Words Of Confidence Live On

6 years ago

I haven't been to one game yet. Not in a stadium, bar, or friend's apartment. Not at my High School for homecoming or while in a waiting room or diner, where there are 6 flat screens but still no perfect view. I don't have a TV of my own yet (new apartment) and definitely wouldn't look for video online. Football season is ON, yes, but at this point, I remain pretty oblivious to the activity. 

This is not to say I'm not interested. I am. Just busy. Next month, I'm going in!!

For lots of people I know for whom football is a huge passion, Football Season is already in full swing. The newly chilled October air, the crowds, the close calls, the rivalries, the last minute victories, the beer, cheerleaders, touchdown victory dances, tailgate parties and, if you're a player, the thrill of getting on that field in front of all the aforementioned to Bring. It. Home. Football...

Sports in general (to which I can relate) and football in particular are a tremendous way to bond with family and form the kinds of relationships with friends that feel familial. I've recently and very gratefully been in touch with my former middle and high school gym teacher, Coach Mark Collelouri. He was one of my favorite teachers and remains a special, inspirational person in my life. I have very positive memories of playing sports under his eye, training in the weight room with his football and baseball players (he coached both teams), so much enjoying just being one of the guys, and always knowing he was one of my biggest supporters throughout my life both on and off the field. I was close to his father, Mario, and was getting to know his son, Tommy, so much the pride and joy of Coach C's life.

Tommy had a very special relationship with his Grandpa Mario. Back in the Summer of 2000, after Tommy was named a 2nd Team All American in football as selected by Bigger Faster Stronger, a publication in the field of athletics, strength and conditioning, he wrote a piece for the BFS Journal titled inspired by their relationship.

"His Words of Confidence Live On" is a tribute to Mario's role in Tommy's development as an athlete and man. I asked Coach C if I could repost it, since the piece made me realize how important it is to remember and celebrate the wisdom of our elders, but also because of the very specific message, which is, it takes ONE PERSON to believe in somebody 100% and truly change the course of his/her existence. Just ONE PERSON to make an indelible impression and offer those words with just the right amount of faith and encouragement.

As a writer, teacher of intenSati (a fitness practice that uses spoken affirmations and places tremendous value on the importance of positive, inspirational language), and reader, I can be very (perhaps too) attached to words. I love words yet words are just the start of an idea or a sentiment. But what is beneath or beyond the words? Without love behind the words, for instance, they can seem so empty. Without strong intention, the meaning could get lost...

Yet, if there is love and no expression or communication through words, sometimes it just isn't enough. We have words for a reason. A wonderful reason! Poetry, prose, songs -- a simple I Love You -- are here as ways to express what is felt. We can be grateful to those who put into words what we sometimes cannot.

With that, I share with you Tommy's piece in its entirety, reposted with permission from his dad. :) I hope you find it as inspiring as I do, both for the experience and way it's communicated. 

By Tom Collelouri, BFS 2nd Team All-American
Published: Summer 2000

His spirit lives on. I still hear his words of confidence every day of my life. Though he passed away almost three years ago, I can still feel his presence.

Ever since I was in the seventh grade I had been told that I was too small to play football. I never really had much size as a child, but my love for the game was great. I can still remember my first scrimmage in the fourth grade. I was playing Strong Safety against the Giants. I remember dropping back and seeing the ball go up. I reached out, caught the ball and returned the interception for forty yards before being knocked out of bounds. I wasn’t sure what I had done, but I knew it was good because by team came over to congratulate me and then they escorted me back to the huddle. That’s when I knew I wanted to play college football. 

Just a few years later, I wasn’t even being allowed to play middle school football. My coaches kept me off the field. They would criticize me in front of the team by saying things like, “You’re too small to play football. “Collelouri has the best arm on the team, too bad he’s not 6-2.” Or, “Hey, Tommy, I’m going to buy you some growing pills to take during the off season.” I remember going home every day and crying in my room. It felt like someone was taking away from me what I loved most, football. That’s when my Grandpa Mario would call. He called every day to see how practice had gone.

Whenever my Dad told me Grandpa was on the phone, I would wipe my tears away and try to stop myself from hyperventilating because I thought it was unmanly to cry and I didn’t want to disappoint him. Then I would put the phone to my ear and hear Grandpa say, “Hey Butch! How was your day, Buddy?”

Grandpa would always reply by saying, “Don’t worry about it, Tom. You and I both know that it’s his loss. You’re a good, strong football player. Just keep plugging away at the weights. If he keeps you off the field because of your lack in size, then he’s a jerk!” No matter how upset Grandpa ever got, he would never let his grandchildren hear him curse. But it was his words, day after day that kept me going.

Grandpa Mario’s words of confidence are what kept me going all these years and got me to where I am today. I remember wanting to quit football in the eighth grade because I was sick of fighting and doing everything within my power for a starting position with nothing to show for my year-round hard work and efforts. It had sucked all of my love for football out of me. When Grandpa Mario found out about this he called and said, “Hang in there Tommy boy. Don’t let him get the best of you.” I always looked up to my Grandpa and I did not want to let him down. 

So here I am today, four years later. I am now a senior at Plainview Old-Bethpage JFK High School. I’m 5’11”, 205 pounds and the captain of the varsity football, lacrosse, and weight lifting teams. I was voted best athlete in the school by my classmates. I received All-Conference honors in football, was invited to play in the “Long Island Exceptional Senior Game” on Thanksgiving Day and was nominated for the BFS High School All-American Team. I owe it all to my Grandpa Mario.

If it were not for my Grandpa Mario keeping me in the sport and reminding me of my love for football, I know not where I would be today. He not only taught me how to overcome adversity on the field, but in the classroom as well.
I always struggled with my grades growing up but my friends and family did not know why. Finally, when I was in the tenth grade, I was tested by my school and they found that I have a reading disability. Now, knowing what the problem is, I have been able to use the services of my resource room which has helped me learn ways to work around this disability. I may have to work harder than most other students to get the grades I want, but I am willing to do whatever it takes because it’s what Grandpa Mario would have wanted.

So, if Grandpa Mario is listening to me right now, I would like to say two simple words. Thank you!


Tommy Colleleuri is presently a police officer in Roanoke, VA, where he assists in instructing at the academy and is a new member of their S.W.A.T. team. He just got married last month and is going for his MA in Counseling. Congrats, Tommy!

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