VICTOR STAFFIERI, YALE’S 100TH CAPTAIN OF 1976
Every high school football coach has players that are remembered as if their time together was but moments ago. The passage of time does little to dull the memory of that individual’s achievements, personality, or contribution to the school community. In some cases, the player that is so vividly recalled had unusual talent, eventually attained a specific vocational position, or had one or two significant events connected to their life that a coach or teacher would never forget them. In the case of Victor Staffieri, his achievements as a true student-athlete made him a once in a lifetime privilege to coach and mentor. I taught and he was in attendance during a time of racial unrest and race riots in the school, violent incidents that required weeks of police intervention. Victor provided stability and a calming influence to the student body that reflected maturity far beyond his chronological age. With an opportunity to receive football scholarships from the “notables” in our area like Pitt, Syracuse, and Penn State, he understood the importance of getting the very best education possible and instead chose to attend Yale University.
Putting education first and seeking to benefit his entire working class family, Victor proved that he could have played college football at the highest of levels and was All Ivy League when the Ivies were still turning out players of the highest caliber and All American status. Calvin Hill, Dick Juaron, Gary Fencik, and John Pagliaro were probably the best of the Yale names but Ed Marinaro of Cornell, Murry Bowden and Reggie Williams later of the Bengals from Dartmouth, and Dan Jiggets and Pat McInally of Harvard were all NFL standouts or members of the College Football Hall Of Fame. Victor was Captain of the Yale frosh team, and later and more importantly, the Captain of Yale’s 1976, 100th Anniversary Football squad. He had an excellent career on Head Coach Carm Cozza’s Ivy League Championship team of ’74, the 7-2 team of ’75, and the 8-1 Ivy champion 1976 contingent that he led. The highly respected Cozza described Victor as “the best captain I’ve had” and his leadership, emotion, and intelligence made him one of Yale’s most memorable stars and a member of the second team on the Ivy League Silver Anniversary All Star Football Team named in 1981.
I was able to be “proud from afar” at Victor’s professional accomplishments as an attorney and entrepreneur, first with the Long Island Lighting Company and presently in his position as Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, and President of Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities. He and his wife and former Malverne High School sweetheart Kim have been active in numerous charitable and community based activities and organizations in the Louisville area, and by any standard, Victor Staffieri has been a success story that continues to motivate the young people in our area who receive a daily reminder from his photo on the Malverne High School Wall Of Fame and from the lectures given on the street by members of The Lakeview Youth Federation.
As a gift, I presented Victor with an authentic reproduction of his Yale helmet and NJOP facemask. The Yale helmet returned to the Cozza era identifying “Y” without the white and blue outline in 2012, to a positive response from their alumni and fans.
Coincidentally, and wonderfully, Victor had kept his 1976 Yale helmet in game worn condition, and sent photos of the two juxtaposed with each other. As he wrote, “Thanks for the football helmet. It certainly reminded me of old times and it protected me pretty well (I think)! It was very generous of you. Coincidentally, I have kept my old Yale helmet from more than 35 years ago. The attached pictures show the two helmets in almost a before and after presentation. I thought you might find the contrast interesting.
The HELMET HUT staff indeed enjoyed the “before and after” look of this great 1976 Yale helmet. That Victor actually had his college helmet, in battle scarred condition in his possession, made this helmet even more meaningful.