Rocky finds success on the gridiron sidelines

April 21, 2010  Larry Moko, The Hamilton Spectator

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 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. 905-526-2458

Former Rider Kent Austin to lead Cornell University’s Big Red

Narcisse excited Hall of Fame ceremony is in Saskatchewan

REGINA — Don Narcisse is losing weight, but not sleep, as he prepares to return to his adopted home of Saskatchewan.

“I am really looking forward to the Hall of Fame inductions,” said Narcisse, who is to be enshrined this summer when the Canadian Football Hall of Fame’s ceremonies are held in Saskatchewan for the first time.

“I hurry up to get to sleep so August can get here faster. I wish I could hibernate for four months. I just want to get on that flight.”

Hall of Fame celebrations are to be held Aug. 11 to 14 in Regina and Saskatoon. The sites are ideal for Narcisse, who retired as the Canadian Football League’s all-time leader in receptions after playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1987 to 1999.

The five-foot-nine Narcisse’s playing weight typically hovered between 185 and 187 pounds. He now tips the scales at 192 after shedding more than 40 pounds since November.

“I wasn’t working out and I was just eating everything,” he said. “I’ve got a picture on my refrigerator — a ‘before’ picture. I look at that picture and it’s like, ‘Oh, man . . .’

“I had to lose that weight and I lost it. I’m in good, good shape now —better shape than when I was playing. I can go. I showed up at 24 Hour Fitness at four or five o’clock in the morning every day and I just knocked it off. Now I feel so much better. I can run six miles like it’s nothing.”

Narcisse is being honoured after gaining more than seven miles on receptions on behalf of the Green and White. He caught 919 passes — which now places him fifth all-time — for 12,366 yards, registering at least one reception in each of his 216 regular-season games as a Roughrider. The consecutive-games streak is the longest in CFL history.

Unofficially, Narcisse may hold a league record for most fans’ birthday parties attended by one player. He also interacted with the Roughriders’ faithful at any number of public events — most notably as the inaugural spokesman for SaskEnergy’s “Catch For KidSport” program.

“I’m going to come up there with a lot of stuff to raise money for KidSport,” said Narcisse, a 45-year-old mortgage broker who resides near Houston in Manvel, Texas. “I’m going to auction off a lot of things.

“I’ve got so many memories sitting here, and those things belong in Saskatchewan — things like the gloves I wore when I set the all-time receptions record.

“It’s going to be a great event. Man, I’m just blessed.”

Narcisse was not blessed with an abundance of size and speed. His admission into the Hall is largely attributable to unwavering determination, a fearless approach to catching the football in traffic, and uncannily reliable hands. Does anyone recall him dropping a pass?

He was part of the most exciting aerial attack in Roughriders history while combining with quarterback Kent Austin and slotbacks Ray Elgaard and Jeff Fairholm to terrorize opposing secondaries in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“I remember talking to Ray Elgaard after he was inducted, and they had that ceremony in Hamilton,’’ Narcisse said. “He said, ‘I was talking to a whole bunch of people I don’t know.’ Now in Saskatchewan, I’ll be talking to everybody I know. I’ve got family and friends coming up for it. Team Narcisse is coming through there. It’s going to be very nice.

“This is where I’m from. I’ll do what I have to do in Saskatchewan because this is my last time to get an award, so I’m going to make the best of it. It’s a pleasure to be able to share it with the fans of Saskatchewan. Without the fans, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. We’re going to show people what Rider Pride is all about.”

Narcisse is to be inducted alongside three other ex-players — Tracy Ham, Elfrid Payton and Bob Cameron — and builder Joe Pistilli. Each member of the Class of 2010 is a worthy inductee, but it is reasonable to expect Narcisse to steal the show because of its location.

“I don’t want to take away from the Hall of Fame, but this is like my hometown,’’ he said. “That’s just the way it is.

“Every time I think of playing football in Saskatchewan, I just burst out crying. I’m just so ecstatic to be in this position. I can’t wait.”

Saskatchewan to Host Canadian Football Hall of Fame Weekend

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame will be celebrating its induction weekend in Saskatchewan this season.

A variety of Hall of Fame events will be held on August 11th through until the 14th in both Regina and Saskatoon. The weekend will wrap up with the annual Induction Dinner taking place on Saturday August 14th in Saskatoon.

“It’s a real honour to have the Induction Ceremony coming to Saskatchewan, especially with this being our Centennial year,” stated Roughrider President/CEO Jim Hopson.

Long-time quarterback Tracy Ham and star defender Elfrid Payton headline the list of four players and one builder who have been selected for this year’s class.
Joining Ham and Payton in the Players Category are long-time Saskatchewan receiver Donald Narcisse and veteran Winnipeg punter Bob Cameron. Former Football Canada president Joe Pistilli was chosen for induction in the Builders Category.

This will mark the third time ever that the event will be held outside of Hamilton, which is the home of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Calgary was the host city in 2003, while Winnipeg handled the festivities last season.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum is a non-profit registered charity and currently has 244 Hall of Fame members who have been inducted into their Zone of Champions.