WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - The year 2016 was a very good one for Somers High football coach Tony DeMatteo.
The 47-year veteran mentor guided Somers to its first-ever state championship, something he never thought would happen at the upper Westchester school.
And last month DeMatteo was honored by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), which named him the 2016 Power of Influence award winner. He received the award at the AFCA convention in Nashville, Tenn.
The award is given to one coach in the country recognized for his impact on his team and players, as well as the legacy he leaves with the school and community.
"I went to Nashville with 30 people - all my family and friends," DeMatteo told Daily Voice. "It was probably the highlight of my career. I got it because of all the people I've helped or impacted... and it was really very special to me."
DeMatteo made his mark at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, where he started as an assistant, before becoming head coach in 1969.
He led Roosevelt for 31 years - going unbeaten seven times, and perhaps more remarkably without a single losing season.
He came to Somers 16 years ago, and has transformed the program into one of the county's finest.
After a 1993 hazing incident at Roosevelt, the coach started a mentoring program - where seniors would take incoming freshmen under their wing - that program became a cornerstone of his legacy. It was so successful that he brought it to Somers, and it has spread to other area schools.
“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,” Mark Bayer, principal at Somers High School, told the AFCA. “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.”
DeMatteo has earned more than 20 Coach of the Year awards, and has been honored by the Daily News and the NFL, winning the Heisman Trophy High School Legends Coaching Award in 1997 and the Frank McQuire Award in 2000.
With over 300 wins, he ranks fifth in NYS, and No. 1 in Section 1 history. More than 30 of his assistants have gone on to coach, further spreading his teachings and philosophies.