Feraco Humbly Answers Hall of Fame Call with Thanks and Praise
Amid the backslaps, high-fives and congratulatory shout-outs at the East Lansing High School football banquet, Bill Feraco (above) called timeout for a short, but important message.
In his pre-awards delivery, the 71-year-old Feraco spoke with the wisdom and knowledge of someone who has spent a majority of his lifetime sharing pages from his playbook with men, young and old, from all walks of life.
“The game of football, at its core, will prepare you as well as anything for the rest of your life,” Feraco said to the hushed audience in the Trojan cafeteria. “Belonging to something greater than yourself and working toward a collaborative goal – it’s not all about you."
“Football is that special scholastic sport that teaches you about the physical preparation that is needed to play it well. There are no guarantees. If you don’t prepare, you don’t stand a chance to succeed.”
Feraco admittedly was not prepared when he received notice late last week of his pending induction to the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) Hall of Fame, which will take place March 9 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Lansing. The 37th annual banquet and induction honors those nominees who have 100 or more victories as a varsity head coach or 20 years as a high school football coach in Michigan.
Former Spartan from Western Pennsylvania returns to East Lansing
A native of western Pennsylvania, Feraco was raised in the town of Irwin, some 15 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. He arrived in East Lansing in the fall of 1965, having graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic High School. He was a member of the Michigan State University football team for three years and was the starting quarterback in 1968, his senior season. He graduated in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in advertising.
Since then Feraco has coached high school football at Hempfield Area (Pa.), Eaton Rapids, Lansing Catholic, his prep alma mater and – for the past 19 years, 15 years as head coach – at East Lansing. His predecessor, Jeff Smith, is one of the founding members of the MHSFCA. Feraco served as an assistant coach under Smith for four years before being named head coach prior to the 2004 season.
“My time at East Lansing has been very rewarding,” said Feraco, who earned a master’s degree in English Education from MSU in 1989, and who continues to teach English at ELHS. “I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by outstanding assistant coaches, as well as parents who time and again have done so much for this program to help me and their kids."
“I’ve also been blessed over the years to have the support of administrators like (former East Lansing superintendent) Dave Chapin, (former ELHS principal) Paula Steele and (former ELHS athletic director) Tom Hunt. There were times when the waters became a bit choppy, but their support never wavered. To me, that has meant a lot.”
Feraco’s first two varsity teams won three of 18 games. Since then the Trojans have compiled a mark of 83-51, including back-to-back nine-win seasons over the past two years. The 2018 team tied a school record for most wins (8) in the regular season.
Preparation is the name of his game
Kerry Keyton has been on both sides of the field with Feraco. A former head football coach at Eastern High School as well as an assistant at Everett, Keyton knew his teams had to be well-prepared in order to compete successfully against Feraco’s Trojans. If they were not, he knew what the result would be.
“Bill does everything that we tried to do,” Keyton said. “Nobody, and I mean nobody, prepares a team the way Bill does. The way he puts together his practices, his game plans – absolutely meticulous.
“And though they may not know it, the kids are the ones who will benefit in the long run because he (Feraco) provides an opportunity for them to get better – because of the preparation.”
Efe Scott-Emuakpour (above) played three years of varsity football at East Lansing, and four more at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and is now an assistant coach on Feraco’s staff.
“Coach preaches concepts that sometimes a high school player doesn’t always grasp,” Scott-Emuakpor said, “but they will, eventually, if they want to play at the next level.
“Believe me, I found out quickly when I arrived on (Ball State’s) campus. His emphasis on perseverance and resiliency helped me achieve things on the football field that I didn’t think would be possible. I would have been lost without the structure and coaching I received (at East Lansing).”
Feraco has coached and mentored a roster full of professional, collegiate, all-conference, all-area and all-state football players but there is one who clearly stands out.
“Blake Treadwell, and here’s why,” Feraco said of Treadwell, a first-team Associated Press All-State selection as a senior who was voted team captain on the 2013 Big Ten and Rose Bowl Championship team at Michigan State. “The good athlete helps the guy next to him. The very good athlete helps those who play a similar position or who are positioned close to him on the field.
“The great ones, and they are rare, made everyone around them better … because of the way they played and the way they treated their teammates. That was Blake. He was special.”
The Feraco coaching tree has grown at East Lansing to include Bill’s sons, Gianni and Joe, both of whom are Trojan graduates. Gianni, defensive coordinator for the varsity, has been a member of the football staff for the past nine seasons. Joe, who coaches the freshmen, has been with the program for the past five years.
Gianni has seen first-hand the time and attention his father devotes to the game and the people around him.
“He’s constantly studying, trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Gianni said. “I caught a glimpse in my first training camp with him as a coach, of just how prepared he is. He loves what he’s doing and he puts everything he has into it. Seeing that now on a regular basis has made me want to achieve the same. He has that effect on people.”