2016 Recipient: Tony DeMatteo, Somers (N.Y.) High School

AFCA CONTACT: Vince Thompson, Director of Media Relations


WACO, Texas—Somers (N.Y.) High School head coach Tony DeMatteo has been named the 2016 Power of Influence Award recipient. DeMatteo was nominated by the New York State High School Football Coaches Association (NYSHSFCA). Presented jointly by the American Football Coaches Association® and the American Football Coaches Foundation®, the award will be given to DeMatteo at the AFCA Honors Luncheon on Monday, January 9, at the 2017 AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Power of Influence award was created as a way for the AFCA® and AFCF® to honor a deserving high school football coach. Coaches who receive this award are recognized for their impact on their team and players, as well as the legacy they leave with the school and surrounding community. This award is not based on wins and losses; however, it should be noted that coaches of powerful influence have longevity and success. This is the first AFCA award specifically designed to honor a high school coach.

“This award is, without a doubt, my greatest achievement,” said DeMatteo. “This award is about my entire career of helping kids, not winning games. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve won a lot of games, but I’ve helped so many, many people that to receive this award from the American Football Coaches Association is really the highlight of my career.”

DeMatteo began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Bridgeport University in 1964 after lettering for three years at the University of Rhode Island and earning his bachelor’s degree in education. After a year at Bridgeport, where DeMatteo earned his master’s degree in physical education, he went on to become an assistant coach at Roosevelt (N.Y.) High School. It was at Roosevelt where Tony would really make a name for himself, not just in the state of New York, but across the nation as well.

With five years as an assistant at Roosevelt, DeMatteo became the head coach of the football team in 1969. DeMatteo would lead the football team for 31 years and cement his legacy as an amazing coach. While at Roosevelt, DeMatteo’s teams never suffered a losing season, went undefeated seven times and were the first in the state to ever win 12 games in a season. Even after all of the on-the-field success, DeMatteo would tell you that the achievement that he is most proud of was instituting a mentoring program and impacting the lives of players and students alike throughout his many years of service.

“While I could go on at length about the numerous accolades with which Tony is attributed, a common thread in these comments is that Tony DeMatteo teaches his players how to be young men,” said Mark Bayer, principal at Somers High School. “That the influence on their lives has been profound and that their lives will be forever changed by the experience of having Coach D as their football coach.”

In 1993, one of DeMatteo’s most promising young football players quit the team due to hazing. The incident opened the coach’s eyes to how his players should treat each other and DeMatteo began a mentoring program that would be the cornerstone of his legacy. In the program, upperclassmen would take incoming freshmen under their wing to ensure that the younger students’ transition to high school would be as easy as possible. The program was so successful that DeMatteo successfully implemented it at Somers High School upon taking over as the head coach and dean of students there in 2000 and has even spread to other schools in the area.

DeMatteo has received numerous accolades since becoming a coach nearly five decades ago. He has been named Coach of the Year more than 20 times by various publications and associations, inlcuding the NY Daily News and the National Football League. DeMatteo won the Heisman Trophy High School Legends Coaching Award in 1997 and the Frank McQuire Award in 2000. His teams have won over 300 games, making DeMatteo the fifth coach in New York State history and the winningest coach in NYS Section One history. More than thirty assistant coaches that have coached under DeMatteo have taken his philosophy of teaching players to be good people onwards in their careers. DeMatteo continues to perpetuate the values and character that the AFCA and AFCF hold dear in everything he does.

Other finalists for this year’s award were: Mitch Johnson, Fountain-Fork (Colo.) High School; Lewis Cook, Jr., Notre Dame (La.) High School; John Roderique, Webb City (Mo.) High School; Jimmy Teague, Reidsville (N.C.) High School; Rod Okendahl, Fargo Schanley (N.D.) High School; Jeff VanLeur, Bridgewater-Emery (S.D.) High School; Bobby Sharp, Lewis County (Tenn.) High School; Larry Hill, Smithson Valley (Texas) High School.

Past Power of Influence Award winners include: Larry Dippel, Amarillo (Texas) H.S. (2002); John McKissick, Summerville (S.C.) H.S. (2003); Marcus Borden, East Brunswick (N.J.) H.S. (2004); Ron Stolski, Brainerd (Minn.) H.S. (2005); Sid Otton, Tumwater (Wash.) H.S. (2006); Rob Younger, Sweet Home (Ore.) H.S. (2007); George Smith, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) H.S. (2008); Jim Drewry, Booneville (Miss.) H.S. (2009); Brent Steuerwald, Shenendehowa (N.Y.) H.S. (2010); Noel Dean, Lowell (Mich.) H.S. (2011); Andy Lowry, Columbine (Colo.) H.S. (2012); Bob Burt, Cypress (Calif.) H.S. (2013), Ott Hurrle, Scecina Memorial (Ind.) H.S. (2014), and Sam Harrell, Fort Worth Christian (Texas) High School (2015).
“Coach George Smith is not only an influence on young people, but the influence is multiplied many times in the beliefs of the young people he helped mold into amazing human beings. George is an outstanding coach, but more importantly, he is an outstanding gentleman.” —Tina Jones, Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas High School