By Jim Hague
Alex Webster may be 80 years old now and his gait has been diminished with each year that passes.
But nothing, not even Father Time, is going to tamper with his impeccable memory and his lasting adoration for his hometown of Kearny.
“I was back to Kearny about 6 or 7 years ago,” said Webster, the former Kearny High School great who went on to both play and coach for the New York Giants. “I remember where I lived was a oneway street when I was growing up and now it was two ways. It’s amazing how
things change. I went to the visit Kearny High School with my grandson and his friend and it was great to go back. It brought back a lot of good memories. I loved growing up in Kearny.”
Webster was back home, so to speak, Sunday afternoon, when he was honored by the New York Giants with an induction into the team’s Ring of Honor. The ceremony took place at halftime of the Giants’ game with the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium.
There was some speculation that Webster might not be able to attend the ceremony that honored him and four others, because it was reported that he was in ill health.
But Webster, who now resides in Fort Pierce, Fla., said that even though he cannot walk like he once could, was going to be there to be among the Giants’ faithful no matter what. His voice was strong. His handshake was firm and hearty. His mind was alert and his heart was pumping.
“I feel pretty good these days,” Webster said. “I wasn’t going to miss this. I could go out there and play. I just can’t walk too much anymore.”
Webster as escorted onto the field in a golf cart with two of his grandsons, who reside in Point Pleasant, alongside, both donning Webster’s No. 29 Giants jersey. They helped their grandfather to his feet so he could address the 80,000 or so fans in attendance.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” Webster said. “It means the world to me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been back. I’m just glad that I’m still alive to receive this honor. I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. The Mara family (the Giants’ owners)
have been very good to Alex Webster over the years. They were great to me for my entire
Webster earned his place in permanent Giants history with former players Carl Banks,
Mark Bavaro, Dave Jennings and the late Brad Van Pelt. All legends in their own right, all legends like the guy from Kearny.
Webster was an All-State performer at Kearny in the late 1940s and went on to play at North Carolina State for the legendary Beattie Feathers, one of pro football’s first alltime greats.
Webster was originally drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 11th round of the 1953 NFL Draft, but elected not to sign with the Redskins. Instead, Webster signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
“Big Red” remained in the CFL for two seasons, but signed with the Giants as a free agent to start the 1955 NFL season. He remained with the Giants as a player for 10 years and finished his
career with 4,638 yards and 56 touchdowns. His rushing totals were fourth all-time in totals were fourth all-time in Giants’ history until ironically Sunday, when Brandon Jacobs surpassed Webster on the alltime list with Webster there in attendance.
Webster earned Pro Bowl status twice with the Giants and helped the Giants win the 1956 NFL championship. Webster joined Frank Gifford in the Giants’ backfield, forming one of the best 1-2 rushing combinations in the league’s history. He also was a key performer on the 1958 team that played the Baltimore Colts in the NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium in what was called “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” It’s a game that changed the face of pro football in America and helped to catapult it to the status it now owns.
After Webster’s playing career ended in 1964, he soon became an assistant coach under Allie Sherman and in 1969, Webster replaced Sherman as the head coach.
In 1970, Webster guided the Giants to a 9-5 record, earning the NFL Coach of the Year honors.
In 1973, Webster returned to his Hudson County roots, as the Giants practiced daily at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, when they played their home games in the Yale Bowl in Connecticut, while awaiting Giants Stadium to be completed.
Webster never had a chance to coach the Giants in Giants Stadium, but he was part of the team’s radio broadcasts for a brief period.
And now, his name will forever adorn the walls of the new MetLife Stadium as part of the team’s Ring of Honor.
“It’s a wonderful place,” Webster said. “I’m feeling pretty good these days. It’s a great honor to be back and being here, hearing the fans, it gets so exciting. When I was growing up in Kearny, I could have never dreamed all of this would have happened to me.”
Webster may live in Florida, but his heart remains in Kearny. So much so that he admitted that he religiously reads The Observer every week online. It’s part of his weekly Thursday morning ritual.
“I read it every week,” he admitted.
So now The Observer’s most famous reader will be forever remembered in the Giants’ Ring of Honor.
“I can’t ask for more than this,” Webster said. “I’ve truly been blessed.”