Roxborough athlete returns to be honored where he learned to play and compete

 Steve Passio stands on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough. (Tracie Van Auken/for NewsWorks)

Steve Passio stands on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough. (Tracie Van Auken/for NewsWorks)

In some ways, Steve Passio was destined to be an athlete.

Simple geography is one page of the playbook.

Passio, 48, grew up in a small residential pocket of Roxborough surrounded by a pair of fields and a public golf course.

And on Thursday, he’ll return to Roxborough to be inducted into the Roxborough High School Sports Hall of Fame along with four other former RHS students. 

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An athlete in the making

His childhood home sits on the corner of Magdalena and Rector Streets, about 200 yards from the first fairway of the Walnut Lane Golf Course.

Passio’s father, an avid golfer, made sure his sons took advantage of the course, handing Steve his first club when he was just four years old.

“He’d dump a couple hundred balls and we’d hit wedges to the green forever,” said Passio. “It was like a private country club for us.”

Arrow Athletic Field, a recreation league gridiron, and John Boyce Field, a baseball diamond, are also a short put from the Passio’s brick row home.

And there was never a shortage of neighborhood kids to compete against, including his considerably talented and bigger older brother John.

“There must have been 50 to 60 kids within two years of us,” said Passio. “There was a game everyday of some kind.”

Football, Frisbee, hockey, half-ball, it didn’t matter. They played it all.

Perhaps the only thing Passio lacked was size and flat-out speed. At 5’8″, he was quick, but not lightening fast.

That wasn’t a problem when it came to playing golf or football for that matter.

The high school years

Passio lost just one match during his four years at Roxborough High School and won three public league titles.

As a linebacker for the Roxborough Indians, he averaged 15 tackles a game his junior and senior seasons.

“I was a pain in the ass to play against,” said Passio. “I was small, so you didn’t even see me behind the line most of the time.”

He was also smart and tough.

Years of going up against his brother and other older, more talented kids from the neighborhood, sharpened his competitive spirit and sports I.Q.

His sister Margie also provided some inspiration and motivation.

Legally blind in one eye, she excelled at academics and is now a lawyer.

So it’s not that surprising to Passio that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he couldn’t be happier about the honor.

“Sometimes the formula is your 6’2″ and you run a 4.4 [second] 40 [yard-dash] and you can’t miss,” he said.

“For me, it wasn’t that. It was really working hard and loving the games I played and having great coaches and teachers and parents. They never stopped making me think I was capable of doing things. No matter what.”

Passio’s teammate Joe Stevenson, who played quarterback, will also be recognized Thursday night.

So too will standout offensive tackle Don Houck (Class of ’77); pitcher Michelle McDowell (Class of ’95), and running back Michael Pester (Class of ’77).

Of Passio’s on-the-field talents, former teammate and neighbor Mike Winterbottom, who will attend the ceremony inside the Flourtown Country Club, said, “he kind of threw his body around. He kind of did whatever needed to be done.”

“He was really aggressive and a smart player,” he added.

Life after Roxborough

After graduating high school in 1984, Passio got scholarship offers to play college football and golf at a few schools, including Temple University.

Ultimately, he became an Owl, but opted to accept an academics-only scholarship.

“I knew the thing I wanted to do was have children and get married,” said Passio. ” I knew when I was in 10th grade that more than anything, I wanted to be a dad.”

He married his high-school sweetheart, Tracy, his first semester. They had their first child, Stephen, the same year.

Passio, who has a BBA from Temple and an MBA from Robert Morris University, now lives in Southern York County with his wife and four kids.

He is president of Shipley Energy, a commodities company and considers himself to be “the luckiest man on earth.”

“My whole life has been one blessing, one fortune after another,” said Passio. “The sun and the moon has aligned for me forever.”

Lifelong lessons

Looking back, Passio said he owes some of his success to the life lessons he learned while competing for Roxborough.

From golf, he learned how to be patient, especially when life requires some tricky troubleshooting.

From football, he learned how to work with and treat others, give 100 percent and, stay composed in the face of failure.

“I live my life like a football game,” said Passio. “Everyday is a play. Prepare for it, be as prepared as you can.”

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