Al Cappello knows very well the influence a football coach can have on a kid. So much so that not only has he reunited on the sideline with his high school coach, but he is currently impacting young lives as well.
As an offensive lineman at Passaic Valley (NJ) High School, Cappello played and learned under Chet Parlavecchio, the former Penn State linebacker, NFL player and assistant coach.
With football as a platform Cappello absorbed the many life lessons his coach dispensed and matured into a responsible young man intent on not only doing well for himself, but those around him.
“I could not have asked for a better coach to have than coach Parlavecchio,” said Cappello, who as a senior at Montclair State University (NJ) in 2002 was the recipient of the Essex County (NJ) Scholar Athlete Award from the National Football Foundation. “He is all about discipline and doing things right, teaching life lessons through the game. One thing that stuck with me is the way he coaches and treats his players, the relationships he builds with his players and the things that he teaches through football. Those things can’t help but stick with you through the rest of your life.”
It is such life lessons that Cappello adheres to. As a physical education instructor, health teacher, track coach and assistant football coach at Passaic Valley he holds several positions of responsibility. Each day working with high schoolers he endeavors to be a positive influence in their lives.
“One thing that has really been critical to me the past couple of years is that I to try to build relationships with players, and the kids in the classroom as well,” said Cappello, who is in his second season coaching the offensive line and interior defensive line under Parlavecchio. “You spend a lot of time coaching kids on the field and off the field while developing relationships and trust between each other with the discipline, hard work and all the things that come with it. It is a very rewarding process to see a kid come in as a freshman, whether it is in the classroom or on the field, to leave as a young adult four years later.”
Cappello, who will be inducted into MSU’s athletic hall of fame on October 20, finds it rather special that he is coaching under the man who coached him.
“It is funny how things come full circle,” said Cappello, who also speaks very highly of Rick Giancola, his coach at MSU. “It is almost 20 years since I first met him. As a person who is now older and as a coach I see the things he does and they are still spot on. To be coaching with him is an honor in itself.”
From Parlavecchio’s standpoint it was a no-brainer to bring his former player on board. After all, even when Cappello was a teen he could see that he stood out in many ways.
“He was one of the best players I ever had,” said Parlavecchio, whose initial tenure as head coach at PVHS was 1994-1998 and is now in his second season of his second stint at the school. “He was tough, hard-nosed and a good leader who gave every ounce of his talent. He went on to have a great college career and he could not be more deserving (that he is going in the MSU Hall of Fame). He was a great kid and it is no surprise he became a coach.”
The kid is now a married 35-year-old father of two little boys. What has not changed is adhering to the values Parlavecchio helped instill, values Cappello passes along every day. Sure it is nice to win, but the canvas is much, much larger than anything that could ever be reflected on a scoreboard.
“It is not about wins and losses, but it is about them doing the things you teach them to do and doing it the right way,” said Cappello. “Whether it is off-the-field attitude or on-the-field technique seeing it all come together is my high, what I get out of it.”