By Sam Miloser and Paige Seitam
As a part of the Shenango School District for nearly 53 years, Mr. Jan Budai is truly “Mr. Shenango.”
During the week-zero varsity football game against the Union Scotties, various players, coaches, and cheerleaders from the 1970s were recognized. The Shenango athletic director, Jan Budai, however, was additionally honored as the first member of the school district’s new athletic hall of fame.
Playing a large part in the creation of the hall of fame, Budai noted, “We had been discussing this for years on how we could go back and recognize former players that have gone through Shenango. Our goal is to honor about a half a dozen people every year.”
Although he was an important influence facilitating the recognition process, Budai was not expecting to be the first inductee. “We’re supposed to meet in October for our first meeting, and I was surprised that they inducted me as the first recipient.”
While Budai was surprised himself, his induction did not shock many others.
High School principal, Dr. Joseph McCormick, acknowledged the accomplishments and commitments of Budai throughout his years in the school district.
“Few, if any, other individuals have invested as much time and talent into Shenango athletics as Mr. Budai,” McCormick said. “From his time as an elite student-athlete to his decades of work as a coach and athletic director, Jan has had an immense influence on our students, coaches, and programs. He is a consummate professional and a relentless advocate for our school and athletes.”
Colleague and friend, Mike Othites shares McCormick’s sentiments. “I was in 7th grade when Jan was a senior. I remember watching him as a three-sport star,” Othites remembered. “He went on to be one of the best coaches to come out of this school. I was fortunate to coach alongside of him.”
Following Mr. Budai is an impressive track record. Earning nine letters in football, basketball, and baseball, Budai excelled as a Wildcat athlete. Budai led the Westminster College football team to an NAIA national championship in 1976 as the quarterback. In addition, he was voted the most valuable player in both the semi-final and final game. Playing in a time before the three-point line was present, it is also impressive to note that he finished his high school basketball career with just shy of a thousand points. Budai was all-section in baseball two years in a row. In 2006, he was inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
The immediate future of the hall of fame is unknown. The location and various other aspects of the upcoming recognitions will be decided in the committee’s first meeting in October.