NFL Legend and High School Coach Blake Costanzo: "We Teach the Kids a Better Way to Play the Game"
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
When Blake Costanzo was growing up, football ranked below the other sports on his busy athletic schedule — basketball, soccer, and baseball.
"Football was my least favorite, and I wasn’t very good at it," said Costanzo.
Costanzo, who grew up in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, said it started to turn around once he joined an organized youth football league.
"I’m glad I stuck with it," Costanzo said. "Because of my youth coaches, I found out how to play the game. After my freshman year of high school, I stopped playing the other sports and just concentrated on football.
"A lot of those coaches are the ones who encouraged me to play. It taught me so much, so many valuable lessons and it turned out to be great for me."
From Ramapo High School, Costanzo went on to play at Lafayette College. After being signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2006, he went on to play nine years in the NFL with the Jets, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears. The special teamer and linebacker recorded five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and 75 combined tackles in his career.
Once his NFL career ended in 2014, Costanzo began coaching. He began as an assistant at Paramus Catholic High School, working under his friend and former college teammate, Chris Partridge, now a coordinator at Ole Miss.
Costanzo went on to coach at his old high school, Ramapo High, and is now at Northern Highlands High School, which went to the New Jersey state finals in 2019.
“I feel when you’re a coach, you’re a coach for life," he said. "I love it, and I love the level I’m at. The kids are great. There’s no better way to teach kids teamwork, sacrifice, and how you have to do your part for the whole to be successful — and that carries over in life, not just sports.
"I wish more parents understood that. I understand their concern. I played recklessly, but as a coach now I look at it at a different angle. We teach the kids a better way to play the game, a safer way. There really has been a lot of progress made over the years."
Costanzo said he often reflects on the youth coaches that started his career. He knows it wouldn't have happened without his coaches from the Franklin Lakes youth league.
"From Pee Wee through high school, you look back at the men who gave their time and who taught us the game, who taught us discipline, who taught us teamwork, all those little things," he said. "You don’t realize it when you’re young, but when you look back, you have to admire that."
Photo: AP/Scott Boehm
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