REMEMBERING FRANK DEVENS
By Dick Engelhardt
Frank Devens, the 4th Head Football Coach in Fair Lawn High School history, passed away on January 11, 2010. Frank came to Fair Lawn High in September of 1957 just after my twin brother, Bill, and I had graduated in the 13th FLHS graduating class in June. He was a wonderful teacher and mentor to his students but I knew him best as the football coach. He took over in 1965 after Coach Ed Sheehy died suddenly of cancer following the 1964 season in which Sheehy’s CUTTERS had begun what would become a 24 game non-losing streak that included a 6-6 tie with the MAROONS of Ridgewood in 1964 and a 12-12 tie with COMETS of Hackensack in 1965.
Frank’s 1965 CUTTERS went 8-0-1 (1,000) and won the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) title. They have been the only team in the 67 season 1943-2009 GRIDIRON history of FLHS to ever “bat” 1.000! His ’66 CUTTERS went 8-1 (.889) and won another NNJIL title. Frank was the New York Daily News area “High School Coach of the Year!” both years. On Thanksgiving Day 1966 in front of 13,000 fans at what later became SASSO FIELD in one of the most exciting (and disappointing) games our CUTTERS have ever played, those MAROONS of Ridgewood upset them 40-34 ending the streak. Star running back Bruce Jankowski went on to play at Ohio State, where he made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a receiver, and the Kansas City CHIEFS of the National Football League (NFL) and the Shreveport STEAMER of the World Football League (WFL). Jankowski and Devens were among the first group of inductees into the Fair Lawn High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. I was privileged to follow them into the Hall in 2009.
Frank’s 1969 and 1971 CUTTERS would go 6-3 (.667) with the ’71 team being undefeated at 6-0 before losing to Hackensack, Passaic Valley and Ridgewood. During his 7 seasons at the helm, 1965-71, Coach Devens led the CUTTERS to a winning record of 39-23-1 (.629) with 2 NNJIL titles.
It was a great privilege to know Frank Devens for 45 years. What a joy it was talking with him at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in 2006. He was thrilled to become a member and so happy that people remembered him 21 years after he retired from teaching in 1985. I last spoke with him over the phone in 2009 when he was well into his fateful struggle with cancer. Rest in peace, Frank. We’ll miss you!