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.

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