Family Matters

— GW's Frank Mc­Fil­lin has had plenty of foot­ball suc­cess, but his un­usu­ally large fam­ily keeps him groun­ded.

Frank Mc­Fil­lin poses with his six sons dur­ing a re­cent fam­ily get to­geth­er: (rom the left) Matt, Rich, Will, Frank, Joe, Colin, and John. (Photo cour­tesy Frank Mc­Fil­lin).


The Amer­ic­an Dream means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent people.

For some, it is be­ing em­ployed in a pro­fes­sion that is both chal­len­ging and stim­u­lat­ing. For oth­ers, it’s get­ting mar­ried, hav­ing chil­dren, own­ing a home, send­ing the kids to col­lege and hope­fully re­tir­ing with some money left over. Re­gard­less of your spe­cif­ic in­ter­pret­a­tion, one thing is cer­tain: Frank Mc­Fil­lin is liv­ing his Amer­ic­an Dream.

The long­time foot­ball as­sist­ant will soon em­bark on his 36th sea­son patrolling the city’s high school side­lines. His coach­ing des­tin­a­tions have in­cluded a brief stop at Fath­er Judge (1979-80), a long ten­ure at Arch­bish­op Ry­an (1974-75, 1982-2007), and his cur­rent des­tin­a­tion of George Wash­ing­ton High (2008-present), where he is an of­fens­ive as­sist­ant for the per­en­ni­al Pub­lic League power. 

Over the last three dec­ades, Mc­Fil­lin has en­joyed un­pre­ced­en­ted suc­cess on the grid­iron, in­clud­ing coach­ing in 13 cham­pi­on­ship games, sev­en of which he won. However, his earli­est ac­com­plish­ments came as a play­er. The 1969 St. Joseph’s Prep gradu­ate was an All-Cath­ol­ic line­man who ini­tially walked on, then later earned, a foot­ball schol­ar­ship at Temple Uni­versity.

Im­me­di­ately after gradu­at­ing from Temple, Mc­Fil­lin was con­tac­ted by then-Arch­bish­op Ry­an coach John Quinn to come and help out with the team’s of­fens­ive line.

“The of­fense that Quinn was run­ning and the of­fens­ive block­ing schemes that I was ac­cus­tomed to at Temple were very sim­il­ar,” Mc­Fil­lin re­called dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

• • •

Des­pite his re­cord of suc­cess, Mc­Fil­lin main­tains a very un­as­sum­ing, un­der-the-radar per­sona. When pressed to re­veal his ca­reer coach­ing ac­col­ades, he is quick to re­dir­ect the cred­it. As a po­s­i­tion coach for the of­fens­ive line, Mc­Fil­lin has pro­duced hun­dreds of All-City and All-Pub­lic se­lec­tions. The ex­act num­ber is un­known and un­im­port­ant, ac­cord­ing to Mc­Fil­lin. He didn’t get in­to coach­ing to pat him­self on the back. To hear the lifelong North­east res­id­ent tell it, foot­ball has al­ways been his pas­sion.

However, those closest to the 35-year vet­er­an of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment (his day job is a ser­geant as­signed to the dig­nit­ary pro­tec­tion unit/home­land se­cur­ity bur­eau) know that there is a pas­sion in his life that far out­shines the grid­iron: his fam­ily.

Mc­Fil­lin and his wife, Anne, are de­voted par­ents of 12 chil­dren — sev­en boys and five girls. (The eld­est, Fran­cis Jr., was born pre­ma­turely and lived for just nine hours.) Today, the Mc­Fil­lin chil­dren range in age from 17 to 34, with the old­est chil­dren hav­ing chil­dren of their own. In fact, Frank and Anne have 15 grand­chil­dren, with two more on the way.

While large fam­il­ies are no longer the norm in today’s so­ci­ety, the “Mc­Fil­lin 11” may have been an in­ev­it­able un­der­tak­ing. Frank and Anne both come from tra­di­tion­ally large Ir­ish-Cath­ol­ic fam­il­ies.

“My wife was raised with five broth­ers and three sis­ters, and I had four broth­ers and three sis­ters of my own,” Mc­Fil­lin said. 

Frank and Anne met while grow­ing up in the city’s Somer­ton sec­tion. While Frank went off to at­tend St. Joe’s Prep, Anne stayed loc­al and at­ten­ded Arch­bish­op Ry­an, where she was elec­ted the first class pres­id­ent of the girls school. 

While the sheer size of the Mc­Fil­lin fam­ily is re­mark­able, Frank and Anne’s most im­press­ive con­tri­bu­tion may be their chil­dren’s ath­let­ic and aca­dem­ic ac­com­plish­ments.

• • •

The old­est of the Mc­Fil­lin chil­dren, Mat­thew, set the bar high both aca­dem­ic­ally and ath­let­ic­ally for his young­er sib­lings. An All-City foot­ball se­lec­tion as a line­man at Arch­bish­op Ry­an, Matt earned a schol­ar­ship to West Chester Uni­versity, where he star­ted all four years and at­tained his ac­count­ing de­gree. Today, Matt con­tin­ues to set the bar high as a forensic ac­count­ant work­ing in Cen­ter City. He and his wife, Maur­een, have four chil­dren, with No. 5 due on Hal­loween.

Second in line is Mar­garet. She also at­ten­ded Ry­an, where she was a three-sport star, earn­ing All-Cath­ol­ic hon­ors in field hockey. The four-year let­ter win­ner in swim­ming was also a soc­cer phe­nom who earned a schol­ar­ship to Man­or Col­lege. The mar­ried moth­er of four is em­ployed as a part-time court ste­no­graph­er.

Next up is Joseph. The two-time All-Cath­ol­ic foot­ball play­er at Ry­an earned his way to Wil­li­am­son Trade School, where he con­tin­ued to ex­cel ath­let­ic­ally. Today, Joe is mar­ried with three chil­dren and, like his fath­er, is em­ployed as a Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer.

Deidre is the fourth child, and like the oth­ers be­fore her, she ex­celled both aca­dem­ic­ally and ath­let­ic­ally while at­tend­ing Ry­an. An All-Cath­ol­ic se­lec­tion in bas­ket­ball, Deidre earned a schol­ar­ship from the Abing­ton School of Nurs­ing. The Im­macu­lata Uni­versity gradu­ate works at Aria-Tor­res­dale Hos­pit­al and is mar­ried to Fath­er Judge base­ball coach Tim Ginter. They have two chil­dren.

• • •

Ap­proach­ing the halfway point, there is Kath­er­ine. The mar­ried moth­er of two is ex­pect­ing her third child any day now.  Kath­er­ine was the stu­dent coun­cil vice pres­id­ent while at Ry­an, where she was a two-sport star in both swim­ming and soc­cer. Like her older sis­ter Mar­garet, Kath­er­ine works as a court ste­no­graph­er.

The George Wash­ing­ton High era be­gins with child No. 6, Richard. The 2004 gradu­ate was an All-City foot­ball per­former who holds de­grees from both La Salle Uni­versity and Mer­cer Col­lege. Like his fath­er, he has coached foot­ball on the high school level, with stops at Wash­ing­ton, Coun­cil Rock North and Up­per Mo­re­land.

Next in line is John, a 2005 GW gradu­ate. Also an All-City foot­ball play­er, he earned his ac­count­ing de­gree from Temple and is cur­rently en­lis­ted in the Navy.

Colin, 24, has a unique story. The Wash­ing­ton gradu­ate, with the help of his very at­tent­ive moth­er (a re­gistered nurse), was able to over­come some early set­backs. He was dia­gnosed with aut­ism as a child after re­ceiv­ing a mis­dia­gnos­is from sev­er­al doc­tors. 

“My wife’s per­sist­ence paid off,” Frank said. “We found the right school for Colin early on and he ended up gradu­at­ing and do­ing well.”

Just to main­tain brag­ging rights with the rest of his fam­ily, Colin ex­celled at swim­ming while in high school and served as the foot­ball team’s man­ager. Cur­rently, he works at Shop Rite and the Somer­ton Springs Swim Club.

• • •

The last son is Wil­li­am. The 2009 Wash­ing­ton gradu­ate ex­celled in three sports while in high school, and the All-City foot­ball standout earned All-South­east­ern Pennsylvania hon­ors as well. He was also a top-notch bas­ket­ball and base­ball play­er and today he is en­rolled in the Abing­ton School of Nurs­ing with an an­ti­cip­ated gradu­ation in 2013.

Hil­ary is a 2010 Wash­ing­ton grad. She served as pres­id­ent of stu­dent coun­cil while earn­ing All-Pub­lic hon­ors in soc­cer and is cur­rently work­ing to­ward her paralegal de­gree.

Last but not least is Maria. She star­ted off at­tend­ing Wash­ing­ton but later trans­ferred to Naz­areth Academy. Head­ing in­to her seni­or year, the former All-Pub­lic field hockey play­er is hop­ing for a re­peat of her ju­ni­or cam­paign, where she was a ma­jor con­trib­ut­or for the Pan­das. In keep­ing with tra­di­tion, Maria, who holds a near-per­fect grade point av­er­age, will head off to col­lege in the fall of 2013.

Des­pite bal­an­cing a hec­tic work and fam­ily sched­ule for the last 35 years, Frank Mc­Fil­lin is not ready to take his foot off the ac­cel­er­at­or just yet.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to this up­com­ing sea­son of coach­ing,” he said. “I still have that drive. I met with the (Wash­ing­ton) coaches just the oth­er day to go over some things.”

• • •

Mc­Fil­lin has had a front row seat to view some of the greatest foot­ball ath­letes to pass through the city and re­gion dur­ing his lengthy ca­reer. To name the best is dif­fi­cult; he coached his fair share of great ones while at Ry­an but he was quick to point out that former Wash­ing­ton star de­fens­ive line­man Shar­rif Floyd was “totally dom­in­ant.” Floyd was named a high school All-Amer­ic­an by USA Today, Parade and EA Sports and is head­ing in­to his ju­ni­or sea­son at the Uni­versity of Flor­ida. 

The multi-fa­ceted hus­band, fath­er, grand­fath­er and coach un­der­stands that none of this would be pos­sible without the self­less ded­ic­a­tion of his wife. While things ad­mit­tedly could get crazy with a house full of chil­dren, Anne has learned to take things as they come.

“You have one (child) at a time,” she said. “Each per­son is their own per­son.” 

That at­ti­tude has helped pro­duce 11 great chil­dren.

Mc­Fil­lin ad­mits, “Anne gives me the op­por­tun­ity to coach foot­ball and de­vote the amount of time that is ne­ces­sary. My wife is very spe­cial.”

Spe­cial is a word that would de­scribe the en­tire Mc­Fil­lin clan, as 11 suc­cess stor­ies is no co­in­cid­ence or easy feat. As Wash­ing­ton as­sist­ant foot­ball coach John McAneney points out, “One Mc­Fil­lin kid is nicer than the next. They’re just great kids.”

They have their par­ents and their own ver­sion of the Amer­ic­an Dream to thank for that. ••


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