‘Newtown Bee’ Sportsman Of The Year: Rich Guman Tackles A Lot Behind The Football Scenes
UPDATE: This online report was modified at 12pm on January 24 to clarify when The Newtown Bee Sportsman of the Year Award was launched.
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Fans looking for plenty of highlight-reel plays, tackles, and leadership on the gridiron should look no further than Blue & Gold Stadium, home of the Newtown High School Nighthawks. For highlight videos, tackling the statistics, and leading the way in fundraising efforts off the field, look to Rich Guman.
Guman, president of the NHS Football Booster Club and longtime pigskin aficionado in town, has been selected for The Newtown Bee’s Award For Sportsman of the Year.
That honor was established in 1986, and since 2008 has honored late Newtown Bee Sports Editor Kim Harmon. The annual award goes to someone who has had a significant impact on Newtown sports.
On any given Friday night throughout the fall, Guman can be seen walking the sidelines — home and away games alike — fully engaged in recording details of each play. Once the final whistle sounds it’s game over but game on for Guman to transcribe the details of the game and transform them into statistics for the team. Guman has tracked stats for the high school team since 2019.
“It’s great to be able to be on the field for the games — definitely a privilege to be down there,” said Guman, adding that stat keeping is more important than he first thought; in addition to giving the players and their coaches these numbers to see, they help opposing team coaches vote for All South-West Conference and All State selections, Guman notes.
Stat keeping on the field makes for a unique perspective of the game as opposed to watching from the stands. “It’s definitely a different mentality. I have to focus a lot more when I’m down on the field — I’m doing a job,” Guman said.
And being down there while his son was playing made for an interesting scenario. Guman kept stats during his son Richie’s high school career; Richie was a kicker at NHS who graduated in 2022. Guman did not coach or offer advice to his son. He simply enjoyed (and maybe stressed a little bit over) being up close to see his son kick.
This year, the father-son tandem came together on the sidelines once again. Richie, who now attends Central Connecticut State University, returned to field and — clipboard in hand — helped his dad log stats this past fall.
Newtown High Football Coach Bobby Pattison asked Guman to take over as the program’s Booster Club president in 2020, and he has continued with both duties since.
“It’s been great working with him, and the organization — coaches, players, parents, and the athletic department have been a great help,” Guman added.
Guman began coaching Newtown Youth Football in 2013, leading his son’s team over the course of five seasons. After Richie finished his eighth grade season, Guman stuck around when the program needed a coach in 2018. During that time, he wore many other hats within the youth organization, including serving on the board as football administrator from 2016 through 2019; it was during this time Pattison and Guman met and first began working together.
With the youth program, Guman’s responsibilities included ordering equipment including helmets, jerseys, pads — making sure 160 children were ready to play football. Guman’s other duties included setting up and breaking down the field on game day, making sure referees were set up for games, and working along with other board members to ensure game day went smoothly for both football and cheerleading.
His daughter, Hannah, is a Newtown High cheerleader and performs routines on the sidelines and during halftime of football games.
In 2016, Doug Magazu — who put in time as the youth league president and a coach — along with Guman worked on setting things up for the youth players to compete at Blue & Gold Stadium. “Back then, it wasn’t so easy to get this done. (Newtown High Athletic Director) Matt Memoli was a huge help pushing this through with us. The kids loved it and it was great seeing them playing on the big field,” Guman said.
Since taking on the NHS Booster role, Guman has embraced Newtown’s football present and past. In 2021 the program held a 40th reunion for the 1981 state championship team.
“Newtown’s first head coach, Pete Kohut, gave a really inspiring pre-game speech — was great to see the alumni I remember watching when I was younger,” Guman reflected.
Guman updated and redid the NHS football website nighthawksfootball.com, including creating a detailed history section that recaps each season with photos and newspaper clippings, including many Newtown Bee articles. There are also YouTube links to game films dating back to the 1960s.
“It started small and before we knew it, it blew up,” Guman said.
Meeting with former players including Mike Cragin, Bill Cavanaugh, Tom Saint, Mike Newman, Jason Stevens, and Pete Weaver made for a fun experience and opportunity to go back in time. They sent him their scrap books and films. “Pete gave me a box to go through and there was the 1981 State Championship trophy in it. I don’t think people have seen it for years! The best part was hearing from the players from the 60s and 70s who were able to bring back a lot of memories. Some of them had never seen themselves on film before,” Guman said.
In his role with the Booster Club, Guman leads fundraising efforts for items not covered by the school budget such as practice linemen chutes and tackling sleds, along with some of the equipment players wear. These are things the team uses in practice that help them perform well on the playing field, Pattison said. “There’s always something new out there that can help us be a better football team,” said Pattison, who credits the efforts of the Booster Club’s fundraising efforts, led by Guman, for helping the Nighthawks maintain a competitive edge.
From stat keeping to fundraising, Guman is instrumental to the off-field, as well as the on-field, success of Newtown football.
“He does so much for that program,” Memoli said. “He does all the stuff you don’t see. He’s the one behind the scenes putting it all in motion.”
Guman does not do all of this alone. Football moms throughout the years, including Sandy Hannan, Sherry Sabillon, Brandy Jacobs, Deb Magazu, and Janet Swierbut have been instrumental in helping the high school program. “They were really the backbone of everything. I couldn’t do it without them,” Guman said.
There have been many memorable Newtown football moments for Guman, including in 2015 when his son was in fifth grade and playing for a championship. “We were down by seven with three minutes left. We went down and scored, and Richie kicked the game-winner with less than a minute left. I was more nervous than he was,” Guman said.
In 2018, when Richie was a freshman, he not only suited up every varsity game, but got into the New Milford contest and kicked a point after attempt through the uprights. “The way the older kids cheered him on is something I’ll never forget,” Guman said.
And of course there was the 2019 state championship when Newtown shocked Darien on the game’s final play. “Amazing, undefeated season. The ending is something we dream about,” Guman said.
This football enthusiast has spent his fall Friday nights in the cold and rain — not to mention many picture-perfect evenings — and put in countless hours before and after game days, including an offseason golf tournament fundraiser. Guman noted that his wife, Noreen, has been understanding of his dedication to Newtown football, and he is appreciative of that.
Guman plans to be back on the sidelines and leading the boosters again next year.
“He didn’t have to continue to help me and support the team. He’s a great guy. He’s the type of guy you want on your side because you can count on him — he’s reliable,” Pattison said.
“It’s fun to be down there in the middle of everything,” said Guman, adding that he enjoys helping the football program. “This award was totally unexpected and definitely appreciated — thank you.”
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.