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HIS WORDS OF CONFIDENCE LIVE ON
Although we are unable to illustrate the dynamic personalities of all our BFS All-American candidates, the following story written by one of our Second-Team Selections should give you an idea of what<
By Tom Collelouri, BFS 2nd Team All-American
Published: Summer 2000
His spirit lives on. I still hear his words of confidence every day of my life. Though he passed away almost three years ago, I can still feel his presence.
Ever since I was in the seventh grade I had been told that I was too small to play football. I never really had much size as a child, but my love for the game was great. I can still remember my first scrimmage in the fourth grade. I was playing Strong Safety against the Giants. I remember dropping back and seeing the ball go up. I reached out, caught the ball and returned the interception for forty yards before being knocked out of bounds. I wasn’t sure what I had done, but I knew it was good because by team came over to congratulate me and then they escorted me back to the huddle. That’s when I knew I wanted to play college football.
Just a few years later, I wasn’t even being allowed to play middle school football. My coaches kept me off the field. They would criticize me in front of the team by saying things like, “You’re too small to play football. “Collelouri has the best arm on the team, too bad he’s not 6-2.” Or, “Hey, Tommy, I’m going to buy you some growing pills to take during the off season.” I remember going home every day and crying in my room. It felt like someone was taking away from me what I loved most, football. That’s when my Grandpa Mario would call. He called every day to see how practice had gone.
Whenever my Dad told me Grandpa was on the phone, I would wipe my tears away and try to stop myself from hyperventilating because I thought it was unmanly to cry and I didn’t want to disappoint him. Then I would put the phone to my ear and hear Grandpa say, “Hey Butch! How was your day, Buddy?”
Grandpa would always reply by saying, “Don’t worry about it, Tom. You and I both know that it’s his loss. You’re a good, strong football player. Just keep plugging away at the weights. If he keeps you off the field because of your lack in size, then he’s a jerk!” No matter how upset Grandpa ever got, he would never let his grandchildren hear him curse. But it was his words, day after day that kept me going.
Grandpa Mario’s words of confidence are what kept me going all these years and got me to where I am today. I remember wanting to quit football in the eighth grade because I was sick of fighting and doing everything within my power for a starting position with nothing to show for my year-round hard work and efforts. It had sucked all of my love for football out of me. When Grandpa Mario found out about this he called and said, “Hang in there Tommy boy. Don’t let him get the best of you.” I always looked up to my Grandpa and I did not want to let him down.
So here I am today, four years later. I am now a senior at Plainview Old-Bethpage JFK High School. I’m 5’11”, 205 pounds and the captain of the varsity football, lacrosse, and weight lifting teams. I was voted best athlete in the school by my classmates. I received All-Conference honors in football, was invited to play in the “Long Island Exceptional Senior Game” on Thanksgiving Day and was nominated for the BFS High School All-American Team. I owe it all to my Grandpa Mario.
If it were not for my Grandpa Mario keeping me in the sport and reminding me of my love for football, I know not where I would be today. He not only taught me how to overcome adversity on the field, but in the classroom as well.
I always struggled with my grades growing up but my friends and family did not know why. Finally, when I was in the tenth grade, I was tested by my school and they found that I have a reading disability. Now, knowing what the problem is, I have been able to use the services of my resource room which has helped me learn ways to work around this disability. I may have to work harder than most other students to get the grades I want, but I am willing to do whatever it takes because it’s what Grandpa Mario would have wanted.
So, if Grandpa Mario is listening to me right now, I would like to say two simple words. Thank you!
Had it not been for my father’s influence, Tommy might have given up the game. With the help of his grandfather and his own character, Tom refused to quit the game he loved. From 1991 until the 1996 season prior to his death, Tom’s Grandpa never missed a game unless he was in the hospital.
Coach Mark Collelouri
Tom’s coach and father
Note from BFS President, Greg Shepard: Mario was a chief sponsor at two clinics I did at their school. Mario would do anything to help kids and athletes in the community. He gave freely of his time, money and talents. Mario helped others play their song.
Tom plays with “4 Mario” taped to his thigh pads as a memorial to his late grandfather.