Moments before John F. Kennedy High School Bellmore took the field for its homecoming football game against Sewanhaka Friday night, the Cougars received a motivational locker room talk from two impassioned former players who are looking to form a strong alumni connection with current teammates.
Joseph Alagna and Paul Auersperg, who graduated from JFK Bellmore in 1982, recalled their memories of taking on the Sewanhaka Indians and facing future NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
The two former teammates and friends worked together this year in establishing the Kennedy Football Alumni Club, which aims to help current students with equipment funding and college scholarships. The organization will also provide guidance to current players, which Alagna said is crucial after he saw some of his teammates get in trouble following their playing days.
“Some of the guys I played football with, after we graduated -- me included -- didn’t have a great support team at home so they became real high-risk kids,” said club chairman Alagna, who cheered on his alma mater in the stands during a 30-16 win. “I’m trying to catch those kids that are going to be caught in transition.”
Alagna, a Sands Point resident and chief executive of Wall Street brokerage firm Joseph Gunnar & Co., said he has connected with numerous past Kennedy football players in various careers who are willing to offer networking support to their fellow alumni. Aglana, 52, said the enthusiasm expressed by his former teammates and other generations of Kennedy football alumni has been moving.
“A lot of ex-football players that are lawyers and doctors have contacted me and told me they will talk to any kid who wants to come into the field,” Alagna said. “It’s building momentum.”
Auersperg, an Oyster Bay resident and CEO of Fortune Footwear, said he was not “the greatest student” at Kennedy, but football helped instill the discipline, dedication and team concept that is so important for succeeding in life.
“You just don’t do it alone,” Auersperg told the players when talking about the football lessons that translated to business. “It’s the only sport where you can’t just do it alone.”
While addressing the current players with Alagna, Auersperg sensed an enthusiasm from them to hear from people who were once in their shoes.
“It is invaluable to hear from past players that can talk about how they took their experience on the field and off the field, just being part of a unit and how you take that into real life,” he said. “It’s critical because everyone needs some sort of mentor.”