Whether it was with the Gloversville Huskies, Holy Cross Crusaders or Helsinki Roosters, Tom Ciaccio proved himself a leader and a champion.
On Aug. 7, Ciaccio will be honored as a member of the inaugural induction class of the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame.
"To be honest, I think it is quite an honor, especially since this is the first class to be inducted into this Hall of Fame," Ciaccio said. "To hear your name mentioned with the likes of Ernie Stautner and Jim 'Hacksaw' Duggan and people like that it is a tremendous and humbling honor. I think that having a hall of fame for Section II Football is something they needed to have. It honors the people who worked hard and the coaches who worked hard throughout their career to get where they are. "
The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis
Gloversville head football coach Tom Ciaccio talks with his team during a timeout in the Section II Class A semifinal game against Troy on?Oct. 31, 2009.
The committee selected 20 players, including Ciaccio and Amsterdam's Justice Smith, five coaches and four officials to the inaugural class along with honoring University at Albany coach Bob Ford for service to football.
"It is just one of those things where you just go out and do your thing and I was fortunate enough to play with some great players on our high school football team," Ciaccio said. "It was an outstanding team and coach [Bob] Gould did an outstanding job with us. It is one of those things where timing is everything. I was in school when we had Mike Degnan at running back and Matt Shell at wide receiver and great defensive and offensive lines. You don't make these halls of fame and do those kinds of things in football unless you have a great supporting cast around you. I was very fortunate to have that throughout my whole high school career. It is just an honor for all the guys I played with."
Ciaccio quarterbacked the Huskies from 1985-87, throwing for 5,454 yards (fourth in Section II), including a 2,382 yard passing season in 1987 (third in Section II). In 1987 he completed 14 of 22 attempts against South Glens Falls for 338 yards and finished the year completing 176 of 264 attempts. In 1987, the Huskies won the Foothills Council and the Section II Class B championship.
His success continued at Holy Cross where the Crusaders went 30-2-1, posting an 11-0 record in 1991 and were undefeated in Patriot League play over three seasons with Ciaccio taking the snaps. The losses came at the hands of Army, while the tie was against Massachusetts. The Crusaders posted a school-record 20 game unbeaten streak from Sept. 22, 1990 to Nov. 23, 1991.
Ciaccio holds the team record for single game passing yardage (449), career pass efficiency rating (142.2) and career touchdown passes (72). His is third all-time on career passing yardage with 8,603 yards.
Ciaccio was a first team All-American in 1991 Patriot League Offensive Player in the Year in 1990 and Patriot League and Kodak All American ECAC Player of the Year in 1991 as well as a three time All-Patriot League first team selection.
Ciaccio was elected to the 15th Anniversary Patriot League team and to the Holy Cross Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
"Again, it was the timing," Ciaccio said. "In the time I was there, we were 30-2-1 and it made playing football a lot of fun. It is a lot easier to work hard and prepare when you know you are going to have success. I can't describe how it feels to be part of a program that has such a strong tradition and to be part of that tradition. Those two experiences themselves, in high school and college, are special. For those who have never been a part of it, it is a life-changing event. It changes your outlook on life. It changes your confidence and they way you make things happen in your life. It changes everything about the way you approach things. Again, having those opportunities I was very fortunate and very blessed to have those things happen to me."
After graduation, Ciaccio spent a season as a member of the SMU coaching staff, but felt the urge to get back in the action on the football field.
"I felt like I still had the stuff left in me to play and it was tough to give up the game of football," he said. "I looked into some things and I happened to pick up a team in Helsinki. We had a pretty good season and were 8-2. It was a good experience for me and it got me in front of some scouts from the NFL. That was a springboard for me to get a tryout and sign with the Arizona Cardinals in 1994 as a free agent. That was kind of a springboard to have a shot at getting into the NFL. I was there for a little while then they signed Jim McMahon as another quarterback and somebody had to go and that person was me."
Ciaccio returned to Gloversville and remained involved with football at the high school level as an assistant coach for the Huskies and at Broadalbin-Perth before being named to succeed Gould at head football coach at Gloversville in 2004. He stepped aside as head coach after the 2009 season for professional obligations.
"It was a great experience. I can't complain," he said. "I got to do some things that few people in the world are able to do and to do it at its highest level in a sport I love to play. I have no regrets and decided at that point that it was time to hang up the cleats and move in a different direction. I always stayed involved in football because of the impact it had on me, I wanted to make sure that other people experienced that as a coach. We have great kids here in Gloversville and in my time as head coach they were very dedicated and committed to the program and all the things we tried to do on and off the field not just between the yard markers."
The induction ceremony will be conducted at 6 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Colonie Elks. Tickets for the event are $40.
"This community was very supportive of me when I was in school and everywhere," Ciaccio said. "When I went to college the running joke was 'How many tickets is Tom going to need this week for all the people coming from Gloversville?' That is a great feeling know that your community was supporting you like that. That is why I chose to come back to this area because of how good and how supportive Gloversville was for me growing up."
Ciaccio's younger brother Chris was a member of the inaugural Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Capital Region Football Hall of Fame
Players - Joe Burke (Bishop Maginn), Butch Byrd (La Salle), Dick Cassiano (Albany), Tom Ciaccio (Gloversville), Joe Cocozzo (Mechanicville), Leroy Collins (Hudson), Dave DeCamilla (Hudson Falls), Jim Duggan (Glens Falls), Chuck Dukes (Colonie), John Dunn (Taconic Hills), Charlie Leigh (Albany), Tim Linehan (Bishop Maginn), Vic Peppers (CBA), Rich Romer (Columbia), Tim Sherwin (Watervliet), Justice Smith (Amsterdam), Ernie Stautner (Vincentian Institute), Adam Terry (Queensbury), Eric Torkelson (Burnt Hills) and Paul Vellano (Bishop Gibbons).
Coaches - Ken Baker (Hoosick Falls, Cambridge), Joe Grasso (Vincentian Institute, Bishop Maginn), Blase Iuliano (Saratoga Springs), Bud Kenyon (Hoosick Falls, Guilderland, Greenwich) and Brent Steuerwald (Shenendehowa).
Officials - Bernie Cronin (Adirondack), Dom Denio (Capital District), Willard Doran (Capital District) and Paul Shaver (Adirondack)
Service to Football - Bob Ford (University at Albany).