually his punting prowess that initially had WVU recruiting him, per cousin Chip Williams, but they soon learned that he was a gutsy runner and savvy receiver out of the backfield, too.
Whenever reminiscing about growing up in Saratoga, Mickey and his close friends would often talk about tales of fishing at Yaddo, Saratoga Lake and Lake Lonely, and of diving contests off the rocks at the stone quarry by the old Stewarts Pond Dam. These adventures were every bit as much a part of their sporting history as their traditional teams and games, and became stories of legend over the years.
Mickey would go on to lead WVU to an upset 26-6 victory over the Florida Gators in the 1981 Peach Bowl in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. He had 8 catches from the wing and scored 2 touchdowns, and was named Offensive MVP. Upon returning home, Mick was presented with the Key to Saratoga at City Hall.
And then there was Mickey's first love, basketball. He played for 3 years under another legendary Saratoga coach, Damian Fantauzzi, and was named to Bob McNamara's Channel 6 All Star Team as a Junior. He would become Captain of the only team in Saratoga history to go undefeated in the regular season in his Senior year in 1977-78, and helped lead them to the Foothills crown and to a runner-up finish in a 1 point thriller against Niskayuna in the Section II AA Championship. They would end the season with a 20-1 record.
Following his graduation from West Virginia with a Bachelor's degree in Finance, Mick would move to New York City where he was an Investment Broker with a Series 7 license registered with the NASD & SEC. After his years in the financial world, he decided to move on to a new career in golf course design and development with the Golf Group in the United States, and real estate development in Quebec, Canada.
The pull of his son and love for Saratoga eventually brought him back home, where in more recent years he was a doting Grandfather to Aaliyah and Luna, while eagerly anticipating the soon-to-be birth of his third granddaughter, Isla, and enjoyed time at home with Dillon and his girls.
In 2017, Mickey was inducted into the Capital District Football Hall of Fame.
Mickey is survived by his son Dillon (Sori) & granddaughters Aaliyah, Luna and newborn Isla (who arrived in the wee hours of Saturday, March 25th), and brothers Todd (Joanne), Larry (Veronica) in Saratoga, and youngest brother Scott in California, and nephews Leighton Anderson and Blake Walczak (Dyanna), and niece Amanda Harkness (Brian) and step-niece Alexis Peschieri, great-niece Alexis Erwin-Davis (Cheljean) and great-nephews Makiah and Lucious Anderson, and many other relatives, including close cousins Chip Williams (Mia Briggs) and Sandy Williams Walker. He is forever grateful for old neighborhood friends Neal Galvin, John "Moon" Mullen, John & Tony McCarthy and Mike Mullaney, and old teammates and friends Rory Beagle, John Dwyer, the late Mike Beach, Tim Doherty, Rob Bruce, and "Sweet" Lou Maggiore from his CYO days.
Mick wanted to thank his son Dillon, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Foundation for all their help, and asked that any donations in his memory be sent to them at 1 Marcus Blvd. #404 Albany, New York 12205.
A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date.
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