UAlbany Football Visits Capital Region "Hometown Heroes"
ALBANY, N.Y. — The University at Albany football program visited fire, police and EMS stations around Albany and Guilderland on Wednesday, July 24, to show their appreciation for our community’s first-responders by handing out tickets to the “Hometown Heroes” game Sept. 21.
It’s a particularly meaningful cause for Head Coach Greg Gattuso, who spent seven years in law enforcement, including four as a police officer in Bethel Park, Pa., before beginning his college coaching career.
“I think the police have such a tough job,” said Gattuso, who earned a bachelor's degree in Administration of Justice at Penn State. “I have the utmost respect for them and the type of job that they do. They’re just amazing people, sacrificing their time and sometimes their lives for the sake of our communities. I’m really excited about this. I hope we can get a ton of fire, police and EMS to come out to our game Sept. 21.”
Among the football program’s stops was the McKownville Fire Department, where men’s basketball player Antonio Rizzuto, a volunteer firefighter, was there to accept vouchers for the game against Lafayette, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. For more information about the Hometown Heroes game, CLICK HERE.
Rizzuto offered members of the football team a tour of the firehouse, showing off the truck and gear and explaining the training he undertook to join the squad.
“I wanted to help people and give back to the community,” Rizzuto said. “It’s been really cool. It’s like a family here.”
Added men's basketball Head Coach Will Brown: “We’re happy to support the football program, the athletic department and Antonio. The one thing about Antonio is, everything he does, he’s committed to it. Anytime he’s available and he can get here to help the fire department and his community, he’s here. I’m a proud coach.”
Altogether, the football program visited seven precincts and handed out more than 100 tickets.
The day began visiting Albany police officers at the Western Avenue precinct in the Pine Hills neighborhood, where the football team met a police dog, pet a horse and toured a patrol car.
The team also visited the Guilderland EMS, the Westmere Fire Department, the Guilderland Police Department, the University Police Department and the Guilderland Fire Department, where women’s basketball Head Coach Colleen Mullen helped hand out tickets.
Student-athletes and coaches were able to talk with first responders about their jobs and express their appreciation. First responders were grateful for the visit, too.
“We just want to thank the UAlbany Athletic Department,” said Michael Costabile, the assistant chief at the McKownville Fire Department. “We’re close to the University, and we’re proud UAlbany supporters. This will be great for us. We’ll have a great time at the game.”
The “Hometown Heroes Game” represents an expansion of the Military Appreciation Game that the football program has held each of the past six years. This year, in addition to continuing to express appreciation for our nation’s active and retired military, the program also wanted to honor our first responders, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics.
“I think it was a great decision to expand our Military Appreciation Game to thank all the people who protect us — our fire, police and EMS,” Gattuso said. “I’ve been a part of this community and have so much respect for what they do. I’m glad we were able to expand the game to thank them, too.”