New Jersey football guru McCarthy dies; North Arlington resident produced premier tout service for nearly 30 years

In 2015, Dennis McCarthy was filled with vim and vigor, ready for another high school football season, despite battling kidney cancer, diabetes and heart issues.

“I shouldn’t be here,” McCarthy said in August of that year.

But McCarthy said that he was feeling fine and recharged.

“I feel like I’m hitting my stride,” McCarthy said. “I feel like I can keep going for another 20 years.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Last Sunday afternoon, while driving in North Arlington after doing some gardening, McCarthy apparently had a fatal heart attack. He was 74 years old.

For the last 30 years, McCarthy and his son Dave produced The McCarthy Report, the top high school football scouting report in the country.

And most of it was done in a tiny apartment in North Arlington, one that is packed to the ceilings with videotapes and notes. The McCarthy living room looks like a library of VHS tapes, which are now outdated thanks to the advances in technology.

There are a lot of fly-by-night newcomers who claim that they have seen practically every high school football player in the world. They profess to watch player after player and know every move made by these players.

But in reality, it was the McCarthy Report that started all of the recruiting tout services.

“He was the Internet before the Internet,” said former Lyndhurst head coach Joe Castagnetti, a friend of McCarthy who played football at Lyndhurst with McCarthy’s two sons, Dave and Ryan. “He did all the leg work. He had a ton of passion, all for the Jersey kid.”

Dennis and Dave watched all of the players in New Jersey with a fine tooth comb and offeredtheir evaluations for approximately 75 colleges, ranging from NCAA Division I institutions through the junior college and NAIA ranks.

The McCarthy Report has helped the New Jersey high school football player gain millions of dollars in scholarships.

“He worked tirelessly for the kids that weren’t marquee players,” Castagnetti said. “He would find a school for those kids to go to. He would ask the kid where they wanted to go and he came up with four or five schools that might have been interested. He was an unbelievable person. He did so much for New Jersey kids. What a generous man! He was so unselfish. I had the pleasure to snap the ball to Dave and play alongside Ryan. So I was next to and in front of his kids. It’s a big loss to a lot of people.”

Dave McCarthy was trying to wrap his head around the thought that his father was no longer with us.

“He was still at the top of his game,” Dave McCarthy said. “He was going to different high schools and giving talks on the recruiting process. He went to Hackensack, Montclair and Paramus Catholic.”

In fact, Hackensack head coach Benjie Wimberley and Paramus Catholic head coach Dan Sabella were among the mourners at McCarthy’s wake in Lyndhurst last week.

I think that was his latest thing, going to the schools,” Dave McCarthy said. “But he was still clearly at the top of his game. He was as sharp as a tack. This came as a total shock. Sure, he had his issues, but he was going full throttle.”

McCarthy was hard at work getting the 2017 version of the McCarthy Report out to the colleges, as well as a special underclassman report.

“We were going over some notes Saturday night,” Dave McCarthy said. “We had more than 100 kids. I really think it was our finest report ever.”

The football community was saddened by McCarthy’s sudden passing.

“I will always remember him as a gentleman,” said former North Arlington football coach Anthony Marck. “He was always friendly. Whenever you spoke to him, it felt like time didn’t pass at all. He was a pioneer in evaluating talent. It was a pleasure to know the man.”

In 2007, McCarthy was very high on the prospects of North Arlington player Michael Gross, who received a scholarship to the University of Rhode Island through McCarthy’s diligence. Gross became the 2007-2008 Observer Male Athlete of the Year and is now currently a teacher and an assistant coach at his alma mater.

Two years ago, the Vikings’ sensational quarterback Michael Manzo-Lewis, who broke the school’s single season rushing record, went off to East Stroudsburg thanks to McCarthy’s efforts.

“He always looked out for our kids,” Marck said. “He was a pleasure to work with. He would come with a piece of paper and a pen and perhaps some videotape. I always enjoyed his company. The man knew what he was doing.”

St. Peter’s Prep head coach Rich Hansen just spent an afternoon with McCarthy, showing McCarthy the new training facilities that the school built.

“He was genuinely a good guy,” Hansen said. “He would ask if we had a kid who needed help (in getting into college) and he would put in a plug for the kid. He was one of those relentless kind, but never wanted to get in the way. The last time we were together, we had an awesome time, reminiscing about St. Joe’s (St. Joseph of the Palisades, where both Hansen and McCarthy went to school). He really truly cared about kids and that’s why I admired him so much. He was a good guy.”

Former Hoboken head coach Lou Taglieri echoed the same sentiments.

“He was always great to me,” Taglieri said. “He would come down to the weight room and already knew our kids. He would just sit around and talk to them, ask them about their lives, their families. He wanted to get to know them. We need more people like him. I was expecting a call from him. He’s going to be missed by a lot of people. There was no hidden agenda with Dennis. He just wanted to help the kids.”

Through McCarthy’s efforts, former Hoboken lineman Dan Clifford ended up as a scholarship player at Wagner.

McCarthy was also helpful to a host of sportswriters, like veteran Joe Hofmann of the Morristown Daily Record.

“He genuinely loved high school football and had such a great mind for it,” Hofmann said. “He had an incredible memory. He could take a player from today and instantly compare him to a past player. He was in it for the right reasons. It was all for the kids. He had such an eye for talent.”
Hofmann said that he saw John Burk of Parsippany in warm-ups and instantly touted him. Burk ended up getting a scholarship to Lehigh.

“I had such respect for him,” Hofmann said.

So did I.

I knew Dennis for 25-plus years. We instantly became friends when he knew I was a Hudson County kid like him. He was born and raised in West New York and had tons of stories of the old glory days for Memorial and especially his alma mater of St. Joseph of the Palisades.

In fact, that’s where it all began. McCarthy told me that he first started scouting prospective college players in 1956, when he was a 14-year-old high school student in West New York, helping his uncle, Angelo Amato, help local youngsters to get to the University of Notre Dame, where McCarthy ended up attending.

“I would go to games with my uncle and give him advice on players,” McCarthy said.

Two of those players, Frank Garguilo (currently the superintendent of schools for the Hudson County Schools of Technology) and Tom Liggio (a former Hudson County Freeholder), went on to play at Notre Dame.

Over the years, McCarthy aided with colleges finding out about some of the most obscure players in New Jersey high school football. Several years ago, the McCarthy Report was the first to mention the talents of a defensive tackle from Westwood High School. His name was B.J. Raji, who then went on to play at Boston College and was a hero for the Green Bay Packers in their Super Bowl championship at the end of the 2010 season.

The McCarthy Report also touted a quarterback out of Audubon High School. His name? Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl winning signal caller for the Baltimore Ravens.

“He pushed Chris Hogan into playing college football,” Dave McCarthy said. “That’s perhaps his proudest moment.”
Hogan played high school football at Ramapo, then went to Penn State to play lacrosse. When his lacrosse days were done, McCarthy convinced Hogan to go to Monmouth to play football. Hogan bounced around the NFL for a few years, then made it big with the New England Patriots last season, helping the Pats win the Super Bowl.

“It’s definitely a labor of love,” Dennis McCarthy once said. “Make no bones about it, it’s now David’s business. I don’t get paid.”

Dennis McCarthy and I would talk for hours on end about football. He would come to my house and we would sit and drink diet birch beer or Arnold Palmer iced tea and shoot the breeze for hours on end. He kept a running list of former New Jersey high school players who made it in the NFL.

“But he loved finding the kid that was under the surface,” Dave McCarthy said. “He always got good feedback from the colleges. He always had a passion for the scouting process. The thing just took on a life of its own. It never gets old. We’ll find more prospects.”

Dave McCarthy will continue doing the McCarthy Report in his father’s memory.

“I’m already planning the future,” Dave McCarthy said. “I have to keep my father’s dream alive. We’re the premier scouting service. But there will never be another one like him. He was a unique person.”

He sure was. And he was my friend, my very good friend. I’ve lost hundreds of friends over the last few years. But there was no one like Dennis McCarthy, in terms of loyalty, in terms of compassion, in terms of love. I can’t begin to think of my life without him. To say he will be missed would be a gross understatement.

When my book, “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man,” came out in 2005, Dennis bought about 20 copies of the book from Barnes and Noble and brought them to me to sign. I didn’t realize he wanted that many copies. He was giving it away as presents to friends he knew. I was so flattered.

But that was Dennis. Everyone I spoke to said one thing about him. He was genuine. And that he was. It’s all of our loss. Rest in peace, my good friend.


The late Dennis McCarthy holds a copy of his prized McCarthy Report touting service. McCarthy died last Sunday at the age of 74. Photo by Jim Hague

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”