WILMETTE — Not many people understand big-game losses better than Marv Levy.
As head coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, Levy infamously lost four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93.
But Levy — speaking to a group of Loyola juniors at the high school as well as four other out-of-state schools via Skype — said he did his best to learn from each of those defeats. One of his major messages Tuesday during the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Heart of a Hall of Famer series was perseverance.
“What do you do after you lose?” asked the 88-year-old Levy, who was inducted into the Canton, Ohio, shrine in 2001. “Do you lie and whimper? Throw in the towel? No, I’m going to go back to work.”
Loyola junior Owen Buscaglia, one of the students selected to join the discussion because of his leadership at the high school, knows all about disappointing defeats. He was a starting wide receiver on the Ramblers team that lost to Naperville North 13-10 in the 2013 Class 8A title game in November. Recently selected as one of the team’s captains for his senior season, Buscaglia welcomed the opportunity to listen and learn from Levy, who coached football for nearly five decades, retiring in 1997.
“We have to prepare to win,” said Buscaglia, who lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side. “Coach Levy talked a lot about that. What you do in the offseason is as important, if not more important, than what you do during games.”
A native of Chicago’s South Side, Levy graduated from South Shore High School in 1943. He then enlisted in the Army Air Forces and spent the remainder of World War II serving his country.
After being discharged from the military, Levy played football at Coe College in Iowa. He later earned a Masters degree from Harvard before starting his coaching career. He got his first job in the NFL in 1969 as a kicking team coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Loyola’s football coach, John Holecek, played three seasons for Levy with the Bills and was instrumental in getting the Hall of Fame coach to come to the school Tuesday. Levy said Holecek was among many players he coached who exemplified the qualities — such as dedication to his craft — he was looking for on his teams.
“A lot of what I accomplished came because I persisted,” said Levy, who lives in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. “It’s about sticking with it. You don’t give up, and you don’t get discouraged.”
Ryan Zinkula, another junior who started for the Ramblers last season, said Levy’s message can be applied off the football field.
“It’s about how you respond to hardships,” said the safety, who lives in Northbrook. “You can’t let failure bring you down. You take accountability for your mistakes, and you come back even better.”
Loyola juniors who attended the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Heart of a Hall of Famer series with Marv Levy
Kathryn Allen; Chicago; Student Council, Br. Small Arts Guild
Gwyn Brown; Glenview; field hockey, Dumbach Scholar
Owen Buscaglia; Chicago; football, basketball
Michael Carlin; Evanston; football
Caroline Cronin; Lake Forest; Classics Club, Yearbook, Newspaper, EPICS, Open Studio
Daniel Gaughan; Glenview; football, ping pong
Haley Loquercio; Chicago; Thespian, Arts Guild, Chinese Club, Student Council, Today@LA, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Nothin’ But Treble choir
Jakub Mazurek; Chicago; volleyball, Insignis
Margaret (Maggie) McPike; Northbrook, track and field, Arts Guild, Insignis
Charlie Murray; Wilmette; football, Student Council
Brian O’Brien; Glenview; football
Hannah Penn; Glenview; golf, track and field
Maddie Stadler; Glenview; field hockey, Student Council, Clavius Scholar, Dance Co. B
James Tallis; Glenview; Torch Club, Student Council
Bobby Walker; Golf; football
Ryan Zinkula; Northbrook; football, basketball