Four area football players join Hall of Fame

LATHAM – Four former area standouts were among those included in the fifth annual Capital Region Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony Aug. 9 at Michael’s Banquet House.

Johnstown graduate Pete Procopio, Fonda-Fultonville graduate David DiCaprio, Perth graduate Al Marek and Bishop Scully graduate Brian Niezgoda all were part of this year’s induction class.

In the five years of inductions, a total of 13 area players and coaches have been honored.

In 2010, Gloversville’s Tom Ciaccio and Amsterdam’s Justice Smith were part of the inaugural class, while Amsterdam’s Josh Beekman, Gloversville’s Greg Christodulu, Gloversville’s Matt Shell and Gloversville coach Bob Gould were inducted in 2011.

Gloversville’s Justin DeMagistris and Fonda-Fultonville’s Alex Mancini were honored in 2012, while Amsterdam coach Frank Derrico was honored in 2013.

Precopio was a four-year starter in football, basketball and baseball at Johnstown, and an honor student.

He played quarterback in football. In his senior year, his team finished with a 6-1-1 and Procopio scored 42 points in one game, which set a Section II record at that time. Procopio was named outstanding quarterback three years in a row for the Greater Capital District scholastic all-star football team.

Also in his senior year, Procopio scored 40 points in a basketball game and 303 points for the season, which set a record at that time.

In his senior year in high school, he was awarded the War Memorial Scholarship for academics and athletics.

Procopio attended Colgate University, where he played defensive safety and cornerback and received his bachelor’s degree.

In the summer months while attending college, Procopio played with the Fulton County Glovers, who finished third in the National Baseball Championships.

After graduating from Colgate, Procopio taught math at Oppenheim-Ephratah for three years. During that time, he received his master’s degree from Siena College. In 1961, he started his career at Johnstown, teaching math and also coaching junior varsity football, then varsity football, junior varsity basketball, and golf.

In 1978, his football team went 9-0-1 and, in the following year, his team went 9-1, losing in the sectionals. He retired from coaching football in 1980, and he retired from teaching in 1996.

Procopio was one of the founders of and played with the Glove Cities Colonials, a semi-pro football team, in 1962-64.

Procopio still lives in Johnstown with his wife of over 61 years, Jeanine. He has a son and a daughter, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

Procopio taught his son, Greg, and daughter, Linda, in high school and coached Greg in football at Johnstown. When he retired from teaching, Procopio’s daughter, Linda, took over as the head of the math department.

DiCaprio was a three-year football starter at Fonda-Fultonville, as well as starting for four years on the baseball field and lettering three years in basketball. He garnered numerous team, league and area awards in all three sports.

In DiCaprio’s senior year, his only season as an offensive starter, he scored 18 touchdowns with 21 receptions for 434 yards (a 20.4 average); had 88 rushes for 690 yards (a 7.8 average), 12 punt returns for 265 yards (a 22.1 average); and led the defense with six interceptions.

For his career, DiCaprio scored 24 touchdowns and had 16 interceptions and averaged a score every six times he touched the ball. His senior year the Braves finished 9-1 capping off the year with a victory over Voorheesville in the Section II Class CC championship.

DiCaprio also had a successful high school baseball campaign. He played centerfield with the Tri-County Stars (Connie Mack), a team that finished second in New York State to the Shenendehowa A’s led by Bill Norris (Eckerd/ Red Sox), losing in the Upstate championship game, 2-1, in the last inning.

DiCaprio was recruited by Holy Cross, Colgate, Fordham, Lafayette and Albany State. He chose to play for Division I-AA Lafayette, where he played all four years on special teams. He was a member of the 1988 Colonial League champions, starting 15 games at cornerback where he had five career interceptions and 101 tackles. In his senior year, he earned the team Defensive Back of the Year award with 53 tackles, one forced fumble, two recovered fumbles, blocked one kick and broke up seven pass attempts and picked off four passes. After six games in his senior campaign, DiCaprio was ninth in the nation in Division I-AA interceptions.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government and law. He currently works at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory where he is employed by the Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation. He lives in Tribes Hill with his wife Michayla and three boys: Massimo, Giovanni and Giacomo.

Marek was a four-year varsity starter for football, both offense and defense, and baseball as a pitcher and infielder at Perth from 1969-72.

He held the school records for most career pitching wins and career home runs.

Marek also was a varsity starter the two years he played basketball as a freshman and sophomore.

At the time of his graduation in 1973, Marek held the Section II records for career rushing yards with 3,268 yards and career points with 268. The two records stood for 15 and eight years respectively, and his single game 38 points was second all-time Section II for eight years.

Marek was a Tri-Valley League all-star three times, being the first sophomore to ever receive that honor.

He was also the football team’s MVP for three years, as he was responsible for shadowing the opposition’s best players while each week being the target of the opposing teams’ defenses. Marek also was named to the New York State Small School All-State second team.

In 2011, he was inducted into the Broadalbin-Perth Sports Hall of Fame.

Marek received a number of Division I football scholarship offers, with the most treasured being offered by Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalter the opportunity to wear the famous No. 44 jersey.

Marek ultimately accepted admission to Harvard University, where he started and was a leading rusher on the freshman football team. His promising college football career was cut short by injuries during his sophomore year.

Marek graduated from Harvard in 1977 with a degree in economics.

Marek, his wife, Luann, and their sons, Alex and Travis, live in St. Petersburg, Fla. He has pursued a business career and his entrepreneurial spirit and environmental concerns inspired him to develop an international recycling enterprise. His company is responsible for recycling over 20 million pounds of petroleum-based plastics annually, helping to make North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand a little greener and a better place to live.

Niezgoda was a three-sport athlete for Bishop Scully in football, basketball and baseball.

Brian was a three-year football starter for the Bishop Scully Mohawks, which had a 21-5-1 record during his time.

As a senior, Niezgoda rushed for 1,652 yards, scoring 27 touchdowns and 19 two-point conversions.

It was the first time in Section II history that a football player had scored 200 points. This record stood for 14 years. Niezgoda’s Section II rushing mark of 1,652 yards stood for eight years.

As a junior, Niezgoda rushed for 1,285 yards, scoring 20 touchdowns and six two-point conversions, which made him the leading scorer in Section II that year. As a sophomore, Niezgoda was the blocking back, scoring five touchdowns and gaining 400 yards

He had a successful baseball and basketball career at Bishop Scully. In baseball, he was a pitcher and in basketball, he was the starting point guard on their 1980 team which won the Class B Section II championship.

Niezgoda went on to play football one year for Alfred University, but suffered a shoulder injury which ended his playing career.

After graduating college, Niezgoda got married to his wife, Robin, and has three sons, Brian Jr., Dean and Troy. He has been a police officer for the past 27 years on Cape Cod.

2014 Capital District Football Hall of Fame Inductees

Officials

Michael Aquino (Capital District Chapter), Dick Bailey (Adirondack Chapter), Chris Junjulas (Capital District Chapter)

Coaches

Tim Donnelly (Lake George), Doug Luke (Cambridge), Ernie Steck (Albany Academy)

Service to Football

Tom Heinzelman (Hudson Falls/NYSHSFCA)

Service to Youth Football

Vince Foley (Albany Pop Warner), Joe Ierubino (Plainsmen Junior Football)

Assistant Coaches

Bob Steenburgh (Guilderland/Greenwich), Tom Mayer (Hudson Falls)

Players

Rashad Barksdale (Hudson), David DiCaprio (Fonda-Fultonville), Galen Foster (Shenendehowa), Kareem Jones (Lansingburgh), Zack Luke (Cambridge), Al Marek (Perth), Don Mion (Colonie), Brian Niezgoda (Bishop Scully), Ted Romanowski (Philip Schuyler), Foster “Pete” Precopio (Johnstown), Matt Whalen (Bishop Maginn)