LAS VEGAS/TEWKSBURY – Several weeks ago, the Town Crier started a new series called 'Where Are They Now' and the first feature was on Bev Luken.
Today we take a look at Sean Mackey, who was a three-sport star at Tewksbury Memorial High School, graduating in 1991. He excelled in football, basketball and baseball, went on to play two years of football at Division 1-AA Fordham University. He was inducted into the TMHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and five years later the 1990 Football team he was on was also enshrined.
Mackey's family has a rich tradition of athletics here in town. His uncle Jimmy Meuse was elected into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1994, while his younger brother Jay was an outstanding football and track athlete.
Both Sean and Jay grew up playing youth sports in Tewksbury and their father James, who recently passed away, was a big asset to a number of the youth programs here in town.
"My Dad was umpire-and-chief for youth baseball," said Sean, who also has a step-brother, Roy Fabila. "My dad was at one point the commissioner of the youth football league. He helped put the lights up at the two little league fields on East Street. He put the lights up at the practice field on Livingston Street for football. He did all kinds of work at Doucette Stadium. He was very heavily involved and he never missed any of my games or practices.
"He coached me when I played on the Northeast Baseball team one year. He didn't know anything about baseball, so that was interesting," added Sean with a laugh.
Having his father by his side supporting him every step of his athletic career is something that Sean never forgets. He said that strong support carried over to his high school days. He earned nine varsity letters, was a starter for eight of those teams, but played under seven different coaches including Hall of Famer Bob Aylward, while he also played with two Hall of Fame Athletes, BJ Doherty in baseball and Timmy Lightfoot in football, who he claims are among the all-time elite athletes to ever play at TMHS.
Now at 47 years old, almost 30 years removed from his 'Glory Days' at TMHS and living in Las Vegas, Mackey said that his athletic journey started thanks to the coaches, teammates and friends from Redmen Country.
"I was just so blessed with all of the coaching that I had from youth (sports) all the way through high school," he said. "Tewksbury just has the best coaches and they always have had the best coaches. The tradition has just carried on. Basically the guys who I played with are now coaching a lot of the youth teams (in Tewksbury), junior high and high school teams today.
"It's pretty incredible what Brian (Aylward) has done with the football team, what Derek Doherty has done with the hockey team and what Tommy Bradley is trying to do with the basketball team. I played with those guys growing up and it's just fantastic what they are all doing."
FROM THE OUTSIDE
If you ask Mackey, he didn't dominate on the basketball courts, rather he was known for his defense, being small and quick. Yet, despite that he still put up some impressive numbers. He was a three-year varsity player, two-year starter and as a senior, he averaged 13 points and 5 assists per game and on the season, he converted 62 treys.
As a sophomore, he was a role player on Bob Melillo's team which finished 10-11 overall. The Redmen qualified for the state tournament and lost in the first round to Dom Savio, 53-46, a game that saw Bradley finish with 18 points, six steals and six assists, playing a terrific all-around game.
In 1990, current Chelmsford High coach Charlie Micol was named the new coach at TMHS and the Redmen finished 8-12 during the regular season, before qualifying for the state tournament after finishing in a tie for second place in the small school division. In the playoffs, again the Redmen were defeated in the first round by Winchester, 65-56. Mackey had eight points in that loss.
"My junior year we went to the tournament when we had Pat Romano and Derek Weitz as our main guys and they were both all-stars," said Mackey. "I remember we lost to Winchester in the tournament."
A year later in 1991 as a senior, Mackey really emerged and was much more consistent with his shooting and scoring. In a win over Billerica, he deposited 23 points. The Redmen finished that season with a 5-15 record and did not qualify for the state tournament. In the last regular season game, a non-leaguer against Charlestown, Mackey finished with 24 of the team's 53 points.
That 1991 team was led by tri-captains Chris Hogan, Alex Millspaugh and the late Ron Tarentino, who was killed in the line of duty as a Leicester Police Officer in May of 2016.
"Ron and Alex Millspaugh were basically brothers and you never saw them apart," said Mackey. "They were always down at Livingston Street (basketball courts) working on their games. Ron was just a great guy. He worked extremely hard at basketball. He didn't start playing until late. I can't remember him playing before high school. When he first came on board, we played JV together. He was rough around the edges and he needed a lot of work, but that kid put in some time on the court. He improved his game, became an all-star and he was just a very, very hard worker, a great teammate and a great, great guy.
"I would come home maybe twice a year and we would always get together, especially during class reunions. We would all go to Billy Sharkey's house and everybody would get together and we would all hang out. That was the last time I saw Ron was on our 20th reunion (in 2011)."
ACE IN THE HOLE
Over the last 25 years or so, the TMHS Baseball program had a share of outstanding pitchers who all had tremendous careers whether it was Scott Oberg, Scott Favreau, Ronnie Wallace, Matt Monico, Tommy Lorette or Matt Luppi. Each one of them certainly all put up impressive numbers. Well before they put on a Redmen uniform and played for Ron Drouin, a right-hander named Sean Mackey ended up 16-3 in his career – and he wasn't even the team's best pitcher.
"I played with BJ Doherty and I still think to this day, that he was one of the top five players to ever play (baseball) at TMHS," said Mackey. "He was the best player that I ever played with. I'm still playing baseball (out in Vegas) and against some ex-professional players, and I still think he is better than a lot of these guys. He was exceptional and it was like he wasn't even trying. It just came so easy to him."
As a three-year starter, who saw time on the mound and then either at third base, shortstop or center field, depending on who was pitching, Mackey finished his career with a .373 batting average, and averaged 20 RBI per season. His 16-3 record on the mound also came with an impressive 2.19 ERA. He was a two-time MVC All-Conference selection, a Boston Globe All-Scholastic and was the MVP of the 1991 MVC All-Star game.
"Sean was the most talented athlete I have seen," said former baseball teammate David Wade. "He could bat right handed or left-handed. He could pitch. He could play center field. Basically, he could do it all. He was better known for football, but he was also a key part of some excellent baseball teams that went to the state tournament.
"Sean was also on my town league team that won championships. Honestly, the best thing I ever saw him do wasn't on a field, it was at gym class. Sean was walking back inside with a huge sports bag filled with equipment. Someone whipped a ball up to him and he calmly reached around his back with his left hand and grabbed the ball one handed behind his back. Kid was a stud."
In his three years with the varsity team, Mackey played for three different coaches.
"All three years we had very good teams and crazy thing is we had three different coaches. We just had exceptional talent," said Mackey.
As a sophomore, he played under Bob Ware, Sr., and the team finished 10-9 in the regular season. As a junior, playing under Sean McCarthy, Mackey really emerged as a dominating player. He helped the Redmen finish 17-3 which included the MVC Division 2 Championship title. He was 7-1 on the mound during the regular season, including a three-hit shut out in a 9-0 win late in the season over Wilmington.
In the post-season, Tewksbury won two games, first over Reading 9-4 and then over Danvers, 2-1, in an epic 11-inning contest. Mackey was the winning pitcher in both games, including the win in relief in the second one. He also scored the game winning run in the least expected of ways, coming from third base on an intentional walk pitch that soared over the catcher.
The two wins on the mound completed his season at 9-1, the lone loss coming to Andover, a 2-1 game.
"We had a good pitching staff, we had myself, we had BJ, Kenny Chandler and Mike Kinnon threw a little bit and we just had a really good line-up," he said. "We struggled against Andover. I think two of our losses were against them and both were very close games. That's when Andover was really stacked and Dave Bettencourt was the coach. He was a very good coach."
After the Danvers win, Tewksbury then faced Salem. The year before Jeff Juden, who had a career in the majors, led the Witches to a state championship title. He was drafted in the first round by the Houston Astros but a year later, the team was still extremely talented. Tewksbury was defeated 5-2 in the sectional semi-finals.
"Their catcher (Steve Sadoski) was a beast and I think he hit two home runs. I think Kenny pitched that day. We kept it close but they just had a lot of firepower," said Mackey.
After the team won 17 games in 1990, the Redmen returned for another strong season in 1991, under another new coach John Perrault, who had been the coach 14 years prior. He inherited a very good team led by Mackey, Chandler, as well as guys like Paul Botto, Mike Kinnon, Wade, Brian Brooks, Rob McGrath and Larry Rodgers, who ended up being the league MVP. Tewksbury lost its first two games, before going on to win the next eight which eventually led the team to its second straight MVC Division 2 title.
Before they celebrated with the league title, the team took a trip to New York and played at the Cooperstown Field, thrashing Amesbury, 15-1. Mackey remembers one particular hit in that game.
"From what I understand, they play a Major League Baseball game there every year and somebody told us at the time that Robbie McGrath hit the fifth longest home run in that field's history," he said.
The Redmen finished 13-4 in the regular season, in a league that was stacked with incredible talent including Billerica's Mike Glavine, now coaching the Northeastern University Baseball team, Dracut's Marc Deschenes, who had a minor league career and Wilmington's duo of Dave DiCenso and Matt McManus, who went on to pitch at UMass-Lowell and Northeastern, respectively. Tewksbury was also ranked No. 8 in Eastern Mass that season.
In the state tournament, Tewksbury ended up beating Gr. Lowell 4-2 and then lost to Reading 3-2 in the Division 2 North Quarterfinals.
Growing up, Mackey was always a running back, but the problem was he had some friendly competition in that spot.
"I played with Timmy Lightfoot all growing up," said Mackey of his good friend, who has been a longtime youth football coach here in town. "We were both running backs at the youth level. Then Coach (Bob) Aylward being as smart as he is, understood that Timmy is probably a better fit at that position at running back and I would be a better fit in the open field. He put me as a receiver and then handed the ball off to me out in space worked pretty well."
All Lightfoot did was rush for over 2,500 yards and score 31 touchdowns during his years at TMHS before going onto Westfield State where he broke or tied 23 program records, while rushing for 4,380 yards and scoring 37 touchdowns.
"Timmy had the thunder – he would go between the tackles and just run you over. He had that breakaway speed and nobody could catch him after he got through that first level," said Mackey.
Mackey moved to a slot receiver and finished his marvelous career at TMHS with 130 catches for 2,130 yards and 14 touchdowns. Up until the 2018 season, Bradley held the program's single season reception record with 49 after he broke Boo Tremlett's record of 37 in 1988, and he had broken Russ Cabral's mark. Mackey was second to Bradley with 45 until Kevin Dick had 47 catches during the 2013 season. In 2018, Shane Aylward broke Bradley's record with 51, however, Mackey still owns the program record with those 130 receptions, thanks to a couple of QB's named Boudreau.
"I had Dave my first year and then Dana my second year," he said. "They had different styles as quarterbacks, but both phenomenal, phenomenal quarterbacks. Tommy Bradley I consider him as a mentor as I was coming up, he was two years ahead of me. He taught me how to do the right things as a receiver. It helped me all the way through college, too."
Bradley, who is a longtime assistant coach with the current TMHS staff, is a Hall of Famer at both TMHS and UMass-Lowell, excelling in football and hoop.
While Dave and Dana threw him the ball, it was Bradley who really taught Mackey the position.
"Tommy was a fantastic route runner and he just had solid hands," said Mackey. "He didn't have separation speed, he wasn't super fast, but he knew how to get open and (the quarterbacks) found him all of the time. The other thing is teams were double-teaming him on the other side, leaving me in single coverage a lot so it allowed me to make some plays."
RECEIVERS NEED TO STEP UP
The Redmen Football team was coming off a 2-7-1 record from the 1987 season and according to stories from former Town Crier Sports Editor Rick Cooke, among the issues on the team was many dropped passes from the receivers. Entering the 1988 season, Cooke predicted that the team would finish fifth in the league and stated: "The Redmen need big years from (Dave) Boudreau, the receivers and the defense to at least break .500." He certainly was correct.
The Redmen finished the season third in the conference with an overall record of 7-2-1 (6-2-1 in the league) behind Dracut and Chelmsford. The two losses came against those two teams, 14-2 against the Middies and 22-20 against the Lions. Besides that, Tewksbury knocked off Methuen (18-8), tied Lowell (12-12), beat Bridgewater-Raynham (18-0) in a non-league game, topped Haverhill (23-20), Lawrence (28-0), Billerica (28-14), Andover (23-6) and Wilmington (27-0).
Tewksbury ended the season winning five straight games and on the season gave up 14 points or less in all but two games.
Offensively the team had injuries to starting running backs Tommy Aylward and Chris Hogan, which allowed Lightfoot and Abe Mills to get the ball more. Mackey lined up as one of the receivers and was slowly brought onto the offense until emerging with a dynamite game against Billerica. He finished with seven catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, while Bradley finished with seven catches for 60 yards and two scores. Boudreau meanwhile finished 16-for-28 for 231 yards and those three TD passes.
"When Sean was a sophomore, he was up with us at the varsity," said Bradley. "He was such an athletic kid, just very athletic. He was part of a real good group of kids and athletes, but he was (elite and) just a superb athlete. He was an undersized kid. He was a multi-sport athlete and in football, he could do anything. He would play quarterback, running back and wide receiver. As a receiver, he was more athletic and quicker than me. He was a different type of receiver. I was more of a tight end and he was more of a slot receiver."
The following year in 1989, Mackey was listed at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds and was one of the players returning with experience. Heading into the season, the thought was perhaps left-handed Kevin Merritt, a back-up from the year before, would be the QB, but Dana Boudreau ended up getting the nod. The team started out 2-3 with wins over Lowell (19-12) and Haverhill (27-7) but three tough losses to Central Catholic (7-6), Andover (14-0) and St. John's Prep 14-7.
After that, Tewksbury defeated Methuen 19-0 and then fell to Chelmsford 26-13, a game where Mackey became a two-way force.
"Chelmsford was such a powerhouse back then and they were coached by Tommy Caito," said Mackey. "Our safety got hurt (the game before) and I got my first start on defense. I ended up having 20 tackles and two interceptions."
After that came wins over Billerica (14-0) and Dracut (14-13) before the Turkey Classic. Heading into the Wilmington game, Mackey had 31 receptions for 402 yards and he added to that total with a terrific performance which included two touchdown receptions of 40 and 47 yards, as well as scoring on a two-point conversion. Lightfoot had the other score, a 73-yard kick-off return to open the second half in the 21-11 win over the 'Cats.
"Sean was a great athlete," said Bob Aylward, who coached him during the 1988 and '89 seasons. "He could have played anywhere, and he was very good at anything he did. He was a highly skilled kid. In fact, he was one of the most highly skilled kids that we ever had. There's a reason why he's in the (Tewksbury High) Hall of Fame. He's the whole package and a kid that you could always count on."
A SUPER SENIOR SEASON
Heading into his senior season, Mackey and the rest of the team had a new coach as assistant Joe DelGrosso took over as Aylward had resigned to take the same position at Nashua North. The 1990 team was loaded in talent and experience from top to bottom and Tewksbury went on to win its fifth league title in program history and become the third team to advance to the Super Bowl, the first since 1985.
"I just remember all of the teammates that I had (over my football career)," said Mackey. "I was blessed with so many fantastic football players. My sophomore year when I was playing on the varsity, I think we had six all-conference players. My junior year I think it was four and my senior year we had I think eight first teamers on the all-conference team. And being able to play with one of the greatest players of all-time in Timmy Lightfoot, just made the experience even greater."
With Dana Boudreau back as the signal-caller, Lightfoot running the ball and Mackey at wide out, Tewksbury's offense was tough to stop scoring 27, 22 and 31 points respectively in the first three games, all wins over Lowell, Central Catholic and Andover. The Central victory was one Mackey and all of his coaches and teammates will never forget.
Early in the game, Mackey got injured. He sat on the bench and watched Central take a 15-12 late in the fourth quarter. They had the ball on fourth down and instead of punting from their own end zone, head coach Mike Cassano elected to take a safety. That made it 15-14 with 2:23 left. Central then had to free kick the ball to Tewksbury and the Redmen offensive went right to work. Boudreau connected with Sean Conley for a 22-yard catch, moving the chains to the Red Raiders' 26 yard line.
"I got banged up pretty good with a neck injury but looking back on it, I think it was more of a concussion," admitted Mackey. "I was out almost the entire game and then I went back in for one play. I won't forget Coach (Garry) Ballou calling my number for one play and Dana just put the ball right into my hands for the winning touchdown and we won 22-15 against a very good Central Catholic team."
The following week, Tewksbury knocked over Andover 31-6 and Mackey had a 60-yard TD catch, a 25-yard field goal, threw a two-point conversion pass and also booted a pair of PATs. The Redmen then knocked off Haverhill 6-4 in a low scoring odd game, which led to another low scoring affair the following week.
"I don't like talking about the St. John's Prep game," said Mackey with a big laugh. "I really don't. It was just a horrible game."
The game was played in terrible weather — rain, mud, and unfortunately Mackey, who became the team's kicker that season, had a 23-yard field goal attempt blocked with 1:18 left in the game and Tewksbury fell in a baseball type game, 3-2.
After that loss came five straight wins to close out the regular season. Tewksbury defeated Methuen 14-6 as Mackey had a 63-yard TD catch and two PAT kicks, had a 28-14 win over Chelmsford that saw Lightfoot combine for over 200 yards of offense and score three touchdowns, and then came wins over Billerica, 14-6, Dracut 22-13, and Wilmington 45-28. In that crazy offensive Turkey Day game, Lightfoot rushed in five touchdowns while Mackey also had 143 rushing yards and one score, to go with two receptions for 15 yards.
Tewksbury had already clinched the Super Bowl berth before the Wilmington victory, but the 'Cats were no slouches finishing with five wins despite just 20 or so players on the entire roster. The following game for the Redmen would be the complete opposite. Tewksbury faced Peabody in the Division-1 Super Bowl held at the old Foxboro Stadium.
"Going in we knew how big they were," said Mackey about the Tanners, who were a juggernaut back then and were 11-0 entering the game. "They were gigantic and we all knew how small we were. Our biggest guy was Marc Whynot, who was probably 6-2, 200 pounds at the time their smallest guy on the line was probably 6-4, 230 pounds. We knew that we had our work cut out for us but we were fast. We were small, fast and quick. Our whole offensive line — which consisted of Marc Whynot, Paul Mottolo, Andy DeFelice, Brian Brooks, Bob Barrasso and Danny Sprague — I would put them up against anybody. They were just tough as nails. You never know what would have happened if Dana didn't go down (injured) in that first quarter."
Boudreau got hurt early in the first quarter and DelGrosso moved Mackey from his wide receiver spot to quarterback. He played that position one year in the eighth grade but the team ran the option so he barely threw the ball.
"I went to QB and that just took another dimension out of our offense and we can't really throw the ball," said Mackey. "The crazy thing is, the defense then was able to key on Timmy, but he still had an unbelievable game. He had (118 yards) and two touchdowns and he just played lights out. He was the one who kept us in the game."
Mackey ended up completing 2-of-8 passes for 28 yards with one interception. On the flip side, defensively, he came up with a huge interception on a throw by Peabody great Mark Bettencourt. But in the end, Peabody came away with a 20-14 victory, and that was the final game that Mackey played at Tewksbury High.
That season he ended up with 35 receptions for 776 yards and seven touchdowns, while he also booted 13 PATs and a field goal. Defensively he had eight interceptions and 43 tackles. He was named a Boston Globe All-Scholastic, was the first Tewksbury player to be named the Lowell Sun's Player of the Year. He was named a MVC All-Conference selection and went on to play in both the Agganis and Shriner's All-Star Football games, winning MVP of the Agganis, while scoring a TD in the Shriner's Game. He ended his career with 130 catches for 2,130 yards and 14 touchdowns.
JOINING THE RAMS
Mackey graduated from TMHS in June of 1991 and elected to attend Fordham University in New York City on a football scholarship.
"My first choice was Holy Cross but that didn't work out and I ended up at Fordham," he said. "Fordham was a Division 3 school and moved to Division 1-AA two years before I got there. They still had a bunch of Division 3 players on the team, so that allowed me to get some playing time earlier in my career. I mostly did special teams, kick and punt returns and I was the fourth receiver during my freshman year. We had two great receivers, one of which ended up on the practice squad of the (Philadelphia) Eagles and (New York) Jets. My sophomore year, I backed him up and ended up being the third receiver. I ended up catching about 30 passes that year."
The first year in the fall of 1991, Fordham finished 2-8 with wins over Columbia and Harvard, and also played a game in Ireland. In 1992, the team finished 1-9 and won its first ever Patriot League game over Bucknell.
"We were terrible but we were terrible after we all left," he said. "It wasn't until my college quarterback, Joe Moorehead, because the head coach eight years ago that they started to become a Top-25 school. He then went to Penn State to be the Offensive Coordinator, then got the head coach's job at Mississippi State but just recently got fired."
Mackey left Fordham after two years.
"I didn't make the best decisions when I was in college. I thought I was there just to play football. At a college like Fordham, you really have to go to class," he said. "I didn't do that too much. I didn't make the best decisions while I was there. It haunts me today, but it also made me who I am today. All of my (college) teammates are extremely successful. I had to grind my way through life after I left. Now I'm in a position where I'm doing very well, so everything happens for a reason."
Mackey decided to pack up his belongings and head back to Tewksbury. He stayed in town for a few months, before moving to Las Vegas and he's been there ever since.
"I moved out in September of 1993 and have been here ever since, almost 27 years now," he said. "I lived out there when I was younger before we moved back to Tewksbury. My parents got divorced and my dad moved out to Vegas so we ended up moving out, then coming back to Tewksbury. My mom ended up coming out to Vegas and she stayed here. My original plan was to go to UNLV, get my grades up and get my (football) scholarship back, but then I was going to have a baby, and it threw a wrench into that. Everything changed at that point."
Mackey became a father for the first time to Ashley, who is now 25, and that followed with two more daughters, Emily, 20, and Allison, 18, and all three girls live in Vegas. Throughout that time, Mackey worked in a number of hotels and casinos, worked as a blackjack dealer and a pit boss for about seven years. He then left that line of work completely, shifting gears.
"I was with a company for about 13 years called 'Restaurant On the Run' and 'Grubhub' acquired us about four or five years ago," he said. "I'm a Regional Manager and I oversee the operations for Nevada, Utah, some of California and Alaska. It's good work. I enjoy it. The company is great."
For the past 25 years, Mackey has played baseball in the MSBL and has been a part of three championship teams out of six at the annual MSBL World Series, which brings teams from all across the country to Arizona and who get to play on Spring Training Fields.
"I have slowed down playing baseball and now I umpire club ball and high school tournaments," he said. "My next sports goal is to get my golf handicap in single digits. Right now I'm at a 15."
With the pandemic going on, that goal may be put on hold for a while ... and it could be put on a hold for a completely different reason.
"I'm getting married to a wonderful woman Jennifer Anderson in October and I'll have three stepchildren to add to my family, Brittanee, 23, Nate, 18 and Keigan, 14," he said. "Hopefully my buddies from back in Tewksbury will make the wedding, even though it's during football season."