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.

May 16 2017

Congratulations To NYC ‘s High School Football Standouts

The New York City high school football player of the year is….Isaiah Wilson!

Isaiah is from Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. At six-foot-seven, many of us literally look up to him. His shoulders are about as wide.

Isaiah is an offensive tackle. He received the 2016 New York City Player of the Year presented by the New York City Chapter of the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Hall of Fame. My company, The Whitmore Group, sponsored the award, and I had the honor to introduce this fine young man and to present him with the award. He’s a fabulous scholar-athlete, soft-spoken and humble, and he immediately thanked his mother for all he has been able to accomplish during his early years.

Coached by Kevin Fountaine, Isaiah is headed to the University of Georgia to play for the Bulldogs. He was the second ranked prospect nationally in the ESPN Top 300.

Other accolades for Isaiah include the American Family Insurance 2016 USA Today All-USA second team and the 2016 New York State Player of the Year. He also was a first team All New York State selection by the New York State Sports Writers Association during his junior and senior years.

Along with Isaiah, 11 other outstanding New York City high school football players were honored at the 2016 “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Banquet presented by the local chapter of the NFF. The awards acknowledge the top high school football players from the five boroughs, recognizing them 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.

When I introduced Isaiah as New York City’s high school football player of the year, I invited him, along with the 11 other honorees, to visit with me whenever they end their football careers. I am always scouting for new talent, and these athletes represent the young people I want on my business team in the future.

Congratulations to the “Elite Eleven” scholar-athletes:

The Bronx

  • Christian Anderson – Cardinal Hayes High School, Coach C.J. O’Neill
  • Matt Conlon – Fordham Prep High School, Coach Peter Gorynski

Brooklyn

  • Robert Deleon-Kollmer – Poly Prep Country Day, Coach Kevin Fountaine
  • Seba Nekhet – Fort Hamilton High School, Coach Daniel Perez
  • Jerell Gray – New Utrecht High School, Coach Alan Balkan
  • John Hemminger – Brooklyn Tech High School, Coach Kyle McKenna

Staten Island

  • Dominick Anderson – St. Joseph by the Sea High School, Coach Michael Corona
  • Damian Ostaszewski – Curtis High School, Coach Peter Gambardella
  • A.J. Mistler – St. Peter’s Boys High School, Coach Mark DeCristoforo
  • Dustin Rubenstein, McKee Staten Island Technical High School, Coach Anthony Ciadella
  • Adley Raboy – Monsignor Farrell High School, Coach Tony Garolfalo

May 02 2016

Helping Our Students Strive For Success

April was a very rewarding sports month for me.

It began with a ribbon cutting along with the dedication and blessing of the new stadium sports complex at Saint Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. The scoreboard now bears my name, and when you see it your eyes also capture the prestigious name of Saint Anthony’s.

If you are in the area of the intersection of Pigeon Hill, Wolf Hill and Old Country roads, take a moment to see what we have been able to accomplish together for youth athletics. The field will be used for practices by school teams along with day games by both Saint Anthony’s teams and community teams.

I did not attend Saint Anthony’s, but I was raised nearby and frequently played various sports in the parks and fields located in the shadows of the school. I’ve always admired the education and athletic tradition that Saint Anthony’s offered to its students. It is the Notre Dame of high schools on Long Island.

Everything at Saint Anthony’s is based on the desire to be the best – academically, religiously, socially and athletically. They just do things the right way and that’s exactly how I run my company. The school and my philosophy are a perfect match.

Soon after the first game was played on that new field, I had the privilege, through Marc Hudak, to meet 11 all-star high school football players from New York City. Marc is a managing director at my company and he dedicates his personal time to the New York City chapter of the National Football Foundation.

Marc and the chapter provided me with the opportunity to serve as the lead-sponsor for this year’s “Elite Eleven” Scholar-Athlete Award Banquet. Young athletes who also excel in academics at the city’s public and private schools were recognized for their performances on the field, in the classroom and as leaders in the community.

So, as you can see, all we need to do is to provide our young men and women with the resources that will allow them to step up and excel in academics, in sports and in life. With supportive parenting, academic mentoring and motivational coaching, they will accept the challenges, they will learn from the setbacks and, as I see every day at my company, they will become leaders on and off the field.

- Jim

Apr 02 2016

Good Education Leads To Super Bowl Ring

Two days. That’s how long it took for Samson Brown to fully comprehend that he was part of the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. He realized the accomplishment during the celebratory parade.

Samson just completed his first season with the Broncos. As the assistant defensive backs coach, it was his defense that held the NFL’s top scoring offense and league Most Valuable Player Cam Newton to just one touchdown.

The coach, now 36, got his start as a player in The Bronx. He played football all four years at Cardinal Spellman High School. He then led UAlbany, where he was a four-time All-Northeast Conference free safety, to the 2002 conference championship.

When his playing days were done, Samson became a coach. He began as a defensive backs coach at Siena College. He then coached defensive backs and wide receivers for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He spent the 2006 season working with tight ends at Hofstra University before returning to UAlbany for three seasons to coach outside linebackers, tight ends and corners.

The next Xs and Os move for Samson was to the NFL. He interned with the Green Bay Packers. Before joining Denver, he coached a couple of seasons with the New York Jets and a couple more with the Buffalo Bills.

Samson is not just about football. He was an honor student in high school. The importance of academics was instilled in him at an early age by his mother, who is a retired professor. She taught him that education is the first key to success, that it opened doors and provide him with the opportunity to attend a good college.

Since his teenage days, that education foundation has opened many doors for Samson. Besides his football success, he also has married well. His wife is a doctor.

His wife and mom experienced the Super Bowl with Samson. When it was done, mom made sure that everyone knew that her son truly earned everything that he has received on and off the field. He soon will have a Super Bowl ring to show to everyone.

- Jim

Feb 18 2016

Get In There 28 And Give It The Old College Try

An 89-year-old veteran of World War II ran for a touchdown last April during a Kansas University alumni flag football game. About 40 alumni were on the field. While most participants weren’t too far removed from their glory days on the gridiron, it was the Kansas standout from 1946-1948 who stole the show.

Bryan Sperry was a three-year letterman whose career highlights included a clutch bowl game catch. During 1948, he snagged a long pass to set up a KU touchdown in the Orange Bowl. As was common back then, Bryan played on both sides of the ball.

He was clutch at the alumni game, too. He managed to evade tackles after his number — 28 — was called for the last play. He caught the shuffle pass around midfield and then let his guards do their job. The play was slow to unfold but Bryan — and his blockers — could not help but smile as he weaved in and out of players pretending to be crashing and falling into each other. The players were close to Bryan during the entire run and seemed intent on making the run as realistic as possible. When he crossed the end zone, he was embraced by both sides.

More than 60 years ago, Bryan had enrolled at Kansas after serving in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Much time had passed since he ran as far as he did during that alumni game, but he had promised himself not to miss out on the action.

While disappointed that none of his old remaining teammates could attend the game, he did give a wink to a reporter when he said that he enjoyed every moment once he convinced everyone that he still could play.

I love these stories about the members of our greatest generation who continue to maintain the passion and drive to score one more touchdown in life.

- Jim

Jan 03 2016

Clint Retired Young But He Still Hasn’t Quit

For more than a year, reporters have contacted Clint Trickett to talk about football. Specifically, they want to talk with him about football safety and his decision to leave the game.

Clint was the starting quarterback for West Virginia until December 2014. That is when he sustained his fifth concussion during a 14-month period. Today, even with all the news, lawsuits and now a movie about athlete health issues, specifically brain injuries, Clint is not interested in talking about head trauma. He knows the media wants to give the stories, as he stated, “a negative spin.”

Football always has been a huge part of the Trickett family, but playing the game never was required of any of the boys. Their father did demand, however, that the boys finish everything that they started.

The final hit on the field for Clint came before the end of the first half of a game against Kansas State. Fearful that his long-term health would be compromised, Clint decided that he would not pursue the NFL or the Canadian league.

After leaving football as a player, Clint accepted a job as the quarterbacks coach at East Mississippi Community College. He now works with talented student-athletes who play the game that he no longer can play. While disappointed that he can’t be the quarterback on the field, Clint revealed that he will never talk negatively about the game. He said football did so much for him, molding a boy into a fine young man.

Soon after Clint’s role as a player ended, he eagerly pursued a coaching career that he always had seen as his future in the game. In this new role, Clint’s finish line remains somewhere over the horizon.

-Jim


Jun 16 2015

Legacies Easily Can Take A Huge Hit

Tom Brady is a four-time Super Bowl champion. He is a three-time Super Bowl MVP. He is a two-time NFL MVP. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. He also is a liar and a cheat.

That’s what will be written about him and said about him until the end of time. Similar references permanently have attached themselves to Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Alex Rodriguez and others. They all have denied wrongdoing. They all have agents, supporters and fans who back them. None of it will matter.

In our age of the internet, blogs, YouTube, Twitter and more, the liar and cheater tags already are synonymous with their names. The stigma never will be removed.

When I hear about the large number of recent sports scandals, I often think about poor Shoeless Joe Jackson. He stands pretty much alone among athletes involved in any of the older scandals, remaining infamously connected with and the prominent face of baseball’s 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Though the evidence against Jackson is slim at best, his association with the tainted World Series has, for almost 100 years, outweighed his record as an excellent ballplayer.

During his playing days, Jackson only had to deal with the articles about the scandal that appeared in newspapers, and he still found it difficult to restore his reputation during his lifetime. Athletes involved with the dark side of today’s games face daily viral bombardment. They never will clear their names. Their legacies are beyond recovery.

When we were kids, many of us played fantasy games in the backyard. We created our own rules and we changed them at will so we could dream about hitting that World Series home run or scoring the winning goal. That was okay. What isn’t acceptable is “Deflategate,” the use of performance enhancement drugs and the skirting of the rules that has infiltrated some of our youth leagues across the country.

For the rest of us, we easily can find ways to lie and cheat in our jobs and in the companies we manage. If we choose that path, our integrities and our legacies certainly will suffer at some unforeseen time. Whether we are involved with sports or business, we all have choices to make, and I’ll leave you with one piece of advice to ponder—think seriously before you decide upon any course of action and make sure the result will not inflict damage to your reputation and legacy. It is not worth embarrassing yourself, your colleagues and, most important, your family until the end of time.

- Jim

May 02 2015

Together At Hofstra’s HOF

On a wonderful Sunday last month, family, friends and business colleagues shared with me one of the most gratifying recognitions as an athlete, an executive and as a sports benefactor. I was honored to be inducted into the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame.

My inclusion was for my on-field contributions to the Hofstra lacrosse team during 1979 and 1980. The honor also recognized my reconnection with the sport and with the school that I love as an ardent supporter of Hofstra’s education and athletics programs.

But enough about me, as you know who I am and what I have accomplished as an athlete and in business. I want to share with you a few details about several men and women who entered the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with me. This is not so much about their sports accomplishments but about their life accomplishments.

Linda Brymer was a four-year and three-sport—basketball, volleyball, softball—athlete (1974-1978). Linda then joined the Nassau County Police Department and became a physical training and defensive tactic instructor at the academy for more than 3,000 officers. During all this time, athletics continued to be a huge part of her life’s challenges and successes. Now she is pursuing her latest passion of surfing.

Ian “Rocky” Butler played football (1997-2001). He enjoyed a professional career in the Canadian Football League. After leaving pro sports, he returned to Hofstra to earn his master’s degree in physical education. Today, he is a physical education teacher and multi-sport coach at Long Beach.

Robin Kammerer Conversano played field hockey and lacrosse (1989-1993). She attended Weill Cornell Medical College to pursue a physician’s assistant degree. For the last 15 years, Robin has been practicing at an orthopedic surgery office that specializes in sports medicine.

Eric Schmiesing wrestled for Hofstra (1996-2001). Since then, he has been dedicated to fostering, promoting and encouraging the sport. His other passion is the finance industry. After graduation, he became a local crude oil trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Now, he works in private equity.

These four colleagues of mine in the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame, along with the other new inductees and those who played on the two teams (1968 men’s soccer and 1995 women’s volleyball) now enshrined in the hall, invested hard work, commitment and passion into their sports. After graduation, each of them continued to harness these same attributes as they journeyed on various paths to find additional success in their careers and in life.

Linda, Rocky, Robin, Eric and the others all excelled at Hofstra in the classroom and in their chosen sports. They learned from their teachers, coaches and teammates, and they have become fabulous contributors to our society. We have sports and Hofstra in common, and I am proud to enter the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with them.

Jim