It’s been a smooth transition from playing professional football to coaching at the high school level for the man they call Rocky.
Rocco (Rocky) DiPietro, of Lakeshore Catholic, has achieved so much success, in fact, he’s the 2010 winner of the T. Litzen/ McMaster High School Coach of the Year.
The Canadian Football League hall of famer’s latest achievement will be recognized at McMaster University’s 13th annual Football Gala Dinner, Thursday, April 29. The award is intended to recognize outstanding long-term leadership and contribution to the development of high school football in Hamilton-Wentworth and area.
The Ridgeway resident played 13 years as a receiver for the Tiger-Cats. He took part in four Grey Cup games (winning one, in 1986). The Sault Ste. Marie native grabbed a total of 706 passes for 9,762 yards and 45 touchdowns during his brilliant career, earning Schenley Most Outstanding Canadian honours in 1982 and ’89.
“I taught for five years while I played,” said DiPietro, who spent 10 years at Welland Notre Dame coaching junior football teams before shifting over to Port Colborne’s Lakeshore Catholic.
He served as an offensive co- ordinator for the first 10 years with the senior Lakeshore Catholic Gators. For the past two years, he’s been the team’s head coach.
The University of Ottawa graduate has guided the Gators to two consecutive Golden Horseshoe Bowl championship games at Rogers Centre (four overall).
When asked what he enjoys most about coaching high school football, DiPietro said: “It’s probably the kids. A lot of times I’m tired at practice or wiped out from a long day, but as coaches we feed off the energy of the young people.
“We’re lucky here. We have kids who really want to be there and learn. It certainly makes it enjoyable for us.”
Lakeshore Catholic has captured four straight SOSSA football titles.
“I never had a coach who showed more passion for the game,” said McMaster’s Dylan Roesch-Crane, a linebacker who played for DiPietro at Lakeshore Catholic. “It’s apparent in his coaching style that he would do anything to suit up and play with his team. He has used his knowledge of the game to coach many players to the CIS, NCAA and CFL levels.”
In addition to the high school coach of the year, the Gala will honour the Marauders’ Football Team of the Decade (2000-09). A committee of Mac football alumni will choose 30 players deemed the best players at their respective positions.
From 2000-03, Mac won four Yates Cup titles — the most successful period in team history. The maroon and grey teams from 2000-09 featured 35 all- Canadians and 49 OUA first team all-stars. Seventeen have gone on to play in the CFL.
Among those on the selection committee are Mac head coach Stefan Ptaszek, former Mac defensive co-ordinator Joe Sardo, plus ex-Mac head coaches Greg Marshall and Marcello Campanaro.
Mac’s new uniforms will be unveiled at the Gala. In addition, there will be a farewell to Dr. Peter George, the school’s president and vice chancellor since 1995.
For Football Gala ticket information, go to marauders.ca or call 905-525-9140, ext. 24464. The reception and silent auction at the Sport Hall of the David Braley Athletic Centre begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner at 7 p.m.