At every South Bend St. Joe football game---he's there.
With his sunglasses, trusty St. Joe hat and of course his collar, Father Walter Bly watches with pride from the sideline as the Indians football team battles on the field.
It doesn't take much to get the student body to cheer him on---they love him.
"Father Bly, Father Bly," chants the student body as Father Bly tips his cap in appreciation. There is perhaps no person that is more beloved at St. Joe than Father Bly.
"He's a legend at St. Joe," says South Bend Police Chief Chuck Hurley, who coached with Father Bly at St. Joe. Hurley's sons also played for Father Bly.
"For St. Joe football, there is not anyone that played for him that doesn't have great pride in the fact that they did play for Father Bly and what he's meant to them and meant to their life," Hurley explains.
Every boy to ever pass through St. Joe high school for over the last 40 years had Father Bly as their freshman Old Testament teacher. Hurley's daughter was Father Bly's first female student.
Father Bly is still the chaplain for the football team. For 15 years, he was the freshman coach and he remembers in 1967, his freshmen didn't have a practice field to themselves.
At the old St. Joe High School, there was just one practice field that was up against U.S. 31. Bly's freshmen could practice there from 3:15 to 4pm, but then the varsity would take over.
Bly was determined to find another place so his kids could get more time to practice.
"We went through the woods---down through the woods, down the river gulp and we found a dog patch," Father Bly explains pointing to where the fields where St. Joe has practiced on now for many years. 50-50 by 50-50 and for 15 years that's where we practiced--a dog patch."
In many ways the humble priest would much prefer that old practice field to take his name.
"This is the original Father Bly field," says Hurley, pointing to where the current St. Joe freshmen were practicing on Tuesday.
"It's been a long journey," Father Bly says looking around the fields at the old high school. "From the dog patch to what we are going to get Friday night. God bless us all."
Father Bly then joined me for a drive down to the new high school. The 79-year-old then took the long walk up the ramp to see the gorgeous view of the new stadium.
"It's good to be in shape," Bly says as he makes the turn.
Then he sets his sites on the new field... Father Bly Field.
What a journey it has been--one that Father Bly would not change in anyway.
"Oh no... this is the best!" the native New Yorker says of his time at St. Joe. "This was the best road. Oh my gracious."
St. Joe opens the new era with its new Stadium tonight at 7:30 against undefeated Central. Pre-game ceremonies begin at 6:45pm with a special reception dedicated to Father Bly starting at 5pm inside the school.
There's no question, Father Bly is the best man to have his name on this sacred field.
"He's still molding the kids," says St. Joe coach and former Indians player Ben Downey. "He's still giving life lessons through his sermons. It's only fitting that it would be his name on the field."
"St. Joe football is Father Bly," explains Indians senior linebacker Matt Smallbone. "He's always there--helping us out, giving us sermons."
And he has a sermon for all of us.
"The color of St. Joe---Sky Blue," Father Bly says looking up at a perfectly clear blue sky on Tuesday afternoon. "The sky in the old testament was paradise."
Father Bly is is a Fordham man. Don't dare say Columbia Blue around him.
"Columbia nooo," Father Bly says when its pointed out that most St. Joe alums refer to the school colors as Columbia Blue. "It's sky blue. Look at that sky. It's paradise. Look at that sky. It's sky blue--the beginning of paradise."
St. Joe's new home certainly feels like paradise.
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