The lifelong Husky succumbed after a 27-month battle with cancer and was recalled fondly by the town he loved at a funeral service on Sept. 6.
Troilo, Sr. made his bones as one of Harrison’s finest athletes during his high school career and returned to coach the Huskies football team for 22 years, 11 of those as a head coach. He also served as Harrison’s Athletic Director, hiring the team’s current coach, his son, Art Jr.
For those who grew up in Harrison during Troilo’s time as a football coach, Art Troilo, Sr. was the face of Harrison’s beloved football program–something those who knew him best find somewhat ironic considering Troilo eschewed the spotlight.
“He was always looked upon as an icon of Harrison,” Vin Nicita, Harrison’s current wrestling coach–who played one season under Troilo in 1982–said. “Everybody knew him; he was a larger than life figure. But he was so professional, he never wanted the praise or the glory; he wanted it to go to his players.”
Troilo’s teams continued the rich tradition set forth by legendary coaches like Ralph Friedgen and were an inspiration to a generation of aspiring footballers.
“Growing up watching those teams, you wanted to play for coach Troilo,” said Nicita. “You watched the players he coached–guys like Seth Morris–and you wanted to be them when you got older.”
Troilo retired after Nicita’s first season–much to the dismay of the players–but his lessons have remained ingrained in the young athletes he coached for even just one season.
“He was such a professional, he never raised his voice, he was class,” Nicita said. “We still talk about that season with him to this day.”
Mitty McGee, who played quarterback for Troilo’s undefeated 1973 team, recalled the coach’s deep devotion to his charges, something best exemplified when, before the 1973 season, Troilo and his coaching staff crossed the picket lines during a teacher’s strike to guide the team to one of its finest campaigns ever.
“It was always about the kids with him,” said McGee. “There was no question that he made that sacrifice for us, along with the other coaches.”
McGee also said that, as much as an inspiration Troilo was for his work ethic and commitment to team play, he also commanded respect from his players due to his own athletic prowess. Troilo, Sr. earned 16 varsity letters as a Harrison student, held the New York State longjump record–that has since been broken by another Harrison standout, Claudio DelliCarpini–and played in the same backfield as NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown during his time at Syracuse University.
“That year, in 1973, he must have been about 35 years old,” said McGee. “We all knew he was still the fastest guy on the field.”
Seth Morris, the standout running back for that 1973 team, kept in contact with Troilo after his graduation in 1974 and was asked speak at the funeral service. He touched on what Troilo meant, not only to his players, but to the Harrison community at large.
“His humble manner, strength of character, willingness to listen to people and his intense desire to win have always stuck with me as life lessons to this day,” Morris said. “I spoke of who he was and how he cared so deeply about his players and what football meant to the whole community.”
In perhaps the most fitting tribute possible, Harrison’s football team–clad in their gameday unis‑attended the wake of the legendary coach on Thursday night, then went on to win an emotional season opener on Saturday, beating Brewster 34-25.