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NYT article about Albert DeMatteo (read it here)

Posted Monday, October 17, 2005 by Tony DeMatteo


FOR THE RECORD; Lessons Learned On the Football Field


By MAREK FUCHS (NYT) 773 words
Published: October 9, 2005

TWO years ago, Albert DeMatteo, a slight, thoughtful freshman barely five feet tall and only 125 pounds, was trying out for the Somers Tusker varsity football team. All around him were upperclassmen with builds that ranged from stout to brutish, but it was not the physical challenge that had Albert a touch preoccupied then.
He had a lot to work through: after all, he had a brother who had just graduated, who had been a star receiver despite having a withered arm. On top of that, his father was coach of the football team. Albert, who was wearing No. 15 like a long line of stellar family members before him, took to the field as a DeMatteo, which in these parts is football royalty.
Tony DeMatteo, Albert's father, was the coach at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers for three decades and was so successful that New York State named part of the Cross County Parkway after him. But then in 1999, Mr. DeMatteo moved to Somers High School, where he is also the dean of discipline.
Albert was also stepping into the shoes of his brother Anthony, who had graduated the year before and was an inspiration to all who saw him. With an arm withered just past his elbow since birth, Anthony was one of the most unlikely receivers in county history. But through hard work and mental fortitude, he had turned himself into a team leader and excellent player.
This meant that in those first days of the season two years ago, Albert had to do some adjusting. For instance, he knew his father was soft-spoken and never raised his voice at home.
''I had always been around the Roosevelt team from the time I was 2,'' Albert said in a recent interview, ''so I had heard him go crazy at halftime and yell during practice. I just never heard him yell at me.''
Asked if he ever told his mother how Mr. DeMatteo's field persona differed from his persona at home, Albert said: ''She doesn't need to know. But she knows.''
Albert came along at a time when the stakes and aspirations in high school sports could never be higher. The future seemed as if it would play out in one of two ways: He would follow in his family's footsteps and become a star, or he would burn out or chicken out and turn in another direction altogether.
So how did he do, now that two years have passed?
He has been a backup: a monster back on defense and a right halfback on offense.
And has he embarked on the road to stardom?
''I don't think I'm going to blow anything away,'' he said.
Albert, now a junior, has grown about 8 inches and gained 25 pounds, and he says he has found a great deal of happiness and satisfaction in his sport. He made the varsity team his freshman year (his ''tough guy'' father doesn't have the heart to cut any player who tries out for the team and works through every practice.) Hardly a prodigy, though, Albert spent the entire freshman year suited up but standing on the sidelines during varsity games.
''Basically, I was a glorified water boy,'' he said. Then came his sophomore year when he saw some spot action on special teams for kickoff returns. Once, he retrieved an on-sides kick and ran with the ball. When tackled shortly afterward, he heard the announcer say words that have rung in his head since: ''Returned by DeMatteo.''
''It was exciting,'' Albert said.
He likes football very much, he said, especially the camaraderie that comes with the competition. And all the trappings: from his No. 15 jerseys to the atmosphere of the field on a Friday night, under the lights and in front of a crowd. If all goes well and he has another decent growth spurt, Albert says, he hopes to be a starter next year, his senior season. Then, he said, he would leave football behind for a college near New York City and a career in international business or criminal law.
In which case he will always have his high school athletic career to look back on. It may have been an average one, but one he was quite happy to have had.

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