George Reihner was as respected off the field as he was on the football field, wrestling mat and track.
One of Washington High School’s finest athletes, a Penn State All-American football player and NFL starting guard with the Houston Oilers, Reihner died Thursday at the age of 65 in Scranton.
Reihner, a 1973 graduate of Wash High, was named all-state and the WPIAL’s Most Valuable Lineman in 1972 when he helped the Prexies to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals. He was captain of the Big 33 team that played Ohio prep stars.
He also was a two-time WPIAL and section wrestling champion at Wash High. He would have been a PIAA championship contender as a senior but chose not to wrestle that year.
“He was so big and strong,” said Wash High teammate Robert Redlinger. “He could just move you out of the way. There are not a lot of guys like that. He was one of the nicest guys off the field.
“As a wrestler, he was quick and strong. When he got hold of you, it was trouble. He was unbelievable that way. As tough as he was, George was just a really nice guy.”
Reihner enjoyed an outstanding career at Penn State, starting at guard for three years. He was named team captain for the Nittany Lions in 1976. During his collegiate career, he played in the Orange, Cotton, Sugar and Gator bowls as well as the Senior Bowl in 1977. He was named to the All-East first team in 1975 and 1976 and received second team All-America honors in 1976.
“George was one of the best guys I coached,” said former Penn State offensive line coach and Rutgers head coach Dick Anderson. “He was very determined, a hard worker and he was smart.
“He was tenacious and always got after it. He was a really good, solid person. George was a delight. He’s the kind of guy who could make it happen.”
He was selected in the second round (38th pick overall) of the 1977 NFL draft by the Houston Oilers. He was named the American Football Conference Offensive Rookie of the Year and to the NFL’s Al-Rookie Team that year. In 1979, he won the NFL’s Outstanding Offensive Line Award, anchoring the first offensive line in history to produce in the same season the league’s leading rusher, Earl Campbell, while yielding the fewest quarterback sacks, 12.
Reihner played in 13 games as a rookie for Houston and he played in four AFC postseason games, winning three of them and losing only to his childhood favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the 1978 AFC Championship game.
According to his longtime friend, classmate and teammate, Guy Montecalvo, Reihner was an exceptionally talented multi-sport athlete, highly intelligent and fun-loving.
The two became teammates in eighth grade.
“He was a great football player,” Montecalvo said. “While people knew about his wrestling and track abilities and accomplishments, George was also an outstanding baseball and hockey player.
“He would have had a great (NFL) career if not for the back injury that ended his career.
Reihner and Montecalvo were members of the same fraternity at Penn State.
“We had some great times,” Montecalvo said. “Some that can be shared and some that can’t. In high school, he drove before I did, and he’d pick me up and we’d go places. George was a real competitor and he loved to have fun.”
Reihner was inducted into the Washington-Greene County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, when he joined his brother John, also an outstanding athlete at Wash High and a longtime dentist in the area.
Reihner was a prominent Scranton attorney.
His law office – Wright, Reihner and Mulcahy – serves clients in the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre region and across the state.
A 1984 graduate of the Dickinson School of Law, Reihner worked as a Pennsylvania Superior Court law clerk.
Reihner served on the Lawyer’s Advisory Committee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Since its inaugural publication in 2004, he was recognized by Philadelphia Magazine as a Pennsylvania “Superlawyer,” a designation awarded to the top five percent of lawyers in the state based on statewide polls of more than 50,000 lawyers and judges. He has also received an AV rating from Martindale Hubble, the highest rating available for an attorney’s professional ability and ethics.
He is survived by his wife, Judy, and four children, daughter Janet Reihner Schoepfer, and three sons, Kevin, Kyle and George.