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Trudel, Wadewitz Part of 2019 AFA Hall of Fame Class

American Football Association Hall of Fame logoThe American Football Association released the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 and two individuals affiliated with the Racine Raiders were selected for the honor.

Former defensive lineman Mark Trudel and current broadcaster Don Wadewitz will make the trip to Canton, Ohio, in mid-June to be immortalized in the AFA Minor League Football Hall of Fame. The event will be streamed live.

Mark Trudel team photoTrudel was one of the starting defensive tackles for the Raiders from 1985 to 1994. He was nominated by legendary defensive end, and a 2001 inductee into the AFA Hall of Fame, Phil Micech.

Trudel anchored the front line of one of the best defenses to ever be assembled in minor league football. The Raiders went undefeated in 1988 and 1992 and held their opponents to just 25 points all season in 1992. Five members of that defensive front will now be in the AFA Hall of Fame (Kurt Kampendahl, 1988; Micech; Mike Willkomm, 2005; Wilbert Kennedy, 2013; Trudel).

Trudel was voted Rookie of the Year in 1985. He was a member of six Midwest Football League championship teams and three national championship teams (1988, 1989, 1992).  Trudel was named most valuable player of the “Snow Bowl,” the 1989 World Championship game in Canada.

Mark Trudel pressures quarterback“At the end of the game, Joe Mooney (then general manager of the team) pulled me aside but didn’t tell me why,” recalls Trudel. “Then, on the loud speaker, I heard my name and they were saying that I won the MVP award.”

Trudel didn’t have any idea that he would win the award.

“I was so surprised,” he says, “Because linemen don’t usually win that award.”

So, how did a man that only played two years of high school football and served in the United States Army after graduation, become so good that he played on one of the best defenses in minor league football history?

“I think I really learned how to play when I was a kid,” recalls Trudel. “We were always playing tackle football or some kind of rough game. That’s where I learned that hitting-people games were fun.”

Mark Trudel sidelineTrudel, who maintains a good friendship with his teammates from that defensive line, is excited to be chosen for the AFA Hall of Fame Class of 2019.

“I’m very excited to get this award,” says Trudel. “I can show my grandkids that I played for some very good teams. I played with them (defensive line teammates) for my whole career and now I will be joining them all in the Hall of Fame.”

Trudel, who is retired after a career in the construction industry and lives in Waukesha, thanks a lot of people for this honor including teammates, coaches, volunteers, Joe Mooney, the City of Racine and the fans.

“I could tell how lucky I was to play for the Raiders when we would go on road games and have more fans on our side of the field than the other team,” he remembers.

Wadewitz joined the Raiders in 2002, working on marketing and public relations, and transferred to the radio broadcast team in 2003. He was nominated by Jordan Kopac, a member of the Class of 2003 of the AFA Hall of Fame. What became a hall of fame career almost didn’t happen.

“I came to a game in 2001, a little later in the season,” Wadewitz recalls. “I met with Bob Marcado and Curt Barnes and, after we talked, they told me this season was close to done and they’d call me next season.”

Wadewitz says the call never came so he decided to just show up at the field one day in 2002 and that’s how he joined the Raiders. He wanted to do something that would help make a positive contribution to the Racine community.

“My family has a history in Racine and my great uncle was president of the Racine Belles,” says Wadewitz. “The Raiders were a great way to give back to the community that provided me with so much during my youth and, to do it through sports, in my mind, seemed to carry on a little bit of a family tradition.”

Don Wadewitz broadcastingWorking with his broadcast partners at the time, Joe Mooney and John Wosyk, Wadewitz started off doing sideline reporting for the team. He was also responsible for the team starting Internet broadcasts of the games and has helped navigate a couple of transitions from WRJN to WIPZ and now to WLIP as the Raiders radio home.

In addition to his broadcast duties, he’s also been behind the Raiders website and social media efforts, along with marketing, graphic design, and public relations.

“I always want to make sure that I provide for the Raiders more than the team has provided for me,” says Wadewitz. “I don’t know that I can ever repay the team as it helped me realize my passion for broadcasting sports and that’s led to a lot of opportunities at different levels for me.”

Wadewitz says the thought of being chosen for the AFA Hall of Fame still hasn’t sunk in for him.

“Dave (Burch, president of the AFA) called me to tell me and I’ve shared the news,” says Wadewitz, “But it still seems so surreal. As support staff, you’re not thinking about the hall of fame. That’s typically a player or coach honor, which makes this even more special.”

Tom Christensen Gary Suhr, and Don Wadewitz at the Racine Raiders banquet.Wadewitz is just the third play-by-play broadcaster in the 66-year history of the team and all three will now be in the AFA Hall of Fame. Gary Suhr (AFA, Media, 2006) and Mooney (AFA, Executive, 1999) were in the role prior to Wadewitz. Suhr started the broadcasts on WRJN in 1956 and retired after the 2001 season. Mooney moved from the commentator seat into the play-by-play role from 2002 through 2010. Wadewitz has handled the play-by-play role since then.

“One thing that was stressed to me from day one by Bob, Curt, Joe, and John was the rich history of our team and that if you start something, you finish it,” recalls Wadewitz. “To continue the tradition of Raiders broadcasters in the AFA Hall of Fame is perhaps the most awesome part of receiving this honor.”

Outside of the Raiders, Wadewitz works for the Department of Health Services in Madison, runs his own leadership training and consulting business, and broadcasts for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and Alverno College.

Trudel and Wadewitz will travel to Canton, Ohio, for two evenings of festivities as part of AFA Hall of Fame week. The main ceremony will take place on Friday, June 21, and will be streamed online through the AFA website. In total, 22 people were chosen for induction as the Class of 2019, bringing the total number of inductees into the AFA Hall of Fame to 799. Including Trudel and Wadewitz, at least 36 inductees have direct ties to the Racine Raiders or Racine Gladiators.