March 14, 2023
Before the days of ESPN TV hits and book deals, Sal Paolantonio was just a writer trekking from New York to South Jersey trying to expand his career in the hectic Philadelphia sports media scene. Now 38 years later, South Jersey has become more than just a home for "Sal Pal." The fabric of the region has been woven into his DNA and shaped his identity not just in professional career, but in his personal life, too.
On Saturday, Paolantonio was inducted into the All Sports Museum of Southern New Jersey, a Hall of Fame tribute for a guy who's done everything from writing a biography of Frank Rizzo to covering Eagles Super Bowl appearances and taking the stage at the worldwide leader on "SportsCenter."
"Before I was asked to be inducted into the All Sports Museum of Southern New Jersey, I went to visit in Bridgeton," Paolantonio said. "I wanted to see what they were all about. Not only was I impressed with it, but I really believe in their mission. It was really about South Jersey for me and that specific Hall of Fame and museum. I was there to honor how South Jersey has helped me raise my family and build my career."
Joined by great Eagles figures Ron Jaworski, Mike Quick Dick Vermeil and Harold Carmichael, plus 94.1 WIP host Joe DeCamara, Paolantonio's time in South Jersey, and in journalism as a whole, was celebrated at Ramblewood Country Club:
Seeing Paolantonio report on the chaotic Terrell Owens saga as the All-Pro wideout did crunches in his driveway in Moorestown during the 2005 offseason is burned in the brains of Eagles fans. That continued to raise Paolantonio's presence on a national level, but when asked about his favorite South Jersey sports memories, Paolantonio, as he frequently does, turned to his family.
"All three of my daughters played softball at Haddon Township," Paolantonio said of his daughters, Zoe, Kyle and Sarah. "Coaching them, being one of their coaches, with other fathers and their friends' fathers, it was an extraordinary experience. I made lifetime connections and friendships. To see my daughters play softball was great because I'm a big baseball fan. I just loved it."
Additionally, Paolantonio mentions watching them play tennis at Haddon Township High School under the tutelage of late tennis coach Lori Foster, who Paolantonio states was an influential figure in his children's lives.
Given that, it's not a surprise that when Paolantonio isn't on camera outside the NovaCare Complex, he focuses on charitable work throughout South Jersey predicated on youth and recreation programs. That's also what drew him to the museum's foundation and ethos.
"When I went to visit the museum, I fell in love with it not only because of what they're doing, but the mission is important," Paolantonio said. "I'm on the board of Cooper Hospital's foundation and I raise money for UrbanPromise for at-risk youth in Camden. I have an annual football breakfast. We just had our 11th and we've raised over a half-million dollars for UrbanPromise over a 10-year period. I'm also on the board of Ron Jaworski's Jaws Youth PlayBook, which has raised millions of dollars. Of all the things I try to do from a charitable standpoint, it's about youth and recreation programs.
"When I saw that the museum was heavily involved with that, to me, that meant that I really want to be a part of this. I was humbled that they wanted to induct me into the museum."
Again, Sal Pal is all about these roots he's planted in South Jersey.
"Even though my name is on the plaque, I said that the award is for all of us, for all of my friends and my family and my colleagues who helped shape my career," Paolantonio said. "South Jersey is not just a great place to live. It's a great idea. It is a great idea because it's a series of small towns and villages where people can shop and live and go to school and raise their children."
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