His story could be entitled: ‘Against all Odds.’
Having enjoyed a successful National Football League career and never to have gone to college? Among the very, very few who’ve done it was Henninger High product Ray Seals.
Ray had desire, physical ability, but no options collegiately. Seals needed someone to give him an opportunity. He spent time in Florida, cooking at Taco Bell and working security. In Syracuse, he was a bouncer at Sutter’s, a doorman at the Hotel Syracuse. Four years removed from high school, he ran into Joe Riccardi, a high school teacher who knew Ray. Riccardi had played for ‘Bear’ Bryant at Alabama. On his advice, locals Todd Richardson and Paul Tripoli worked out fine for ’Bama.
When the Tide’s Ray Perkins became coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs, Riccardi left a phone message: he had a player for him. NFL teams were not interested, but Perkins valued Riccardi’s word and sent Seals a plane ticket. That’s how Ray went from hotel doorman — and semi-pro champion with the Empire Football League’s Syracuse Express — to NFL defensive end.
Ray’s NFL career spanned 1989-97 with the Bucs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. A 6-foot-3, 300-pounder, he was a sack machine from ’92-95 with the Bucs and Steelers, registering 29 sacks among 133 tackles.
He started all 16 games in the 1995 season and was a second team all-conference pick by UPI. He started Super Bowl XXX for the Steelers and sacked the Cowboys’ Troy Aikman.
The son of retired Syracuse policeman Tommy Seals, Ray became a passionate anti-crime advocate following his cousin’s death. Jonny Gammage had been working late on charitable activities in Seals’ name, was driving Ray’s Jaguar when he was stopped and killed by Brentwood/Whitehall (Pa.) police officers. Ray supports Toys for Tots in honor of Gammage and has received the E for Effort Charity Award from the NFL. And the Florida resident has remained loyal to Syracuse’s South Side.
A Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1992, Ray Seals now becomes a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.