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Family Ties

Family TiesAs a coach's son, Tufts quarterback Anthony Fucillo (A'11) isn't letting injury prevent him from taking a leadership role with the Jumbos.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.14.09] Ever since he started playing football, Tufts quarterback Anthony Fucillo, A11, has dreamed about leading his college team on and off the field.

The most efficient passer in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) during the 2008 season, Fucillo was elected a captain by his teammates and was poised to direct the Jumbos' young offensive unit this fall. But he injured his ankle during a pre-season scrimmage against Bowdoin and has yet to take the field.

He's got the off-the-field leadership gig covered, though.

"I'm really proud of him," Coach Bill Samko said. "He hasn't let the injury interfere with leading the team. He's there every day, watching film, helping [quarterback] Tom McManama (A'10) get better. He gets the big picture of being a part of a team, and I think a lot of that comes back to him being a coach's son."

More information about Parents Weekend, Oct. 16-18

Fucillo's dad, Tony, coached at nearby Winthrop High School for 35 years, including 21 as head coach. Anthony grew up with the team, a fixture alongside his dad on the practice field, in the locker room and on the sideline during games. As Tufts celebrates Parents' Weekend, the Fucillos reflected on the love they share for the game.

"Anthony was always very, very interested in football," his dad said. "He loved to watch film. He'd write plays on a piece of paper and leave them for me the night before a game."

Anthony played for his father at Winthrop as a quarterback, linebacker and kicker. A younger brother, James, followed two years later. Tony was apprehensive about coaching his sons, worrying that he'd be accused of favoring them. But during Anthony's sophomore year, Tony and his staff decided to alternate plays at quarterback between Anthony and his best friend, Alex Smith.

Besides physical skills that won him playing time, Anthony also possessed leadership ability.

"I was always proud of how he approached the game," Tony said. "He understood that as the coach's son, he would be held to a higher standard. He took that on early and understood it."

The Son Also Rises

Anthony was a well-rounded high school athlete, starring in hockey and baseball at Winthrop High as well. He did have to make a deal with his dad that football wasn't allowed to be talked about in the house unless he brought it up. Tony agreed, and they enjoyed a successful four years together.

Anthony's years at Winthrop High (2001-04) were a catalyst to the program's return to prominence. Those teams posted records of 6-5, 8-3, 8-3 and 9-2. In 2005, the year after Fucillo graduated, the team won the Northeastern Conference title. The 2006 team grabbed the big prize, winning the program's sixth state championship, the first since 1983. Coach Fucillo retired after that Super Bowl Championship season to spend more time with his family. He and his wife, Carolyn, also have a daughter, Jenny, a senior at Winthrop High School.

fucillo250"I was fortunate to have him as a coach," Anthony said. "He's impacted a lot of kids in Winthrop. If you asked any guys who came through the Winthrop program, they'd say how much my father meant to them."

As he was for many players at Winthrop, Tony was proactive about helping Anthony with the college recruiting process. At 6-feet, 2-inches and 215 pounds, Anthony's size and knowledge of the game as a quarterback attracted the interest of Division I schools. He visited major college programs, including Boston College, Pittsburgh and Iowa.

Concerned about academics as well as football, Anthony chose Colgate University and jumped into the back-up role as a freshman. After missing his sophomore year with a knee injury, he won the starting job as a junior in 2007. However, the team decided to go in a different direction offensively, and he was replaced. Eager to play, he decided to transfer, even though his father advised him against it.

A Jumbo Role

Tufts had recruited Anthony in high school. Tony played with Coach Samko during a prep year at Worcester Academy and was frequently in touch with the Jumbos about players. In fact, Tufts was interested in James Fucillo when Tony mentioned that Anthony was transferring. Feeling comfortable with the Tufts coaching staff, Anthony Fucillo came "home" to Tufts in 2007.

Winthrop is 15 minutes from Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus. Perhaps the only family name more recognized in the town than Fucillo is Eruzione. Anthony's uncle is Mike Eruzione, the captain of the 1980 U.S. Hockey team that won Olympic gold in Lake Placid, including a semifinal victory over the heavily favored Russian team.

"My family has made a name for itself in a very positive way in Winthrop," Anthony said. "My Uncle Mike's work ethic put him in that spot to be on that team, and working hard to earn what you get is something that my family has always preached."

The stars seemed to be aligned. Anthony was going to lead the Tufts offense as a captain this fall. Then three plays into the scrimmage with Bowdoin, he was hit near the sideline during a scramble, and everything changed.

"We were heartbroken," said his father, who had been through a similar situation when he broke his ankle at Worcester Academy. "I tried to use [my experience at Worcester Academy] as a way to help him bounce back. We're so very happy with how the Tufts coaching staff has treated him, making him a part of the team after the injury."

For now, Fucillo is relishing the chance to hone his coaching skills. Donning a headset and flashing signals from the sideline during the team's exciting 25-22 overtime victory against Bowdoin during the Homecoming game last Saturday, he already looks the part.

"I want to coach," he said. "I'm hoping after next season, maybe I'll get a job coaching."

Like father, like son.

Story by Paul Sweeney, Sports Information Director, Tufts Athletics Department

Photos by Sportspix

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