York County coaching legend remembered as influential football 'mentor' and 'true friend'

  • Longtime York County football coach Jack Connor died recently at 86.
  • Connor coached at both South Western and Hanover, winning more than 200 games.
  • He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
Jack Connor

To say Jack Connor had an influence on high school football in the Hanover area would be quite an understatement.

Connor’s impact extended from initiating the football program at South Western High School to his 28 years at Hanover High to the York County players he coached, many of whom went on to become successful both on and off the field.

The longtime coach died Dec. 28 at 86. He had been in declining health for some time, according to longtime friend and assistant Gary Scott.

In addition to his time at Hanover High, Connor and Scott started the program at South Western in 1959. He left his mark on both programs, and totaled 39 years as a head coach, with a career record of 201-197-13.

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Among the many players he mentored during those years were two of the most successful coaches in the York-Adams area in Don Seidenstricker at South Western and George Shue, who won 226 games at Littlestown and Red Lion.

Seidenstricker recalls "true friend:" When Seidenstricker became head coach at South Western in 1986, he eventually began switching the Mustang offense to the Delaware Wing-T, the offense he engineered as the quarterback for the Nighthawks from 1971-73 under Connor.

“Jack would come out to my house and we spent several hours each night, and we talked about the offense,” said Seidenstricker, who was head coach of the Mustangs from 1986-2011 and compiled a 196-80-1 record. “It meant the world to me. What it did for the football program he started, it was just phenomenal.”

Jack Connor

Fittingly, Connor was on the field when both programs celebrated milestones. In 2009, Connor was an assistant on Seidenstricker’s staff when South Western celebrated its 50th year of football, a year in which the Mustangs won a division title. The two had also been on the same field for Hanover’s 50th anniversary in 1973.

“It was 10 weeks of surreal for me,” said Seidenstricker. “I have so much respect for the man he obviously was. He was a consummate mentor, an incredible colleague and a true friend.“

Shue and Scott remember Connor: Shue’s first encounter with Connor was as an eighth-grader, when he became the team manager. He went on to play four years at South Western.

John Connor Obituary (1934 - 2020) - Evening Sun

“He had a way of getting to young people and relating the game of football to life situations,” said Shue. “He certainly gave me goals, and I always used the statement that if I can be a coach where they think about me like they did Jack, I'd be successful.”

Scott‘s friendship with Connor started in 1956 when both were attending Shippensburg State College. As a freshman, Scott remembers wanting to call Connor “coach,” but was told, “no, call him Captain Ahab,” after the "Moby Dick" character. The nickname came from all the books Connor read. Scott said that Connor often used quotes from "Moby Dick," relating them to how life worked and how the game of football should be played.

“He was such a great coach, such a great mentor,” said Scott.

After college, Connor became an assistant coach at Shippensburg and Passaic, New Jersey, high schools before starting South Western’s program, where he coached for 11 years.

“It was such an honor for me, two years after graduating from college and a guy who I thought was the epitome of football, called me and asked if I would want to work with him,” said Scott.

A Hanover institution: Following a one-year stint as an assistant at Dickinson College, Connor took the head coaching position at Hanover, where his teams won 146 games. Along the way, his Nighthawk teams captured six York County League Division II titles, were second in the District III Class A playoffs twice and won the district title in 1985.

He was also Hanover’s athletic director for many years.

His background: Connor was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1934, but grew up in western Pennsylvania, graduating from Hopewell High School in Aliquippa in 1952. He earned 10 letters in football, basketball and baseball.

He attended New York University, where his father played for the nationally-ranked school. When the program was dropped, he transferred to Shippensburg. There, he also was a star on the football field, being named to the AP Little All-America Team, among other honors.

Voracious reader: Connor’s voracious reading extended into his teaching of history and philosophy, which he did for 41 years. But he certainly loved to read about football. Among the 17 boxes of football coaching books taken from his house following his passing were those by college legends such as Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech, Darrell Royal of Texas and Rip Engle of Penn State.

After his days at Hanover, Connor joined Shue as an assistant at Red Lion from 1998-2003. He then coached with Scott under Tom Waranavage at Susquehannock from 2004-06, before returning to South Western under Seidenstricker from 2007-11.

He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.

In addition to his wife Joan, Connor is survived by his children, John M. Connor Jr. and Lynda Hanchett, both of Hanover.

Reach Philip Glatfelter at sports@yorkdispatch.com.