By Jerry Del Priore
Andy Rizzo used to bring his trusty bullhorn to his son Joe’s Pop Warner football games so he could help energize the team and fans with his vivid play-by-play commentary.
Without realizing it at the time, Rizzo’s bullhorn work would lead him to a celebrated side career as Chiefs’ football announcer.
When Joe progressed to the high school ranks at Canarsie, former legendary Chiefs head coach Mike Camardese, current junior varsity coach at Poly Prep, asked him to assume press booth duties.
For approximately 20 years, Rizzo thrilled Chiefs’ football home crowds with signature calls such as his “Welcome to the House of Pain” war cry, igniting a raucous cheer from the Canarsie faithful.
As an integral part of Chiefs’ football history, the former Canarsien said he had the honor of witnessing several outstanding student-athletes advance to top Division I college programs, and even reach the NFL, such as the likes of Leon Williams and Lance Schulters.
“It was fun,” Rizzo, who called other sports at Canarsie and around the city, fondly recollected. “It was exciting to see these kids go on to big colleges. Some went on to the pros.”
A little over four years ago, the football staff invited Rizzo back to Canarsie Educational Campus to call a game against Flushing High School, with current announcer Antonio Rodriguez gladly stepping aside for the afternoon.
“That felt kind of funny because I wasn’t the main guy anymore,” said the Barnegat, N.J., resident, who’s retired from his full-time position as an investigator-supervising claim specialist at the NYC Comptroller’s Office. “Once it got into the flow, it was fun. It brought back many memories.
To honor Rizzo, the Canarsie football Chiefs honored him with a banner—which is affixed to the press booth—a few years ago, for his time behind the mic. But someone mistakenly removed it, the current administration said, and quickly replaced it when Rizzo requested, much to his delight, he noted.
While it has thrilled him to see former student-athletes go on to play at the next level, Rizzo said the “thing that excited me the most was seeing the stands packed with fans. When the fans started to do the (Florida State University) Seminole fight song chop, it became a rocking time on Saturdays.”
It’s a tradition that still carries on today. As any former Canarsie High School football player and current fan will attest to, “Once a Chief, Always a Chief.”