Obituary: Paul 'Doots' Danilo / Member of soccer hall of fame devoted decades to the game

July 5, 1919 - Sept. 2, 2013

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Paul Danilo could kick a soccer ball so hard and far, when it landed, you wouldn't know its origin.

Just like his nickname, "Doots."

"No one knew where it came from, but that's what everybody called him," said his wife, Margaret Danilo, 86, of Bridgeville.

A 1996 inductee of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Mr. Danilo died Monday of natural causes. He was 94.

Mr. Danilo -- who also was a World War II Navy veteran -- started playing soccer in the 1920s. Soccer brought him plenty of joy and excitement and led him to achieve many accolades.

One of his best moments came by scoring the winning goal in the U.S. Amateur Cup final of 1940 for Morgan Strasser against Fall River Firestone.

But even that championship-winning goal wasn't his proudest accomplishment.

"I used to go to a lot of games when I was younger and I knew who he was at the time," Mrs. Danilo said. "One day after a game, he asked me out."

That invitation led to a 63-year marriage.

Mr. Danilo was born July 5, 1919, in the Morgan section of South Fayette, where he began his soccer career.

His wife said he and the team would play in any weather and she can't remember them ever postponing a game.

"Even if a blanket of deep snow covered the field, all they would do is outline the field with coal dust and keep on playing," Mrs. Danilo said.

Mr. Danilo began playing professionally with Morgan Soccer Club in Western Pennsylvania's Keystone League in 1937.

During that time, Western Pennsylvania was considered one of the most prominent regions in U.S. soccer. Later that year, he joined Heidelberg, where he played from 1937-38. He then returned to Morgan for eight years before signing with the Pittsburgh Indians of the North American Soccer Football League, where they won the 1947 league title.

The weight of the ball, how it bounced, the thick leather texture and even the name of the positions were different in Mr. Danilo's time. Mrs. Danilo said her husband would always watch a game and marvel about how the game had changed.

In an interview with ussoccerplayers.com when Mr. Danilo was 85, he said: "We had one hell of a team, all 13 ballplayers. One guy acted as our trainer and doctor and everything else, in one. I played the outside right position, which is now called the wing. We had two fullbacks and three halfbacks.

"Today, they don't call them that, they call them defenders, midfielders. Soccer names were more like football. Soccer is where the American football position names came from. When they started playing American football, they used the same terms. So now they call them strikers, wings, and defenders to differentiate."

He retired as a player in 1952, and a year later became the head coach for Morgan for four seasons.

He also served as secretary and then president of the West Penn Soccer Association and was the commissioner of both the National Challenge Cup and National Amateur Cup.

Even after retirement, his son said, his father had one more game left in him.

"I remember when we went to Steubenville and they didn't have enough players, so he ended up playing," said Dan Danilo, 61, of Bridgeville. "That was in 1971, and he was around 52 at that time. I don't think he went to work for three days after that game."

Mr. Danilo worked for Koppers Co. polyester resins plant for 44 years that was bought out by Reichhold Chemical in 1989.

"He was so easy going and never had anything bad to say about anybody," said his son, who played soccer for Morgan when his dad was the coach.

"This is a soccer family through and through," Mrs. Danilo said. "Even our grandsons played soccer."

Mr. Danilo was the son in-law of Daniel Zampini, also a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame who was inducted in 1963.

In addition to his wife and son, he also is survived by a brother, George; daughter, Paula Wilson of Finleyville; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today at Holy Child Parish.

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Kelton Brooks: kbrooks@post-gazette.com.


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