By Jim Hague
It had been almost a decade since Joe Torchia first stepped onto the field outside Queen of Peace High School, but it seemed as if it was yesterday.
“Being on this field brings back a lot of great memories, some good war stories,” said Torchia, who returned to North Arlington Saturday to speak at the Queen of Peace Football Camp. “Football is always a passion, but it’s always good to get back to your roots, where it all began. If I can help the younger kids get a better perspective, then that’s a great thing. It’s all about hard work and dedication. It’s about putting in the time and the effort. If I can pass that along to these kids, then that’s the message they need to hear.” Torchia was a standout tight end/defensive end with the Golden Griffi ns, helping to lead QP to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 state title in 2003 and a return trip to the title game in 2004.
Torchia then went on to have a fi ne career as a tight end at the University of Virginia and signed a free agent contract with the Washington Redskins, before a shoulder injury forced him to retire.
Torchia, who now lives in Fair Lawn and does finance work with Indigo Payments, was glad to return to his alma mater and share his experiences with the younger kids.
“It’s always good when you see people helping young kids,” Torchia said. “Football is always going to be a part of my life. I can’t play the game anymore, but I love to be able see other kids play. It was fun while it lasted. That ship has passed me now. But I wouldn’t have ever made it if it wasn’t for being at Queen of Peace. I can honestly say that coming to Queen of Peace was the best decision I made in my life. I had good times at Virginia. I have nothing but positive feelings about football. I have no regrets.”
Added Torchia, “But it all began for me here at Queen of Peace. I’m glad to see my alma mater revitalized under Coach (Steve) Romano. It’s a great school with a great administration and people who really care. I like seeing Coach Romano working with the younger kids. It’s always positive seeing people doing good things for the community.”
More than 100 youngsters participated in the camp, headed by Romano, who will begin his third season at QP this fall.
He was impressed that Torchia was willing to come back to QP and speak to the youngsters, even if Torchia didn’t play for Romano back then.
“It only took one phone call,” Romano said. “He said, `Whatever you need, I’m there.’ A guy like Joe Torchia is important because the kids can easily relate to him. He was one of them and he did it on the same field as they were playing on. I don’t think when he was younger, he’d ever get signed by the Washington Redskins, but he proved that dreams can come true. He proved it.”
Romano said that he was encouraged by the turnout.
“It’s exciting to see so many kids wanting to play football,” Romano said. “Obviously, I coach because I love it. Football is football and you have to have kids learning the proper techniques. Honestly, no one wants to do that anymore. They just want to put kids on the field and let them run. We need to get back to coaching football properly. I always remember my first coaches and the impact they had on me. Maybe I can have an impact on them.”
Romano made sure that the youngsters heard one important message.
“You can’t get it done on the field unless you get it done in the classroom,” Romano told the youngsters. “It’s not one or the other. It’s both. You have to do both.”
The youngsters were taught proper conditioning techniques by former Nutley football standout Dom Scillieri, then went through a series of different stations headlined by Romano and the QP coaching staff.
This was a camp that was filled with teenagers who came far and wide to attend it.
Chris Watkins is a 13-yearold aspiring quarterback from Totowa.
“I want to learn more about being a quarterback and I feel like I’m getting better every day,” Watkins said. “This absolutely inspires me to be a better player. I’ve worked on my footwork and that’s helped.”
Maasai Maynor is a 12-year-old quarterback who traveled from North Brunswick.
“I know that I have to go to camps to become a better football player,” Maynor said. “It meant a lot for me to be at this camp. I learned how to keep my head up, my eyes up.”
Fraize Andrews is a 12-year-old from Newark who was a little familiar with the surroundings. His older brother, Oba Jabari Andrews, was a standout running back and track and field participant at Queen of Peace three years ago. Oba Andrews rushed for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior year with the Golden Griffins. The younger Andrews participated in the camp while wearing his older brother’s QP football shirt.
“I want to get the same chance that he had,” the younger Andrews said. “I’ve worked on my foot speed and balance. I feel like I’m getting better and my brother is encouraging me to be better.”
Zyeiar Miller is a 10-year-old from Newark who is a running back and cornerback.
“This was a lot of fun,” Miller said. “I know I’m a better player now.” Torchia doesn’t know if coaching is in his future, but he knows that kids respect him and where he’s gone after his QP playing days were over.
“If they work hard, continue to improve and get better, anything can happen,” Torchia said.
He should know better than most.
He’s living proof of that motto.