"Three wide receivers out to the right, Flutie flushed, throws it down
... caught by Boston College! I don't believe it! It's a touchdown! The Eagles
win it! Unbelievable, I don't believe it! Phelan is at the bottom of that pile.
Here comes the Boston College team. He threw it into the end zone. There was no
time left on the clock. The ball went between two defensive backs from
Miami," were the words uttered by a seemingly shocked and disbelieving
I'll never forget that game. It was the day after Thanksgiving, November 23,
1984. And like most New England sports fans, I was glued to my TV watching
the marquee nationally-televised matchup between the defending national champion
Miami Hurricanes and the Boston College Eagles, led by soon-to-be-named Heisman
Trophy winner, Doug Flutie.
My daughter Melissa had recently celebrated her third birthday. And on the
biggest shopping day of the year, I sat relatively undisturbed on the living
room couch functioning in a dual role of professional talent scout and chief
As the desperation rainbow throw drifted untouched between defenders Darrell
Fullington and Reggie Sutton and into the waiting arms of wideout Gerard Phelan,
I remember leaping to my feet, extending my fist into the air and screaming,
"touchdown!" Almost simultaneously I reached for my frightened
daughter. Her world consisting of My Little Pony and Cabbage Patch Dolls had
been interrupted by my outburst. I whispered softly into ear, all the while
thinking, "I've got to watch that on the replay!"
A surprised, euphoric Flutie &mdash both he and head coach Jack Bicknell
actually never saw the 48-yard miracle completion &mdash ran down the field to begin
celebrating the greatest victory in the school's history with his ecstatic
teammates. The diminutive quarterback leapt into the waiting arms of No. 65,
For New England sports fans, the photo of Flutie with his left arm extended to
the sky, being carried by this massive hulk of a man was in many ways more famous
than that of the returning sailor kissing the young nurse in Times Square,
celebrating the end of World War II.
Steve was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. And in his mid-teens he moved with his parents
and four siblings to Milton, a suburb of Boston. He attended Boston College High
School and was the last player chosen on the freshman team. Steve used
this near snub as his motivation, and three years later was named a First-Team
All-Scholastic, the highest honor a prep athlete can achieve in the state.
He elected to
forego scholarship offers from Syracuse, Michigan, Penn State, Maryland, and
Virginia Tech to attend Boston College. Given the closeness of his family, his
loyalty to friends and commitment to the community, there was probably never a
doubt where he would ultimately attend.
At BC, "Trap" had an outstanding playing career, starting three seasons at
the right guard position. The only sophomore starter on the offensive line that
was dubbed the "Secret Service," he was also a two-time All-East
selection and offensive captain as a senior. At the conclusion of his
career at the Heights, Trapilo was selected to participate in both the Japan and
Senior Bowl All-Star games.
After the weigh-ins at the Senior Bowl, I had my first real opportunity to
meet with Steve and was incredibly impressed with this individual. Within the hour, I
had spoken to his brother Sonny and his wonderful mom, who invited me to
have dinner with them when I returned to Boston.
Steve just had a way about him
that can best be described as magical.
The 1987 senior prospect group at Boston College was not deep in numbers, but
included quality performers like defensive end John Bosa, a first-round selection of the
Dolphins, wideout Kelvin Martin, a fourth-round selection of the Cowboys, and running back
Troy Stradford, selected in the fourth round by the Dolphins.
I was in my first season with the new-look New Orleans Saints. Along with
other nationally-ranked players in my scouting area such as Haywood Jeffires,
Shane Conlan, Harris Barton, Mike Junkin, Tony Woods, Paul Palmer, and Terrence
Flagler &mdash who were all future first-round selections &mdash I really had a good feeling about
the group of Boston College prospects. But I was particularly enamored with the
skills of Steve Trapilo.
Photo: Boston College Athletics
He was not what I would consider a good knee-bender, an essential quality
when evaluating offensive linemen. But his mass, football intelligence, great
desire, functional playing strength and power were a thing to behold.
GM Jim Finks, the coaching staff and a newly-assembled scouting group had
never worked together as a unit and didn't know exactly what to expect from each
other at our first player draft. I can remember spending the last two days prior
to the draft participating in seemingly endless litany of mock drafts. What if
we trade up with Cleveland for the fifth pick? Should we trade down if Jerome
Brown is off the board? Do we like Jeffires better than Nattiel?
Around 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Jim Finks, in my opinion the greatest GM
in professional football history, got to his feet, bid the rest of us in the
cramped meeting room a fond farewell and headed for the door.
Draft day arrived with the Saints holding the 11th selection in the first
round and a rigid draft blueprint that we hoped to implement. The die had been
cast; our first selection was going to be University of Miami defensive tackle
Jerome Brown. Should Brown be selected prior to our pick, our second choice
would be North Carolina's offensive tackle Harris Barton. Should both of these
player be selected prior to our choice, our plan was then to trade down to the
19th selection and select NC State wide receiver Haywood Jeffires with the pick.
The first eight selections in the draft went along pretty much according to
Hoyle, with one noticeable exception. Rod Woodson, a top-five projected pick
along with the aforementioned Jerome Brown were still on the board! I can still
remember looking across the table at a pensive Bill Kuharich, our college
scouting director, and thinking to myself, "we're going to get one of these
The Eagles, picking 9th, took two-thirds of their allotted time and picked Jerome Brown. I sighed
&mdash or maybe even uttered
a brief obscenity &mdash but with just 15 minutes remaining before our selection, we
couldn't afford to dwell on our misfortune.
One of our coaches stated that he had heard
that the Steelers were very concerned about Woodson's commitment to the game and
"signability." Woodson, a world-class high hurdler, was competing on the European Track & Field
circuit at the time of the draft.
Ten minutes passed. Why are they taking so long? Maybe they will
stay local and draft the University of Pittsburgh's Tony Woods?
At the 14-minute
mark, Finks walked from his seat over to the speakerphone and said, "Danny, write the name Rod Woodson,
Purdue University, DS on the card and be ready to run it up if the Steelers
fail to make their selection in the allotted time."
We heard Danny Simmons, the Saints longtime equipment
manager, give an affirmative response, but mere seconds later came the
announcement by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle that the
Steelers had selected Woodson. At the exact moment of their selection, my gaze was directed toward head coach
Jim Mora, who grimaced and disgustedly hurled his first pencil of the day in the
direction of the draft board.
Okay, we're on the clock. And although he wasn't our first choice, both
southeastern scout Hamp Cook and I agreed Harris Barton was a very solid choice
and would play a very long time for the Saints, barring injury. But something
was wrong. Finks, Mora, and Kuharich had left the draft room and were huddling
in an adjoining office! Was there a trade in the works? Team owner Tom Benson
and his brother Jerome also seemed puzzled by the events, but like all
of us waited patiently for the three to return.
Fourteen minutes later, the trio returned to the room. With all eyes
trained on Jim Finks, he instructed our table in New York to write down the name Shawn Knight, DE from BYU and run it up to the podium.
Shawn Knight, what were they thinking! Area scout Bill Baker had rated him a
late second-, possible third-round selection. Cross-checker Carmen Piccone had
dubbed him an overachiever who was not worthy of first-day draft consideration.
What had we done?
Our second selection, Lonzell "Mo" Hill was a skilled receiver who
lacked speed and who previously had some off-the-field issues. Among the scouts, the
Hill selection did not evoke any real sense of euphoria.
Third-round pick Michael Adams from Arkansas State was, in the mind of both
Hamp and I, a long-term project at the cornerback position with some kick return
potential. By the look on some of the faces in the room, I don't believe I was
the only principle in the room that felt that we had blown the draft
with these top three selections.
As Finks scanned the board at the beginning of the fourth round, he pointed to a
card positioned higher than any other and asked me, "Tommy, you have a low first-round grade on Steve
there any reason we wouldn't select him with our next pick?"
We had spent a lot of time discussing the relative worth of Trap during our
spring scouting meeting, so my answer was both quick and to the point.
"Yes sir, there is a great reason why I wouldn't select him. The head coach
doesn't want anything to do with him."
With that statement and the ball squarely in Jim Mora's court, he readily admitted
that he didn't think Trapilo was a good enough player to help our football club.
After viewing tape and watching him live at the Senior Bowl, it was his opinion
that he didn't play strong, never finished anything, nor was he particularly
tough. He also related he had some friends on the coaching staff of the Chargers who shared his negative opinion.
I believe Jim's (he hated to be addressed as Coach) last statement did not go
over especially well with Finks, who responded by saying he thought we
needed to listen to our own people and the hell with what the Chargers' felt.
then turned to me and calmly asked if Trapilo could make our football team. I
answered with alacrity that not only did I believe he would make our football
team, I felt that barring injury, he would start for the Saints as a rookie.
The silence that accompanied my answer was followed by the announcement that
the Cowboys had selected Trapilo's college teammate, Kelvin Martin, with their
selection. The Saints were now on the clock.
"Dan, write this name down: T-R-A-P-I-L-O, Steve, Boston College
offensive guard and run it up," was Finks' charge. And at that moment, amid
mild congratulatory expressions, Steven P. Trapilo became the expressed property
of the New Orleans Saints football club.
With the selection, Jim Mora, the most intense individual I had ever worked
for in professional ball, quietly got to his feet. But before exiting the room,
he hurled his second writing implement in the direction of the draft board.
In rookie minicamp, Trap quickly dispelled one negative connotation
immediately. During a "mirror pass protection drill" he
accidentally poked rookie linebacker Scott Leach in the eye. Leach took offense to the
act and clubbed Trap across the head with his forearm. Trapilo responded by
leveling the Ohio State linebacker with a single right uppercut to the chin.
"At our staff meeting that evening, I think Mora ran that play back at
least 25 times," said longtime NFL assistant Paul Boudreau. "When
Trap hit him, the kid's legs looked like spaghetti. It took (team trainers) Dean and Kevin
nearly ten minutes to get him back on his feet."
That summer, just prior to training camp on a late-night run, Trapilo stumbled
upon a woman standing next to a luxury automobile who had hit a tree head-on.
The car was obviously totaled.
"Are you okay ma'am?" Trap asked the noticeably shaken woman. When
she answered affirmatively, Trap
informed the woman that since she was okay, he had to continue with his workout
since he was running for time. The next day, the Boston Globe reported that Joan
Kennedy, the former wife of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, had been charged
with a DUI after being involved in a single-car accident in Cape Cod.
to go Trap," was Boudreau's only comment upon greeting the rookie.
"You left the
Senator's wife on the side of the road so you could complete a run, what's wrong
Photo: New Orleans Saints
The banter between longtime NFL assistant Boudreau and Trapilo easily
rivaled that of Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis and was a constant source
of entertainment for everyone involved in the Saints' family. At the same time,
Boudreau, the consummate teacher, never let up for one minute on his star pupil.
"Keep your hands inside your frame ... Hey, how many times do we have to
go over this protection? ... Can't you bend those knees Trap? You look like the
Tin-Man in the Wizard of Oz," were the constant refrains from the position
coach. Boudreau recently told me that in his 20-plus years of professional coaching,
he had never worked with an individual that he liked and admired more then Steve
The rigors of training camp, particularly in the stifling Louisiana humidity
were not something that most players relished, but Trap was hell-bent on proving
himself to his teammates and coaches alike from the go. During one-on-one drills on his short sets,
Trap consistently stoned his defensive teammates. And when
pulling and leading down the field, he was a surprisingly nimble big man.
Two weeks after the veterans reported, after concluding one of his daily press
conferences, Jim Mora entered the scouts meeting room on the campus at Southeast
Louisiana and asked if he could meet with me in his office. Now on this
particular day, after 10 to 12 consecutive loses in gin rummy to my dear
friend and fellow scout Carmen Piccone, I actually had a commanding lead.
But I had
learned many years before that meeting with the head coach took priority over
I hurried to his office, and without any fanfare Jim told me that he had been
totally wrong in his evaluation of Steve Trapilo and wanted to apologize to me
for his near draft-day blunder. And he finally told me how glad he was that I was a
member of the Saints' scouting staff. He then stated that after just one
preseason game, Trap had already established himself as a starter at the right
offensive guard position. I assured him that no apology was necessary and that
we were all in this thing together. While walking back to the room to continue my contest with Carm, I thought about how big a person Jim Mora was to have admitted
his judgment error.
For the season, Trap was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team. Over a career
that spanned just five years and 57 games before being cut short due to injury, he still accomplished
enough to be named to the New Orleans Saints All-Time Team at the offensive
Everyone associated with the Saints from 1987 through 1992 has a
Steve Trapilo story.
Longtime assistant trainer Kevin Mangum tells the story
of how Trap twice limped to the sidelines during pregame versus the Jets,
about the tape job he had performed in the locker room. After the third taping
session, Mangum inspected the inside of his shoe, removed a full mouthpiece from
the bottom, and with a deadpan expression on his face, handed it to Trapilo.
Assistant equipment manager Silky Powell has his own favorite story.
A few weeks after the mouthpiece incident, the Saints traveled to Buffalo and as
luck would have it, encountered sub-zero weather. The equipment staff
had warned the squad about placing their equipment in front of the portable
heaters. Trap heeded Silky's warning and instead decided to place his helmet
directly on top of the heaters &mdash only to find later that a portion his helmet had
After five years with the Saints, Steve signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots. But a lingering injury to his foot ended any chance for him
to finish his career in the area of the country he loved the best.
After concluding his football career, Steve and his wife Kim went into the
health club business and ran five successful clubs throughout the Boston area.
Trap loved people and the clubs afforded him the opportunity to interact with
them on a daily basis. But the two things that gave him the most joy was simply
his marriage to his beautiful wife, Kim, and being the very best dad he could to
his twin daughters, Jordyn and Devyn, and his son Ozzy-Dean.
Kim, whom I met on her first visit to our complex, was a classic beauty.
spite of her great looks, I always felt that what really attracted Steve to
her was her terrific sense of humor, intelligence, great heart and street sense.
All of us who knew her readily agreed that Kim had better comeback lines then he
did. And I swear, if it came down to it, she could literally kick his butt.
At nearly 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Trap was a giant of a man. But his
physical size paled in comparison to the size of his heart. I won't embarrass
anyone by directly revealing the many things he did for so many people, but the
dollar expenditures that he made were significant.
He actually presented me with my first laptop, a gift he said would hopefully
make it easier for me to find players better then the likes of him.
nation's most popular boys band at the time, "The New Kids On the Block," appeared
in Raleigh, Steve arranged for my then seven-year old daughter, her mother, and a
young friend to attend the concert. I remember calling him on the eve of the
event to thank him, and to let him know that backstage passes really weren't necessary
for six- and seven-year old girls.
The weight room at BC High, where Steve was also a volunteer coach for six seasons, is a direct result of his generosity and loyalty. He had always felt
that school was directly responsible for his successes.
I would have liked to have ended this article by saying that Steve and the rest of
the Trapilo family are all doing well and are continuing to make a difference in the
lives of those people that he has touched. Unfortunately, in May of 2004 while
on vacation with his family in Effingham, New Hampshire, Steve suffered a fatal heart
attack and died at the age of 39.
He was an absolutely great father, son, husband, brother, nephew, uncle,
cousin, classmate, teammate and friend.
He was, in every sense of the words, the
athlete that I'll never forget.
Tom Marino has over 35 years of experience as a professional scout working for the NFL's Bears, Saints, Rams, Giants and Cowboys along with both the WFL and USFL. As Scout.com's Lead NFL Analyst, he has primary responsibility for network reporting, the NFL Draft, Free Agency databases and rankings.