Tony Capozzoli garnered attention almost everywhere he went because of his success on Long Island's high school football fields.
And while it was well-deserved, it was the last thing Capozzoli wanted.
Capozzoli set the Long Island high school football record for career passing yards with 5,376 yards and passing touchdowns (68) playing at St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay from 1972 to 1975. He held those marks until 2011, according to Newsday records, when Sayville’s Steven Ferreira passed him in both categories.
In 1975, Capozzoli won the Thorp Award, given to the most outstanding football player in Nassau County. In addition to playing quarterback, he was an outstanding kicker and punter and led St. Dominic to the CHSFL title in a 9-0 season as a senior.
But those closest to Capozzoli say the former football star never wanted to bask in his own achievements.
“Tony was tough out there. He was great to watch and people talk about it to this day,” said Marilyn Capozzoli, Tony’s wife of 36 years. “But he didn’t really like to talk about it. His friends later in life had no idea about his football records or that he won the Thorp Award.”
Capozzoli died on June 23 while shellfishing at Tappen Beach in Sea Cliff, his wife said. He was 64. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death, his wife said.
After high school, Capozzoli went to Penn State, where he converted all 19 of his extra-point attempts and made eight of 12 field goals as a freshman kicker in 1976. Capozzoli completed 10 of 23 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns in parts of two seasons as a quarterback at Penn State.
Capozzoli also won two punt, pass and kick competitions as a youth.
“He was very humble,” said his sister, Donna Roenbeck, of East Patchogue. “If someone started talking about his football days, he would change the subject. He would say, ‘That was then. Life is more important right now.’ "
Born April 10, 1958, at Glen Cove Hospital, Anthony “Tony” Capozzoli spent much of his adult life as a self-employed bayman. He grew up in East Norwich and moved to Oyster Bay with Marilyn in 1995.
Marilyn said she and Capozzoli started dating during their junior years at St. Dominic and were married on May 23, 1986.
“He was just very kind and warm,” said Marilyn, 64. “He was a sweetheart, a big teddy bear. We just had a connection. It just worked. It felt right.”
Besides football, Capozzoli enjoyed music, basketball, horse racing, nature, telling jokes and spending summer vacations in Montauk.
Capozzoli was the fifth of six children and the only son. His father, Tom, was the head football coach at St. Dominic before retiring to watch Capozzoli play at Penn State.
Jim Wright, the former longtime athletic director at Whitman High School, was a senior on the St. Dominic football team in Capozzoli’s freshman season. Wright said Capozzoli immediately commanded the team’s respect.
Wright, who played fullback and was the team’s long snapper, said he remembered Capozzoli making a 50-yard field goal and averaging more than 41 yards per punt as a senior.
Wright joined the St. Dominic coaching staff after graduation.
“I’ve been involved in sports for 45 years,” Wright said. “And there’s maybe a handful of guys you could count on one hand that had those leadership qualities.”
In addition to his wife, Capozzoli is survived by siblings Donna Roenbeck, Debbie Nobile, Dori Diehl, Joanne, and the late Dale Boord; his daughters, Jennifer Capozzoli and Danielle Asher; a grandson, Maxwell Anthony Asher; and a son-in-law, Ben Asher.
Capozzoli would record videos for his grandson and enjoyed taking him out on the boat. Family always remained at the top of his priority list.
“I’m so grateful that I had a man who loved me the way he loved me,” Marilyn said. “People even recently would say, ‘Look at the way he looks at you.’ It was really good and I miss him so much.”