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Mr. Adrian Shanahan Gone But Not Forgotten

Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2009 by Newsday Sports
  When Glenn football coachand Sachem Football Alum Dave Shanahan took the field on Sept. 17 for a late-afternoon home game against Bayport-Blue Point, he knew, deep down in his heavy heart, that time was running out on his father, Adrian.
 
He knew he could no longer look for that comforting soul who had paced up and down the sidelines for years, supporting his son and the Knights. Or glance up to the stands, where his father sometimes sat with Dave's wife, Jennifer, and the kids when he wasn't up to walking.
 
On this day, Adrian Shanahan was in Northport VA Medical Center, Building 8, losing his battle with a deadly form of brain cancer. "After the game, my brothers and I knew it was getting close," Dave Shanahan said. "We drove to the hospital and we knew something was wrong. His respiration was off and he wasn't responding. The doctor agreed something wasn't right. We decided to stay there."
 
So Dave and his three brothers - Adrian Jr., Patrick  Sachem Middle School Football Coach and Doug - gathered around the man who had coached them as kids, attended as many of their high school and college football games as he could, and recalled those moments. Brookhaven Football League. SYAG Basketball. Ronkonkoma Cardinals. Sachem High School. Hofstra. C.W. Post.
 
And even though their father wasn't conscious, the brothers told him that Glenn had won its game that day, 21-6, and that he would've been proud of the way they played. "He was always there," Dave said.
 
And then he wasn't. "At about 11:35 at night, we were with him at his last breath," Dave said. "We were holding his hands and then his breathing pattern changed and he was deceased."
 
Adrian Shanahan, just days shy of his 66th birthday, was gone. "It's not easy losing your No. 1 fan," Doug said. "But my brothers and I were comforted that we could be there at the end. It's almost like he was waiting. He knew that it was a good time for me because we had played our game."
 
It was always about his kids and their games for Adrian. When all four were done playing, he became a fan of Glenn football, rarely missing a game in Dave's 15 years as coach at the school. "Always supportive, whether we were up 30 or down 30," Shanahan said. "He enjoyed watching the line play. He enjoyed the kids in the trenches, the intricacies of blocking. He enjoyed reading about the Glenn kids who went on to play in college."
 
Jennifer Shanahan said that when her father-in-law sat next to her at games, "He was always so calm, even when people in the stands were going crazy. He always told everyone around him, 'Stay calm.' "
connections
 
    * Long Island University Long Island University
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    * Steve Smith Steve Smith
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Dave has tried to heed that lesson. "Dad used to say, 'The higher the emotions, the calmer you've got to be.' And his No. 1 thing was that sports is a vehicle for the kid's life after sports. The lessons you teach will last a lifetime."
 
The current players at Glenn showed their appreciation for their coach and his father by attending the wake en masse. "When he passed, all of the kids came to the wake and paid their respects. I was impressed with how they dressed and how they conducted themselves," Shanahan said. "All 75 kids - varsity and JV - came from Elwood to Holbrook. It meant a lot to my family."
 
Shanahan said his message to his players after his dad's death was simple: "Life is short. Make the most of it. You want to look back and say, 'I gave it my all.' Time goes fast. These kids on the team are like family to me. Matt Forsberg lost his father at around this time last year. I felt a special closeness with him. We said some things to each other that I'll keep private."
 
Last Saturday, the Knights defeated Center Moriches, 53-27, in their first game after Adrian Shanahan's death. The spot in the Glenn bleachers next to Jennifer and her three daughters (their son is the team's water boy) was empty.
 
However, Adrian Shanahan's spirit was evident in the enthusiastic way in which Dave patrolled the sidelines, urging his players on, hanging on every play. Clearly, the football field is serving as a healing ground. "Absolutely, sports helps me to deal with this," Shanahan said. "He was so involved in all of our lives and loved that we were involved in sports. He'd be pleased that we won our game. This is how he'd want it."

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