By Jim Whelan
The play was called “Phantom” in the New York Giants’ playbook. Eli Manning chucked a prayer and David Tyree came down with a catch that made the Montclair native a household name during Super Bowl XLII. Orange native Jay Alford sacked Tom Brady to seal the Giants third Super Bowl victory. The Giants got the Lombardi trophy, and a barrage of t-shirts, jerseys, and hats flooded every sports store in the New York metro area.
Some of those jerseys worn during that memorable game and season will help the youth programs in New Jersey. How? They will be sold and the proceeds will benefit the Giants Foundation. Any youth team can apply for grant money from the foundation.
In 1992, the late owner John Tisch started the “Take the Field” campaign which targeted 43 football fields in New Jersey for refurbishment. The campaign accomplished its goal. The “Take the Field” evolved into “Game On” campaign, which is designated to help youth football programs with funding. The money comes from game-worn jerseys that are sold through E-Sports auctions.
“Sometimes we have $40,000 dollars to donate and sometime we have more — it all depends on the sale of the jerseys.” said Allison Stangeby, head of Giants Community Relations. She has been with the foundation since the start.
Two programs that receive funding from the Giant Foundation are two of the nation’s top basketball programs. St. Anthony High School in Jersey City and St. Patrick in Elizabeth were two of five programs that received Giant grants from the foundation. Both basketball powerhouses started football programs in 2007.
St. Patrick was getting small donations in $10 and $20 contributions. “The lion’s share came from the Giants Foundation” said St. Patrick’s head coach Khalid Abdul Wahid. The Celtic football team received $25,000 from the foundation. The money helped the Celtics football program pay for equipment to start the inaugural season.
The St. Anthony Friars football program received money from different avenues. Atlanta Falcons player and former Sullivan player, Lewis Sanders, bought the uniforms and practice gear. Basketball coach Bob Hurley donated $7,000, and the program also received $10,000 from the Giant Foundation. Both football programs were JV last year by NJSIAA standards and are moving up to varsity this year.
Both coaches have been around football fields teaching football or some time. Coach Khalid Abdul Wahid starred at Thomas Jefferson High School (Elizabeth High School). He founded the Elizabeth Flag football league and instrumental in the Elizabeth Pop Warner league.
Looking for a challenge, Abdul Wahid, along with his friend Hassan Abdur-Rahman, approached St. Patrick’s High school about starting a football program. The administration was all for the idea, but with the school’s shoe-string budget all the fundraising relied on the coaches. Abdul Wahid applied to the Giants Foundation and their dream became a reality with the grant money. St. Patrick’s became the only non-public high school team in Union County since St. Mary’s of Elizabeth disbanded their football program in the early fifties.
Coach Bill Sullivan is a retired NYPD officer who served in the city’s mounted division and began teaching on Staten Island. Sullivan came to Jersey City for an administration position and also teaches advanced placement history. He has coaching stops at Monsignor Farrell, St. Peter’s High School, and Moore Catholic. Sullivan is attracted to Catholic schools “because of the structure and security of schools for the kids.”
Sullivan started programs at St. Peter’s and Moore Catholic, both on Staten Island. Most of the kids never played organized football before. “Most of the kids come to St. Anthony’s look to play basketball.” said Sullivan.
With the funds in place, both proven basketball powerhouse schools embarked on their first football season. Abdul Wahid set up camp at Elizabeth’s Brophy Field. “We had about 50 kids inquire about the team and sixty percent of the kids did not play any organized football.” said Abdul Wahid. St. Patrick’s attracted kids from Elizabeth that might play at the Group IV School and also from neighboring towns Hillside and Roselle. With the recent closing of Essex Catholic, the Celtics also received an influx of players from Essex County. During camp, Coach Abdul Wahid called up former Elizabeth standout Richard Wood. Wood starred at Thomas Jefferson, and went onto USC and played ten years in the NFL. Wood helped the kids build a football foundation.
Sullivan conversely, decided to take his team out of Jersey City and traveled down to Brick. “Down there I know that they are all mine and no distractions” said Sullivan. One distraction that his kids encountered which gave a chuckle to the coach, Three of his players finished up a hard day of practice a saw two bucks and one doe in the distance. “They didn’t know if they were going to charge or they were going to run away” replied Sullivan. The three players survived the deer encounter and the camp.
Last year both coaches didn’t know what they had, but they wanted to build something and give some opportunities to kids that might not have one. As far as their progress, “I have to judge the kids and their progress and see how they do this year and hopefully grow to two levels,” replied Sullivan. Abdul Wahid gives himself a window of five years, but is confident in his players and abilities. “We are going to be state champions, I am calling it like Joe Namath, we will be state champs.”
The basketball teams have never scheduled a regular season game. Even though, one of the two basketball teams have been crowned state champs for the past nine years. Both coaches hope that success can be translated to the gridiron.
Any high school student interested in playing for either program can contact St. Patrick Celtics Football Coach Khalid Abdul Wahid at 908-451-2181 and St. Anthony Friars Football Coach Bill Sullivan at 201-653-5143
The Giant Foundation gave these programs the funds it needed to get started. For more information on how your school or organization can receive money from the Giant Foundation, visit www.Giants.com or contact Allison Stangeby- Community Relations Department, Giants Foundation, New York Football Giants, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ 07073 or call 201-939-1673
Jim Whelan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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