Former semi-professional football players from across the country came to New Comer Funeral Home on Friday to pay their respects to a man who many say changed the game.
In 1984 Greg Portzline became the owner of the Syracuse Express. Former players say he elevated the sport.
"You play the game just a little bit harder when you play next to a guy that you consider family and you play a little harder when you play for an owner who truly cares for you," said former Express captain Ken Chase.
??He had a good heart and he was very professional. He took care of his players like he took care of his family,?? said former quarterback Nick Bono. ??We were part of his family.??
Portzline??s players saw him as a father figure. He treated them with respect and ran the Syracuse Express like a professional operation. His model quickly yielded success. The Express won the 1985 and 1987 National Championships and established themselves as a semi-pro powerhouse and perennial title contender. Portzline??s model lead to three national championships and became the blueprint for owners across the league.
??I would never have the football career that I've had and I'd never be the man that I am if it wasn't for Greg Portzline,?? Chase told friends, family and former players at a memorial service Friday night.
Portzline died unexpectedly Monday of a stomach aneurysm. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, of 36 years, ten children, 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was 71.