Beloved New York high school football coach uses tragedy to inspire, lead

Tina MacIntyre-Yee, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Beloved New York high school football coach uses tragedy to inspire, lead

Football

Beloved New York high school football coach uses tragedy to inspire, lead

The 6-inch scar running down the back of Geoff Mandile’s neck has been a great conversation starter.

In his younger days, before family and kids, the Victor High School football coach had a standard answer whenever fellow bar patrons would ask, “What did you do to your neck?’’

“It was fun,’’ Mandile, 47, said. “I’d go, ‘Oh this? Shark attack.’”

During his 29 years as a football coach, he has had many players ask about the scar as well.

It is then that Mandile’s response is much more sobering.

It is then that he doesn’t let the opportunity pass to tell them, “Don’t take anything for granted, not this game, not this day, not anything.’’

Staring at his scar, Mandile’s players know he’s not just another adult figure reciting a cliché. They know the scar has a story and that their coach is speaking from the heart.

“I thought it was just another game,’’ Mandile said. “We’d play, get on the bus and go home.’’

But it wasn’t just another game.

And Oct. 27, 1989 wasn’t just another day.

It was the day he snapped on his own chin strap for the final time.

The day he was forced to stop being a player and started down a path that would lead him to becoming one of Section V’s most successful coaches.

The all-around kid

In the late 1980s, Geoff Mandile was a three-sport star in the tight-knit community of East Rochester. On the football field, he was a jack-of-all-trades for legendary coach Don Quinn, but then, everybody seemed to be.

“Geoff was our quarterback, he played defense, he was the kicker,’’ said ER teammate, best friend and Victor assistant Sean Rucker. “At ER you played every position and I think that’s made us better coaches. With Coach Quinn you just did everything.’’

Mandile took his passion for football and baseball on to Division III power Ithaca College, where in 1989 as a freshman, he became quarterback of the junior varsity squad.

And that’s when life pulled a reverse.

Playing against the Army JV squad at famed Michie Stadium at West Point, Mandile dropped back to pass, completed the screen, and was hit from behind by a defensive lineman who drove him to the turf.

Read the rest of the story in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

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Beloved New York high school football coach uses tragedy to inspire, lead
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