Sports Scrapbook – Week of Jan. 11, 2013

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Bordonaro, Coia leave a shining legacy in Brigantine

This past week, Brigantine lost two outstanding and exceptional men of character who have contributed so much to the youth of our community. This column is dedicated to their memories and as an inspiration to all who are involved in youth sports.

Tom Bordonaro coached Rams football for 23 years, Brigantine Little League for 12 years, CYO basketball for five years, and was a founding father of the Brigantine Hockey League and a coach for 12 years. Today, kids, coaches, and parents enjoy hockey facilities that were originally built by Tom and other dedicated men of his era. His light continues to shine brightly each night and Saturday morning on the courts on another new generation of hockey enthusiasts.

My association with Tom dates back decades to the time when he was a 13-year-old kid playing in the Atlantic City Kiwanis Baseball League at Sovereign Avenue in Atlantic City. I watched Tom develop into a fine baseball player and leader. Years later, after we both moved from Atlantic City to Brigantine, we played softball together on Gormleys in the Atlantic City Softball League at Pop Lloyd Stadium. I remember Tom as a speedy center fielder who could really track down any balls hit in his area. Tom enjoyed playing against his lifelong friends Sammy Rando, Marty Cortelessa and Joey Giacomo. We have often reminisced about these great times and had many laughs.

Tom, Sammy Rando, and Paul LaVigna were inseparable buddies who did everything together, including going to school, joining the Navy, moving to Brigantine on the same block, and coaching the Rams together. During this time I enjoyed officiating at the Rams football games. I remember Tom as a totally dedicated coach, but more important than football was his ability to prepare kids for life.

Tom was a fanatical follower of Notre Dame football, as were most of his friends. They grew up in an era when Notre Dame was the nation’s football team. You can bet that Tom and Sammy were watching Monday night’s championship game together with the best seats in the house.

The only things Tom loved more than Notre Dame were God; his wife, Terry; his children and grandchildren (although when Notre Dame was playing, I’ll bet Terry had her doubts who came first).

Tom’s love and impact on so many people was evidenced at his funeral, where friends waited in line an hour and a half to offer condolences to the family. Prior to his death, his many friends came together to restore Tom’s house that had been so badly damaged by Sandy. They made sure that Tom was able to spend Christmas Day in his home surrounded by his loving family.

Tom’s legacy to Brigantine is his wonderful family who will continue to touch others in their communities.

On Jan. 2, another coach of the Rams and NFL legend Angelo Coia passed away. Angelo was a star running back at Northeast High in Philadelphia, where he earned All American Honors. Al Davis (Oakland Raiders) recruited Angelo for the Citadel, where Al was coaching. When Al moved to USC he took Angelo with him. As Al Davis promised Angelo when he recruited the Northeast star, Angelo would become an NFL star.

Angelo had blazing speed. In 1960 he participated in the Rome Olympic trials in the 100 and 200 meters, where he reached the finals. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1960, and was a member of the 1963 champions, the equivalent of the Super Bowl champs today. Angelo humbly wore this championship ring while coaching the Rams.

Angelo was the speediest player in the NFL, playing for the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons before a knee injury eventually shortened his career.

Following his football career, Angelo was badly injured in a car accident. His old coach and father figure Al Davis became aware of Angelo’s plight and offered him a scouting job for the Raiders in 1984. Angelo became a confidant to Al Davis and lifelong friend until Davis’s death a few years ago.

While still scouting for the Oakland Raiders, Angelo’s passion for football led him to the Rams. As the Junior Varsity head coach, Angelo teamed with my son Paul and son-in-law Jason to coach the Rams JVs from 2009-2012. He had previously coached the Liberty Bell youth football team from 1974-1984, winning four championships. There may have been no championship teams in Brigantine, but Angelo treated every kid as a champion.

Angelo and his loving wife, Connie, quickly became a part of the Klemm-Marrandino family, sharing many holidays together. At family dinners we were enthralled with Angelo’s stories about the NFL and deeply valued his and Connie’s friendship.

Angelo was a compassionate and giving person and cared deeply about everyone and everything that touched his life. He was an inspiration of strength who found joy in the smallest ways. He taught others to look within themselves and discover a capacity to give to others with no expectation of anything in return. How fortunate we have been in Brigantine to have such a man of the character and stature as Angelo Coia coaching our children.

The stars of Angelo and Tom will shine forever on Brigantine. I feel very blessed to have been touched by these shining stars.

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