CUYAHOGA FALLS — Cuyahoga Falls alumni are invited to the Nov. 1 game, not just for the Cuyahoga Falls game versus Stow, but to pay tribute to a Cuyahoga Falls Football legend.
As of press time, a rededication ceremony was tentatively planned at halftime at that game for Rob "Max" Maxwell, a star quarterback for the Black Tigers who graduated in 1975. He died in September 2000, at age 44.
Paul Shullo, one of Mr. Maxwell's closest friends and a fellow football player from the class of 1975, said a tree and a memorial plaque were placed in Clifford Stadium near the scoreboard in 2001.
"Clifford Stadium was a very special place for Max," Shullo said. "There was such sadness and grief at his passing. People wanted to remember him in his favorite place."
Shullo said he had been in contact with Paula Pearson, a 1975 graduate. She had sent him a link to a video from the Cuyahoga Falls Alumni Band performance in August.
"I remember telling her, 'Hey, that's Max's tree there. I see his tree,'" Shullo said.
So Pearson, who went to the school the next month to visit, had planned to take picture of Max's tree, Shullo said. There was one issue: the tree had died and the memorial plaque rested on its stump.
Pearson had called the high school and talked to Principal Allison Bogdan and Athletic Director Kenny Johnson, Shullo said, and was told about the tree.
Coincidentally, Pearson and Shullo weren’t the only ones thinking about the tree.
Michael Harris, who works for Davey Tree, said he had been at a recent football game and noticed the plaque and tree stump.
"My wife and I have three kids in the Cuyahoga Falls school district, and our middle child is a cheerleader for Roberts," Harris said. "I was attending a middle school football game earlier in the season to see my daughter and was walking around before the game. This was actually the first time I've walked around the inside of the stadium. There was a raised bed of mulch on the west side and when I got closer, there was an older stump with a plaque. I took a picture and thought how sad and unsightly it was to have a memorial plaque with a stump in such a public venue."
Harris said his neighbor, Todd Caruthers, told him about Mr. Maxwell.
"I couldn't walk away from what I felt and how the stump may reflect poorly upon the district by other visitors to the stadium," Harris said. "As an Eagle Scout, I thought about the Scout slogan, 'Do a Good Turn Daily,' so I emailed the CFHS principal to ask for direction about the possibility of planting a replacement tree."
The new tree will be planted in the same site, and the stump will be removed, Harris said.
"I spoke with several coworkers who are veteran arborists and given the site and local climate conditions, a certain species of medium sized maple tree was considered the best performer for the space," Harris said. "The tree was selected out of the Davey nursery and is in processing to be shipped. I chose a larger-sized young tree to plant given the site conditions, it should weigh about 1,100 pounds including the root ball. I'm purchasing the tree as a personal donation to the district and Davey Tree is donating the existing stump grinding with new tree installation costs through the Akron office."
Harris said that his goal was to have a replacement tree in place before the Nov. 1 dedication.
According to information from an archived Sept. 17, 2000 article, Mr. Maxwell, who was quarterback, was one of six All Stars to come from Cuyahoga Falls High School since 1911. His jersey number was 10. When he died, he was survived by his wife Marybeth, a son, Ryan, and two daughters, Erin and Chloe, who were 15, 10 and 5 respectively when their father died.
The most important thing to Mr. Maxwell, said Shullo, was his family.
"He never put anything above his family," Shullo said. "I'm sure he was very proud of them, and I'm sure he's looking down on them and is very proud of them to this day. He was a special person, and I miss him every day."
Shullo said that even in elementary school, he "had a reputation for being a good football player."
"Max was a star flag football quarterback, at, I think it was Lincoln Elementary," Shullo said. "Back then, we had two Peewwee football teams, the Little Black Tigers, which was the more established, and the The Falls Falcons. Most of his friends who played with him at Lincoln went to play with the Falcons, but he had given his word that he would play for the Little Black Tigers. That shows his character. Even at 13 years old, giving your word meant something to him."
Shullo said that he, too, played for the Little Black Tigers, and that they, plus many others on that team went on to play on the high school's team.
“It was a special part of my life to be a part of that team, and Max was our leader,” he said. “We knew that, from day one, that he was something special."
Shullo said that Mr. Maxwell was highly sought by colleges, and eventually played for The University of Akron Zips, where he would become captain.
Mr. Maxwell was named to the Cuyahoga Falls High School Football's Hall of Fame in 1983, the first year the hall of fame had been established. There also was a $500 Bob Maxwell Memorial Scholarship established in 2002, with the first scholarships given out in 2003.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC