Jan 15 2020

Christopher Daleo: Suffolk County’s Top High School Football Player

The best way to describe the first few days of 2020 is to use a football term – the new year began with a fantastic “super bowl” event.

I was invited to become involved with the Suffolk County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. The chapter has been celebrating local high school and college players for many years. Now named in my honor, the chapter invited me to speak with the students, their families and their coaches, and to present its prestigious Top Scholar Athlete Award for 2019.

Though I am more known for my career as a lacrosse player and as a supporter of Long Island youth and college lacrosse programs, I did play football and set a few records at Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills during the 1970s. For the last several years for the National Football Foundation, I have sponsored the Mr. Football New York City Player of the Year Award presented by the New York City Chapter.

At the Suffolk chapter awards program on January 5, more than 50 high school and several college scholar athletes were celebrated for their outstanding achievements in the classroom, on the gridiron and in their communities. The Top Scholar Athlete Award, which also has been named in my honor, was presented to Christopher Daleo of Westhampton Beach High School. Here is a summary of Christopher’s incredible high school achievements.

Academics:

  • Carries a 96 unweighted average and scored 1360 on the SAT and 34 on the ACT.
  • Enrolled in 10 Advanced Placement courses during high school. Recipient of the AP Capstone Diploma. Received designation of AP Scholar with Distinction.
  • Member of the National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, World Language Honor Society and Math Honor Society.
  • Recipient of the Journalism Award presented to the top journalism student in the school district.
  • Elected senior class president.

Football:

  • First Team All-Division, First Team All-County.
  • Team captain.
  • Two-way starter. Two-year varsity record, including playoffs, was 18-3.

Community:

  • Founder, Church Youth Leadership Ministry, expanding the group to more than 30 students.
  • Volunteer for the “Adopt-A-Family” program that provides local families with a helping hand.
  • Contributes his time to the Westhampton Beach Oyster Festival and the Westhampton Beach Talent Show.
  • A peer tutor for younger students.

Wow!

Christopher is going places in school, in sports and in life. I am glad that we met, and I wish him all the best!

Dec 17 2019

He Gave His All On The Football Field And On Battlefields

Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., was known as “Jock” to his friends. A natural athlete from Covington, Virginia, he earned the nickname “Jocko the Monkey” after a popular children’s character of the early 1900s.

Jock graduated from Greenbrier Military School in West Virginia and he received the school’s single appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was a star football player at West Point, leading Army to victory against the University of Norte Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy during the 1935 season.

Everything changed for Jock, and for everyone in the country, on December 7, 1941. By 1944, he was fighting in the Philippines. During the battle for the Ormoc Corridor, Jock’s battalion received a flanking mission to cut off the lead Japanese elements from its rear echelon. With only the ammunition and food that they could carry on their backs, his battalion infiltrated the enemy lines and climbed 900 feet to the crest of Kilay Ridge. They dug in for a long stay.

For three weeks, in torrential rain, Jock’s battalion repulsed daily attacks. Rifles became caked with mud. The weapons were more useful as clubs. Many hand-to-hand engagements resulted, and Jock’s men beat the Japanese with entrenching tools, bayonets and the butts of their rifles.

Food and ammo became scarce. Supplies from air drops often fell outside their perimeter and into enemy hands. Near the end of the battle, Jock received a radio message from the commanding general of the 32nd Infantry Division: “You are the talk of the island, and perhaps the United States. Oh, and Jock, Army beat Notre Dame 56 to 0, the worst defeat on record.”

When the battalion was relived, fresh troops who moved into the muddy foxholes of the ridge were shocked to see 1,000 dead Japanese soldiers. The successful mission earned Jock the rank of colonel and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Colonel Thomas E. Clifford, Jr., exuded the qualities of an effective and beloved leader. He commanded from the front and never asked his men to do anything that he was not willing to complete himself. Just days before the end of the campaign during 1945, Jock dashed into a barrage to rescue a wounded man. He was killed by a mortar shell.

The message announcing Jock’s death was distributed to the entire division. The words summed up Jock’s character: “No finer soldier ever wore the uniform of our army. No braver commander ever led his unit in battle. He was not only a skillful and gifted soldier, but the kind of military man we would all like to be.”

Oct 01 2019

Where Young Patients Can “Just Be Kids Again”

Tim Tebow made a splash on the college football field but he has not enjoyed the same success on the professional football and baseball levels. His good and open heart continues to beat strong, however, and this includes his work with ill children.

Earlier this year, the Tim Tebow Foundation opened its 10th Timmy’s Playroom. This new playroom is located at AdventHealth Daytona Beach, a children’s hospital in Florida. The space allows kids to escape from their medical conditions and enjoy life. Tim gives children in hospitals a chance to “just be kids again.”

“Hopefully, it can bring a brighter day for so many in their darkest hour of need,” Tim said in a video posted by AdventHealth. “That is our goal, to encourage and uplift people, especially when they’re going through such a tough time…”

The playrooms include a football field floor, specialized lockers for seating, tables for arts and crafts, flat-screen televisions, video games, toys, interactive games and other activities. The playrooms also display Tim’s favorite Bible verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The foundation’s mission delivers faith, hope and love to pediatric patients and their families. The playrooms are “creating a space where children can heal in a very unique way,” according to the foundation. Timmy’s Playrooms can be found at other hospitals in Florida and at hospitals in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and the Philippines.

Each playroom has been recorded as a huge touchdown in all the scorebooks. Tim Tebow certainly is a star off the field!

Jul 15 2019

Harry Carson — Superstar Who Prefers To Make A Difference

Harry Carson is a Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants. He also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet, Harry always states that his greatest accomplishments come from his off-the-field activities.

Harry recently received the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award that recognized his many contributions beyond football. The award is presented by New York’s CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Club.

“You may not know it now,” Harry told the audience, “but five, 10, 20 years from now, many of these young people currently in the CYO programs will thank you for making a difference in their lives. I’ve been a world champion and have accomplished a lot, but to me there is nothing better than making a difference in the lives of others. That is really the greatest award.”

The recognition was presented by John K. Mara, co-owner of the Giants, in memory of his uncle. Harry played 13 seasons for the family-run Giants and he was selected to nine Pro Bowls. During the presentation, John said that Harry embodies all the qualities of a sportsman and a leader.

Harry has donated his time to many charities, including United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity. He founded Minority Athletes Networking with former Giants teammates George Martin and the late Ron Johnson. Members of the organization serve as positive role models for young people.

As he accepted the award, Harry credited the Giants for providing him with a unique platform that allowed him to connect with people of all ages and all backgrounds. Harry added that he is proud to represent an organization that always encouraged him to pursue his personal goal of making a difference in the lives of so many people.

May 16 2019

Mr. Football NYC Is….Adisa Isaac!

Adisa Isaac played for Canarsie High School in Brooklyn. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Coach Brian Ellis’ defensive end was ranked the top college prospect in New York State and the 66th overall prospect in the country. Isaac completed his high school career with 198 total tackles, 38 sacks, eight forced fumbles, two safeties and one interception.

The Whitmore Group sponsors the Mr. Football New York City Player of the Year Award offered by the New York City Chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. I was honored to present this year’s award to a fine young man. Isaac is more than just a football all-star. He finished high school with very good grades and he has accepted a full athletic scholarship to play for Penn State University. He is going places on and off the field.

Along with Adisa, 11 other outstanding New York City high school football players were honored at the seventh annual “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Dinner hosted by the foundation. The event is managed by Marc T. Hudak, who is chairman of the local NFF chapter and a partner and member of Whitmore’s management committee. The awards recognize the players for their performance on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in their communities. The award criteria is 40 percent based on GPA and academic achievement, 40 percent based on football ability and achievement, and 20 percent based on leadership, school and community involvement.

I extend my congratulations to each of the “Elite Eleven” 2018 scholar-athletes:

The Bronx

  • Antonio Corrado (committed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) – St. Michael High School, Coach Mario Valentini
  • Jalien Nias (college commitment pending) – DeWitt Clinton High School, Coach John Applebee

Brooklyn

  • Tyrik Bethea (committed to Delaware State University) – Lincoln High School, Coach Shawn O’Connor
  • Jason Blisset (committed to University of Miami) – Poly Prep Country Day School, Coach Kevin Fountaine
  • Sean Hart (college commitment pending) – Fort Hamilton High School, Coach Daniel Perez
  • Tariq Hollingsworth (college commitment pending) – Franklin K. Lane High School, Coach Jason Mollison

Queens

  • Efrain LeBron III (committed to Utica College) – Jamaica High School, Coach Calvin Whitfield

Staten Island

  • Alex Bashaba (committed to Lafayette College) –Staten Island Technical High School, Coach Anthony Ciadella
  • Thomas Bossert (committed to College of Staten Island) – St. Peter’s High School, Coach George Mahoney
  • Kolubah Pewee (committed to United States Military Academy at West Point) – Tottenville High School, Coach Brian Neville
  • Michael Regan (committed to United States Merchant Marine Academy) – Monsignor Farrell High School, Coach Anthony Garolfalo

Feb 02 2019

Football Player Of Year Is A Lacrosse Kid

As the football season neared its conclusion, a pep talk was delivered to Bryce Ford and his teammates. For the seniors, this was their last chance to create something special, something memorable.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the Section 1 Class A championship game, Bryce was presented with his moment for John Jay-Cross River High School. The team led Rye High School by only a touchdown. Bryce then sprawled for an interception near midfield. He later learned that this play separated his throwing shoulder. That was critical, because he also was the team’s quarterback.

When an official checked on him, Bryce said he was just enjoying the turf as he caught his breath. He finished the game and logged more than 60 touches in the 21-14 win. He secured the first Section 1 championship for the school with an interception at the goal line on the game’s next-to-last play.

It was the signature moment during a record-setting season for Bryce, who is a three-sport athlete. Though the school lost the next game to the eventual state champ, Bryce did throw his only pass of that game with his other arm. The shoulder did heal in time so he could begin his senior basketball season.

Bryce is the first-ever Player of the Year selected by Section 1’s coaches. His credentials included rewriting the John Jay school record book by shattering single-game, single-season and career marks. Bryce broke or tied school records for single-game passing yards and touchdowns, single-season completions, passing yards and touchdowns, single-game rushing attempts and touchdowns, and single-season rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns. With all this comes a new Section 1 record for total yards of offense—for passing, rushing and receiving combined.

Even after such a successful season, football takes a back seat to lacrosse. Bryce said he threw on the pads every fall and gave his best effort, but that lacrosse is his passion. He plans to stick with lacrosse. He is a middie and committed to Fairfield University.

Jan 02 2019

Fighting Irish Help Bronx Residents For The Holidays

A few weeks ago, Notre Dame football played in the Shamrock Series against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. It was a time for the Fighting Irish to shine on the field but also an opportunity to be of service to the community.

About 100 alumni and friends participated in the alumni association’s project at a Manhattan hotel, packing more than 400 Thanksgiving meal boxes for families and wrapping more than 100 gifts for children supported by Part of the Solution (POTS), a multiservice agency for the poor in The Bronx.

Besides football, Notre Dame always supports a community it visits. Since the game was in The Bronx, the alumni identified POTS as an organization to support. POTS is a one-step shop, offering services for people moving from crises to stability to self-sufficiency.

Each meal box was packed with potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, apples, corn, green beans, cranberries and a store voucher for a turkey. Whenever Notre Dame plays in a special event or bowl game, it supports the local community. Service is a large component of the university culture. In this instance, the football games is the centerpiece of the school’s visit to New York City but the community support is the crowning jewel of what Notre Dame is all about.

The New York alumni group includes The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Westchester and Rockland counties. The alumni reflect on their time at the university and reflect the values of giving back to the community that they learned during those days.

Notre Dame did win the football game, but that takes a backseat to the smiles they brought to needy families during the holidays.

Aug 17 2018

With Vision, Football Is Just His Latest Triumph

Jake Olson was born with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer of the retina. It destroyed his sight. It took his left eye at 10 months. At age 12, he lost sight in his right eye.

While he slowly lost his sight, Jake realized that his battle actually had “vision.” Jake had a choice. The cancer could have changed him, or he could attack life and live it on his terms. He chose the latter.

Jake became a scratch golfer. He traveled the country as a motivational speaker, delivering his first speech to Wells Fargo employees when he was 12 years old. Jake then opened a business with his college roommate, receiving special NCAA dispensation that allowed him to make money as a motivational speaker and also play college football.

Yes! That’s right! Jake played college football.

At an early age, Jack learned to confront adversity and fight. He always explains that a person must seize control and not allow life to dictate the terms. It becomes second nature. The bonus clause is that this outlook is therapeutic for Jack and for those who are close to him and the many others who hear his story.

So, do you really think snapping a football during a college game was difficult for Jake?

He began long-snapping while playing high school football in Los Angeles. His accomplishment at USC last season, when he became the first blind long snapper in college football history, captured the world through social media.

According to close acquaintances, Jake “sees” things differently than most people. For him, there is “vision” in blindness.

Jim


Jun 02 2018

Congratulations To NYC’s 2017 High School Football Standouts

The New York City high school football player of the year is….Matt Valecce!

Matt played for Fordham Preparatory High School in The Bronx. At six-feet, five-inches and 205 pounds, Fordham’s quarterback led New York State in passing this past season, collecting 3,333 yards on 226 completions and a 64 percent completion percentage. Matt recorded 41 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. A year earlier, Matt threw for 2,416 yards and 27 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He finished his high school career ranked second all-time in the state for passing yards (10,027) and third all-time in touchdown passes (112).

The Whitmore Group sponsors the New York City Player of the Year Award presented by the local chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. I was honored to present this year’s award to a fine young man. Matt is more than just a football all-star. He finished high school with a 4.28 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) and he accepted a full athletic scholarship to play for Boston College. He is going places on and off the field.

Along with Matt, 10 other outstanding New York City high school football players were honored at the sixth annual “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Dinner hosted by the foundation. Each year, the event is managed by Marc T. Hudak, who is chairman of the local NFF chapter and a partner and member of Whitmore’s management committee. The awards recognize the players for their performance on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in their communities. The award criteria is 40 percent based on GPA and academic achievement, 40 percent based on football ability and achievement, and 20 percent based on leadership, school and community involvement.

I extend my congratulations to each of the “Elite Eleven” 2017 scholar-athletes:

BROOKLYN

Christian Minaya (committed to Southern Connecticut State) – New Utrecht High School, Coach Alan Balkan

QUEENS

Joseph Alvarado (school intentions undecided) – John Adams High School, Coach Seth Zuckerman

Michael Taylor (committed to Villanova University) – Holy Cross High School, Coach Tim Smith

STATEN ISLAND

Quincey Barnes (committed to Western Connecticut State) – Curtis High School, Coach Peter Gambardella

John Buscini (committed to College of Staten Island) – St. Joseph’s by the Sea High School, Coach Michael Corona

Shakim Douglas (committed to U.S. Naval Academy) – St. Peter’s Boys High School, Coach Mark DeCristoforo

Nicolas Macri (committed to Binghamton University) – McKee Staten Island Tech High School, Coach Anthony Ciadella

THE BRONX

Elijah Jones (committed to Boston College) – Cardinal Hayes High School, Coach CJ O’Neil

Danny Sanchez (committed to Stony Brook University) – Lehman Campus High School, Coach Chris DiTullio

Joseph Petti (committed to U.S. Naval Academy) – Fordham Preparatory High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

Matt Valecce (committed to Boston College) – Fordham Preparatory High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

Apr 15 2018

Hall Of Famer Cheers On Vets

Entering a hall of fame is a wonderful achievement and honor. I have had the pleasure on several occasions. The honor—for sports, for business, for community service, or for other achievements—is the acknowledgement from peers that your preparation, your training, your work ethic and your commitment will remain in the spotlight for others to emulate.

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame inducted a new class of athletes, coaches, officials and broadcasters late last year. One of the inductees was recognized for his sports career and also for his commitment to help others.

Paul Natale coached baseball, football and soccer at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose. His baseball teams won Section 1 titles during 1976 and 2000 and he recorded 500 wins. His soccer team reached the state final for the 1988 season. The football program’s success peaked during 1999 but lost to the eventual state champion that season. During a 42-year career as a coach and teacher at Hen Hud, Paul achieved a lot on the field. He accomplished a lot more for the many students who passed through his classroom.

Paul has been retired for several years. His sports and teaching assets presently cheer for handicapped veterans and former soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. Paul is a volunteer adaptive physical education coach at several Veterans Affairs hospitals. Coaching veterans in anything from softball to basketball to touch football has allowed Paul the opportunity to take a different view of his life.

Before Paul’s coaching and teaching days, he was a Vietnam War draftee. He served two years but was never in a fight. Paul often recalls his college fraternity brothers who never came home. He believes that his commitment to today’s soldiers is a proper salute to his college friends.

This is a life that others surely will want to emulate.