Robert Morris football (0-1) will have their first home game in two years on Saturday, but that isn’t the most emotional aspect of the game as the school plans to host a memorial for former head coach Joe Walton, who passed away this past summer.
Walton, a Beaver Falls native, was the first ever head coach in Robert Morris football history when he led the team from 1994-2013. His footprints remain around the program, as they still play in Joe Walton Stadium which was named after the head coach in 2005.
He led the team to six NEC Championships and a spot in the FCS playoffs in 2010. All of this was after he spent 35 years in the NFL, most notably as the head coach for the New York Jets from 1983-1989.
“He was the extended father for me,” said former Robert Morris football player and current color commentator Dr. Ray Thomas. “He had to pull me aside and say, ‘What do you want to be? Do you want to be for yourself or be part of a team?’ And that ultimately got me where I needed to be. It’s not about what I can do per say, but what I can do to help the team.”
Walton coached Robert Morris’s only three NFL players in HB Tim Hall (1994-95), OL Hank Fraley (1996-99) and DB Robb Butler (2003-04). Walton played in the NFL himself from 1957-64 as a member of the Washington Redskins (1957-60) and New York Giants (1961-64).
The memorial service will be hosted by RMU football play-by-play broadcaster Chris Shovlin, who has been the voice of Robert Morris football since the team’s inception. Various other guest speakers will follow and there will also be a memorial service on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Riverview United Methodist Church, in Beaver Falls, Pa.
“I remember that first football game,” said Shovlin. “I remember some of the plays and some of the spots on the field down at Waynesburg where it happened. And it was amazing how quickly the program got jump started because of Coach Walton.”
Before the honoring of Walton though, Robert Morris has a football game against HBCU Howard (0-3). Like stated, it’ll be the first home game for Robert Morris since Nov. 23, 2019 when they beat Saint Francis 16-14.
“He was a catalyst and I’m humbled to be representing him on Saturday,” said Robert Morris head coach Bernard Clark. “What coach Walton did here was outstanding. The stadium he built, the team he built, the tradition he built. …
“We’re talking a guy that’s won six conference championships. We’re talking a guy that built a team from scratch, that started with no scholarships and worked it up to where we are with 43 scholarships. He did all this. He laid all the groundwork. It’s an honor to represent Joe Walton.”
Robert Morris has struggled since Walton left with a 21-53 record, but current head coach Clark does have the team’s only non-Walton winning season with a 7-5 (6-1 NEC) record in 2019. Shovlin made sure to mention how highly Walton thought of Clark in this past week’s presser.
“I could tell you first and foremost that Coach Walton had the utmost respect for Coach Clark,” said Shovlin. “I know for a fact that he really loved that Coach Clark continued building on to the tradition that has been set here at Robert Morris.”