Tuesday Feb. 24, 2009
Athens, Ga. --- Michael E. Merola, captain of the 1950 University of Georgia
football team, passed away Monday following a long illness.
A native of Newark, N.J., Merola enrolled at the University of Georgia along
with a friend when we was discharged from military service following World
War II. Due to an overflow situation in Athens, he was sent to an off campus
site in Savannah where a physical education teacher, Wendell Wilson, saw
Merola a two-time All-City performer at Barringer High School excel in a
touch football game.
Wilson then arranged for Merola to transfer to Athens where former assistant
coach Howell Hollis, who was then business manager for UGA Athletics, saw
Merola playing in another pickup game in UGA's Reed Quad. Hollis invited
Merola to come out for spring practice, which led to a scholarship offer
within a week.
Merola was a member of UGA's 1948 SEC Championship team that finished the
season ranked No. 8 by the Associated Press. He became a starter at
defensive end in 1949, was voted captain of Georgia's 1950 team and also
played in the Presidential Cup and Senior Bowls.
Merola became the head football coach at Sandersville (Ga.) High School
immediately after graduation from UGA and later worked in education in his
home state of New Jersey until retirement. He and his late wife, Virginia, a
native of Deepstep, Ga., retired in Athens. She passed away in 2007.
Merola was the son of the late Salvatore and Maria Sisto Merola, who
emigrated to the United States from Italy and raised seven children.
Survivors include: four daughters (Gina Maria Plotino and her husband,
Vincent; Michelle; Marsha Salmon and her husband, Barry; and Maureen); four
grandchildren (Stephanie Plotino; Samantha Plotino (a sophomore at UGA);
Christina Salmon; and Michael Salmon). He is also survived by a brother,
Ray, and a brother-in-law, Edward Antinozzi.