Fort Lee’s head football coach and athletic director are putting together a “Football Alumni Recognition Night” for the Bridgemen's first home game of the season taking place at on Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. against rivals Cliffside Park.
Coach Billy Straub and Athletic Director (AD) Patrick Ambrosio also hope to “kick start” the athletic program’s Hall of Fame, which Ambrosio says has been largely dormant for the past several years.
The two recently put the following ad in the newspaper and shared it with Patch:
The Fort Lee High School Football program would like to honor all football alumni from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and earlier at the first home football game on Friday, September 14th vs. Cliffside Park High School. For more information, please contact Fort Lee Athletic Director, Patrick Ambrosio at 201-585-4695 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ambrosio said the aim is to “bridge the gap” between the past and present and foster a greater sense of “family” in the school district’s athletics program, and that football was a good place to start.
He said he and Straub have been considering the possibility “behind the scenes” for the past couple of years, believing that having a “real strong connection to the past” is something that’s particularly important for current student-athletes and something that he’s seen as lacking in his six years at Fort Lee.
“Football really seems to be the driving force for a lot of things, and the alumni really are the ones who kind of catapult things,” Ambrosio said. “There are factions of people that stay close and come to games and take an interest, but that real organized alumni and bringing that back, really that feeling of family, is only here among the people that are here. It doesn’t reach back 20 or 30 years.”
Ambrosio said the process is likely to take a couple of years, but that he and Straub are starting by simply trying to “find out who’s out there.” They’re therefore seeking people who graduated from Fort Lee and played football so they can invite them back “to be a better part of this little family that we have.”
“The thought was to try to use the first home game this year to see if anybody’s around—even if it’s just five people,” Ambrosio said. “We’ll bring them back, we’ll give them shirts, we’ll recognize them, and then, by extension, hopefully we can get them to reach out to the people they know of that they’re still close to.”
Ambrosio said that while he’s starting with football, it’s something he’d like to try to do across the entire athletics department eventually, which, in turn, he hopes will help revive the school district’s Hall of Fame, which he says “we haven’t done in five or six years.”
“It’s really not about the wins or the losses,” the AD said. “Those are important pieces of the puzzle, but when it doesn’t feel like it means anything, like there’s no connection to anything, it kind of loses something. And these kids—these juniors and seniors—should see that these guys … 50-something years ago felt that it was important to play football and be part of Fort Lee.”
He added, “You don’t remember the wins and losses after 50 years; you remember the people you were surrounded by.”