John Fasano tried to be modest about his football career at Port Washington High School in the 1940s. But decades later, the players he coached at Westbury High School knew all about him.
Fasano, who in 1946 won Newsday’s Thorp Award as Nassau’s most outstanding player, died of renal failure July 31 in Toms River, New Jersey, his daughter Felicia said. He was 88.
The Thorp was something of a distant memory to Fasano. “He was always so humble about it,” said John Nitti, who graduated from Westbury in 1976, captained the college team at Yale and played for the Jets from 1981 to 1983. “He said ‘The only reason I won the Thorp was because I picked up a fumble and ran for a touchdown, so they gave me the Thorp.’ ”
That touchdown was the only score against Westbury in what was then called the North Shore League championship. Former Port Washington teammate Louis Zwirlein remembered the play. “He recovered the fumble [off a blocked field goal] and ran it in [65 yards] for the touchdown,” Zwirlein said from Islamorada, Florida. “That made him very visible. He was this big lumbering 200-pound lineman running down the sideline with what was the winning touchdown.”
Fasano once referred to himself to make a point when he thought his high school players weren’t responding, former Westbury player Lenny Anderson said. “He said ‘Let me tell you what tough is. The week before the championship game I broke my arm in the second quarter and I played the whole game.’ ”
Fasano, a lineman, who played at 5-10, 200 pounds, would spend a year at Hofstra and later become a small college All-American at Alfred University. He served in the Army and then returned to Long Island to coach the sport he loved. He spent a year at Port Washington, then assisted at Westbury before becoming head coach from 1975 to 1984.
At Alfred, former teammates remember Fasano being the heaviest man on the line at than 230 pounds. “Today the line averages 290 at Alfred,” said Joe Fasano, John’s cousin, who also attended Port Washington. “He was fantastic, a terror on offense, a very good blocker.”
Before Alfred, Fasano left Hofstra after a year due to appendicitis, his daughter said. He got a job at the Epicure Meat Market in Port Washington. “He was discovered working in a meat market,” former Alfred teammate Bartolo Cosolito said. Fasano told The New York Times in 2000 that a booster of Alfred happened into the market and said to Fasano “You are going to Alfred.”
Fasano had thought about playing semipro ball after the Army, his daughter said, but “[my] mom was like, ‘You’re going to get a job.’ ”
While Fasano did not brag about himself, he was extremely pleased with the success of his children. Felicia is an Emmy Award-nominated casting director in Los Angeles. Fasano’s son, John, was a screenwriter, film producer and director in Hollywood. He died in 2014.
Fasano’s daughter said his high school football career and winning the Thorp were very important in his life. The trophy traveled from his childhood home in Port Washington to Toms River, where he relocated in recent years after the death of his wife, Mary. “We do have the award,” Felicia said. “He was so proud of that.”
Fasano is also survived by another daughter, Fran Davis of Toms River, and two grandchildren. Visiting is Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. at Quinn Hopping Funeral Home in Toms River. Burial is scheduled for Tuesday at Brigadier General Doyle Cemetery in Wrightstown, New Jersey.
With Andy Slawson