Football, track star at CMU Podoley dies

James Podoley, 76, died Jan. 25 after a battle with melanoma.

The former Central Michigan University football and track athlete did everything from play in the NFL to coach his children’s sports teams later in life.

“Jim was a natural athlete,” said Bill Sowle, a former CMU teammate. “He won an awful lot of events.”

He played halfback for the Chippewas from 1954-57 and is the only player in CMU football history to have his number (62) retired.

Podoley’s wife, Pat, said the retirement of his number was one of James’ proudest moments.

“It was quite an honor,” she said.

The team was 32-4-1 during his time at Central and he had 51 career touchdowns.

“I was a freshman when he was a junior, and I remember he would always come talk to us guys on the scrub lineup,” said John Ghere, a teammate of Podoley’s when the two were at CMU. “He was the star of the varsity, but he still had time to make us feel good and give encouragement.”

He also was well known for his track skills and graduated with five track records while sharing another. He also briefly held the world record for short hurdles.

As in football, Podoley looked out for his track teammates.

“I did the half-mile and the high jump and, if I was winning the high jump, he’d come over and just scratch. If I wasn’t winning, he’d enter and, of course, he won,” Sowle said.

After graduating from CMU, Podoley was drafted by the Washington Redskins, where he played for four years, of the NFL.

He was then traded to the New York Giants, but was injured in his first season on the team and was released from his contract. Podoley was elected to the CMU Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

“He was always stepping back and never wanting the limelight,” Pat said.

Podoley worked for 47 years selling insurance for State Farm, a job his wife said he loved.