Orange Watch: Syracuse football great Chris Gedney was Orange ‘Man’

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Syracuse University mascot Otto the Orange. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Gedney’s tragic death last week, at age 47, a central New York native, former Syracuse star and productive NFL tight end, turned SU athletic department fundraiser and football lettermen organizer, and game analyst on the football radio network, was a hard hit to Orange Nation and the community.

We’ll never forget the image. A couple of hours prior to kickoff of the 1989 Peach Bowl game between Syracuse and Georgia at long-gone Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, we strode through the SU locker room.

It was the visiting clubhouse for baseball teams facing the MLB Braves, and there in a line of evenly set up folding wooden chairs, each one affixed with a piece of trainer’s medical tape with a player’s name written in a dark marker, was one labeled “Gedney” identifying a freshman tight end recruited by Dick MacPherson who was still finding his way in the program after a standout scholastic career at nearby Liverpool High School.

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A baseball clubhouse meant for 25 players and coaches/support staff is no match for close to 100 football players and coaches/support staff, so the younger players simply had a wooden chair set up in the tight confines of the room that somehow contained the bulk of their equipment as their designated “locker” for that game.

From such humble beginnings his freshman year, to catching a Marvin Graves pass and falling just three yards short of the east end zone as time expired in the memorable 16-10 Dome loss to No. 1 Miami in the 1992 regular season finale (a game billed at the time by the Syracuse newspapers as “the biggest sporting event in the history of central New York”), setting school records and earning consensus first team All-American honors his senior season under Paul Pasqualoni.

A third round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, Gedney played three years there before emerging in three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals catching 55 passes. His pro career was hampered midway through in part due to a long and painful fight with his ulcerative colitis (Crohn’s disease), but within a year after retiring in Phoenix Gedney was finding his way in the broadcast booth as an analyst, including for Syracuse’s 2001 Insight.com bowl game victory in Phoenix over Kansas State, the last Orange team to be ranked in the Top 25.

Eventually finding his way back to his native roots and alma mater, first as a game analyst in 2007 succeeding Coach Mac, then hired by Daryl Gross a year later to fundraise and handle alumni-related activities, serving under the administrations of Gross, Mark Coyle, and John Wildhack for the past decade.

A dedicated family man, Gedney was active on several C.N.Y. organization boards. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, with numerous Syracuse football family members expected to return to the city to pay their respects.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 538 Articles
Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.