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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Jersey Football’s First Family is a dynasty that includes three generations of players

Angry just three plays of the first scrimmage of the season for Bergen Catholic High School’s freshmen squad, Mike Campanile, the offensive coordinator for the team, began to feel impatient.

Campanile, who was 76 at the time, was well-versed in his field. Dominic, his grandson, was the starting quarterback for the team. Another grandson, Michael, was a slot receiver with the New York Jets. On the other side of the field, Dominic’s father, Vito Campanile, was standing with his eldest son, Vito, who was also the varsity head coach.

‘If Dominic gets in the vehicle and complains about being screamed at, I tell him, ‘Listen, I used to have to go home and live with grandpa,'” said Vito, 46. “I used to have to go home and live with grandfather,'” Vito added. “I’m not feeling too sympathetic towards him. “I’ve been watching this movie for quite some time.”

Football is a family affair for the Campaniles of New Jersey, who run a successful football franchise. Mike’s four kids, Vito, Nunzio, Anthony, and Nicky, all of whom are coaches, are involved in the sport at three different levels. Vito, the eldest, is the head coach at Bergen Catholic, which is a national powerhouse in the sport of basketball. Nunzio is responsible for the tight ends of Rutgers University. In his first year as head coach at DePaul Catholic High School, Nicky has had a lot of success. His opinions are heard by everyone thanks to Mike, who makes it a point to attend at least two of their boys’ games each weekend and shares his ideas on everything from play calling to squad composition.

His boys have built their professional lives on the concepts of risk-taking and relationship-building that their father taught them. Coaching on each other’s teams as well as against one another is nothing new for them. During the previous two decades, at least one Campanile has served as a head coach in a New Jersey state championship game on 17 separate occasions. Rutgers (4-5) is fighting for bowl eligibility, while the Dolphins (3-7) are trying to get out of their early season rut.

Originally from the Bronx, Mike Campanile moved to Fair Lawn, New Jersey, when he was 11 years old and trained himself to throw lefty so that he could execute a play that needed him to roll around the left end. He was a tailback and linebacker in high school, dropped out of college, and went on to play quarterback in a men’s tackle league before retiring. Gerard Jordan, a longshoreman and Mike’s teammate in that league, remembered a blow to Mike’s head that ripped open his brow and left him bleeding. Mike was taken to the hospital for sutures and then rushed back to the field to throw two touchdown passes and win by a point.

A Joe Pesci impersonator in his peak, Mike stood 5 feet 7 inches tall and had a similar hairdo and facial characteristics to the actor. He called his cane corso Luca Brasi in honour of Luca Brasi, the enforcer from the film “The Godfather.” He played pool and drew football plays on the backs of pub napkins. As soon as Vito was born in 1974, Mike and his wife, Maura, invested in a pub, which they called Vito’s Father’s Place.

Mike coached Vito as a freshman during his first football season at Paterson Catholic, and he was appointed as the head coach at Paramus Catholic the following year. Despite the fact that other offences of the day stayed grounded, his quarterbacks consistently threw the ball.

By the time Vito was a senior, he had moved to Paramus Catholic from another school before his sophomore year. Father and son had guided the Paladins, who had never before won a state championship, to the 1992 championship game.

Mike predicted in The Record that his squad will defeat “The University of Bergen Catholic” by a margin of 30 points the following week. Bergen Catholic, on the other hand, won 44-34, and Mike’s pregame boasting sparked a midfield brawl between the opposing coaching staffs thereafter. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association assessed him a punishment of $500 for his actions.

Nunzio came up next, the one who was so obedient that his brothers referred to him as Bob Dole, the U.S. senator from Kansas. Nunzio was the youngest of the three sons. Nunzio was knocked unconscious during a scrimmage when he was struck as he prepared to toss the ball. With tears in his eyes, he fled to the sidelines, and the opponent scored on the next possession. The next kickoff brought Nunzio back into the game, and he has been thinking about the hit as he instructs players on how to be safe in a brutal game.

The Campanile sons continued to pursue coaching careers of their own. At the University of New Hampshire, Vito worked as a graduate assistant under offensive coordinator Chip Kelly’s supervision. Nunzio, who had pondered going to law school, joined the staff of Don Bosco Prep, where he worked with coach Greg Toal, one of the few coaches in the region with whom Mike got along. Nunzio was the offensive coordinator for teams that advanced to nine state championship games, winning six of them, from 2000 to 2009, while also generating NFL players like as tailback Ryan Grant.

Earlier in the week, Mike’s squad had suffered its first loss in three years when they were defeated by the same opponent. He bounced back, calling a handful of his best plays, including a reverse screen, to build a 36-0 advantage before halftime. He finished the game with a 36-0 lead. Mike has recently modified his stance on whether or not he would retire, stating just that he is on a year-to-year basis.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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