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Stowers sees Panthers football jersey retired

CHESAPEAKE — The Panthers welcomed back one of their own as football hero Sonny Stowers came home to Chesapeake.

Stowers was captain of the 1961 football team that was first in school history to go undefeated. As a senior he also set a scoring record and won all-state honors, pulling in the Kennedy Trophy as the area’s more outstanding player.

Friday night Stowers watched as his jersey, No. 40, was retired during a pre-game ceremony at the Panther stadium that capped a day spent on the high school campus.

Earlier in the day, he spoke to assemblies of Chesapeake middle and high school students recounting his career on and off the field.

Stowers left Chesapeake for West Point where he was regularly named outstanding lineman for the Army football team. In his senior year he was voted team captain and scored a touchdown against Navy in a game that ended in a 7-7 tie.

However, life at West Point was an experience Stowers found at first daunting.

“I was a young man like you guys from Chesapeake, Ohio,” he told the students. “I had no idea what a spit-shine polish was or how to make a bed.”

During those times when he wasn’t sure he was going to make it, he thought about friends, mentors and family he knew from his Chesapeake days.

“There were a lot of folks in Chesapeake, Ohio,who were very proud of me and watching to see how I did,” he said.

He followed success on the field with success in the business world as president of Stowers-Lilligore Construction Equipment Co.

His success was the direct result of goal-setting and decision-making, he said.

“My life has been directly affected by the decisions I’ve made,” he said. “Sometimes even the smallest decision can change your life.”

Counseling the students to read books on success, Stowers said there was power in a positive attitude, hard work and focus.

“You have to work hard to make the best decisions you can,” he said. “Success comes from hard work and perseverance. Set clear goals, know your mission and choose work and activities that you love.”