Don Sadler got the nickname that would stick with him for life while in middle school.
Sadler grew facial hair long before his peers, which made him stand out. Classmate and close friend Mark Duncan took note of the peach fuzz on Sadler’s chin in seventh grade and started calling him Fuzzy. Good friends still do to this day.
It’s a fitting story because Sadler always was a man among boys on the athletic field, first at Wroxeter School then later at the University of Maryland.
The Arnold native remains one of the legendary schoolboy athletes in Maryland history, having led tiny Wroxeter to great heights in both football and lacrosse. Sadler earned a lacrosse scholarship to Maryland and enjoyed a highly-decorated career, having the distinction of being the first Division I player to be named an All-American at two different positions.
Sadler, who will be inducted into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame next month, played professional indoor lacrosse for the Washington Wave and enjoyed a lengthy coaching career at the recreation and high school level.
“I’ve been on cloud nine ever since I got the call,” Sadler said of his impending induction into the county shrine on Oct. 17 at Michael’s Eighth Avenue. “My phone has been blowing up with calls from old friends and former teammates. This tremendous honor has overwhelmed my thoughts and it’s been a daily trip down memory lane.”
Shortly after Major George Duncan, owner and headmaster, decided to enroll boys at Wroxeter-on-Severn School it began attracting some of the finest athletes in the area. Sadler was a big part of that wave and was a three-year letterman in both football and lacrosse – a hard-charging halfback on the gridiron and galloping midfielder in the stick sport.
As a sophomore, Sadler was the starting fullback and blocked for such standout runners as Greg Bethmann and Billy Burnett. Sadler took over as the primary ball-carrier as a junior and was simply spectacular, rushing for 1,056 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading Anne Arundel County in scoring with 131 points.
As a senior, Sadler amassed 1,233 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on a whopping 196 carries (an average of 22 per game) and again led the county in scoring with 124 points. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder accounted for 29 of Wroxeter’s 47 points in a rout of St. Mary’s in 1976 – scoring four touchdowns, adding a pair of two-point conversion runs and kicking an extra point for good measure.
“Donnie is one tough runner. He’s been doing that all season,” Wroxeter head coach Dick Duden Sr. told The Capital following the game.
Wroxeter captured the Tri-County League championship all three seasons Sadler was on varsity with such standouts as quarterback Marty Cloud, wing back Ken Kipke and defensive back Buddy Remenapp also leading the way. Of course, since the Mustangs only had 23 players on the roster, almost everybody went both ways.
Wroxeter went 8-1 when Sadler was a senior in 1976 with the lone loss coming to a powerful Georgetown Prep contingent that featured several Division I recruits. He concluded with a career record of 22-7 over three varsity seasons.
“Don was extremely hard-nosed and had good speed. He could run over or around you,” said Cloud, recalling that Sadler had a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown against Boys’ Latin. “There were many games when Don carried the ball 30 or 35 times. He was a real workhorse and dished out as much punishment as he took.”
Sadler was a two-time All-County (The Capital), All-Metro (The Sun) and All-State selection in football and received the Jim Rhodes Memorial Trophy as the finest player in Anne Arundel County as a senior.
Sadler will never forget being presented with the Rhodes Trophy during the annual Touchown Club of Annapolis football awards banquet. He posed for pictures with Navy honoree Jeff Sapp (Silver Helmet) and guest speaker Rocky Bleier of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That was the first ‘Wow’ moment of my athletic career,” Sadler said. “Being recognized at that banquet, which was always a big deal, was an incredible honor.”
It was more of the same in lacrosse with Sadler the quintessential do-it-all midfielder – dominating faceoffs, winning ground balls, playing tough defense, single-handedly clearing from end to end and directing the offense from up top.
“I never saw a better midfielder my whole career,” said Remenapp, who wound up playing lacrosse with Cloud at UMBC. “Donnie could run all day and it seemed like he won every faceoff, got every ground ball. He could score when necessary, but preferred to set up teammates for goals.”
Wroxeter only lost three games during Sadler’s three-year varsity career, one of which was avenged in spectacular fashion. In 1975, Calvert Hall held the ball the entire game with star attackman Lance Kohler (Maryland) running around behind the cage to stall away time. That strategy implemented by head coach Mike Thomas succeeded in slowing the high-powered Mustangs and the Cardinals won 4-3.
Because of that result, Calvert Hall finished No. 1 in the Baltimore Sun media poll, one spot ahead of Wroxeter. Needless to say, Sadler and other returning players were none too happy about the Towson school’s slow-down tactics.
Revenge was sweet the following year when Calvert Hall traveled to Arnold to play at “The Pit,” the cramped field on the Wroxeter campus that was enclosed on all sides by hills. Sadler controlled the faceoffs, scored three goals and dished off two assists as Wroxeter blew out Calvert Hall, 19-5.
Many of the same characters that starred in football also played lacrosse with Cloud serving as the feeder on attack and Remenapp doing the dirty work between the lines. Other standout players on those teams coached by Dick Webster included defensemen Eric Mendelman and Howard Jones, attackmen Tim Ahmuty and Mike Burnett, midfielders Tom Lloyd and Mark Duncan as well as goaltender Rick Peret.
“We were a transition team that ran fastbreaks nonstop and scored a lot of goals,” said Sadler, who was also a two-time All-County and All-Metro performer in lacrosse. “We played fast and loose and had an awful lot of fun.”
Wroxeter was denied the No. 1 ranking in 1976 by a setback at Gilman and suffered its lone loss in 1977 by upset fashion at the hands of Annapolis and star attackman Syd Abernathy (Navy).
Dick Duden Sr. was a longtime assistant coach at the Naval Academy and used those connections to get his star player recruited. Sadler could have continued to play both sports at Navy, but decided he’d had enough of football.
“I was mostly an inside power runner and absorbed an awful lot of blows those last two seasons,” Sadler admitted. “I knew the players would be bigger and stronger at the next level and just didn’t think my body could take the pounding anymore.”
Truth be told, Sadler had his heart set on playing lacrosse at Maryland for legendary head coach Clayton “Buddy” Beardmore. Sadler had attended Beardmore’s camps since middle school and respected the Severna Park resident, who is also a member of the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.
“I loved Maryland lacrosse and went to as many games as I could up in College Park,” said Sadler, whose best friend (Duncan) lived next door to Beardmore. “Buddy knew all about me and had the inside track from the get-go.”
STARRING AT TWO POSITIONS
Sadler, who grew up in the Mago Vista neighborhood of Arnold, wasn’t too thrilled when Beardmore informed him a few days before the season opener that he would be sitting out his freshman season as a redshirt.
Maryland was absolutely loaded in 1978 with the likes of Bobby Boneillo, Pete Worstell, John Lamon, Bob Ott and Barry Mitchell on offense.
“I remember Buddy saying ‘I know you’re not going to like this now, but you’ll thank me later.’ In hindsight, Buddy was right. I would not have played much on that ’78 team,” Sadler said.
Sadler was able to practice with Maryland while redshirting then played games on weekends for McGarvey’s Lacrosse Club alongside some of his idols such as Eddie Mullen, Frank Urso and Jeff Long.
Mitchell, Ott and Ron Martinello formed the first midfielder in 1979, but Sadler ran on the second line for a Maryland squad that lost to Johns Hopkins in the national championship game.
Beardmore pulled another surprise on Sadler in 1980 by switching the sophomore to close defense out of necessity. Maryland was a bit thin on that end of the field and Beardmore knew Sadler had the athleticism and competitive spirit to succeed with a long pole in his hands.
Sadler accepted the challenge and quickly became Maryland’s top defender, earning honorable mention All-American honors. That was a disappointing season for the Terrapins, who stumbled to a 5-5 record and missed the playoffs in what would be Beardmore’s final year at the helm.
Dino Mattessich took over as head coach the following year and returned Sadler to midfield, much to the player’s delight. It didn’t last long. Standout defenseman Curtis Rountree suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game and Mattessich was forced to ask Sadler to pick up a long stick again in order to fill the void.
Sadler made his first start on close defense in 1981 against North Carolina and was assigned to cover Burnett, the ultra-talented attackman he knew quite well. Burnett had been a sophomore at Wroxeter when Sadler was a senior and had the utmost respect for the fellow Arnold native.
Burnett totaled two goals and four assists as North Carolina edged Maryland 13-12 in overtime at Byrd Stadium in College Park. However, neither of the goals came against Sadler as Burnett scored on extra man and off a stolen clearing pass.
“Fuzzy is such a great athlete he could play any position and do a great job,” Burnett said afterward.
Sadler actually played two positions throughout that season as Mattessich found a way to utilize his offensive skills as well. Sadler ran to the sideline and traded his long pole for a short stick whenever Maryland had an extra man opportunity.
Against North Carolina, Sadler moved to midfield at crunch time in order to bolster the offense and assisted on the tying goal that forced overtime. Sadler served as the pivot man for the perimeter passing game and fed attackman Jim Wilkerson on the left side while facing right to fake out the defense.
“Fuzzy had this incredible no-look pass that worked like a charm every time,” Burnett recalled. “He could put the ball right on a guy’s stick while looking the other way. It was an amazing play and set up a lot of goals.”
Remarkably, Sadler led Maryland with 34 assists that season while primarily playing defense, repeating as an honorable mention All-American despite sacrificing for the team. As a senior, Sadler played midfield exclusively and again led the Terps in assists while being named a second team All-American.
The M Club presented Sadler with the prestigious Charles P. McCormick Award as the student-athlete judged to have contributed the most to athletics during his senior year. The two-time team captain was a two-time recipient of the Edwin E. Powell Trophy, presented to the player who rendered the greatest service to lacrosse. He won the Deckman Silber Defenseman of the Year Award in 1981 and the William P. Cole III Midfielder of the Year Award in 1982.