Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU to Honor Fallen Friend

Courtesy Kevin Reider/Georgetown Sports Information No future Hoya football player will wear Joe Eacobacci’s No. 35.

For the Georgetown football family, Homecoming weekend is always a time to welcome back old friends and teammates. This weekend, however, will be a little more special for all involved.

Former Georgetown captain Joe Eacobacci (COL ’96) left the Hilltop after graduation to become an energy trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in New York City, but in the years following his graduation, his friends and teammates never forgot him.

The tragedy of Sept. 11 prematurely ended Eacobacci’s life but did little to dampen his memory in the hearts of his teammates. Last season, the Hoyas wore Eacobacci’s No. 35 on their helmets right next to the American flag.

Before Saturday’s game, No. 35 will come home to Georgetown. The pregame ceremony will retire Eacobacci’s number and honor what he brought to his team and his university.

Before anything is won or lost or any points are scored , the crowd at Harbin Field will stop to remember a Hoya whose legacy stretches over a decade.

The number of guests at a recent benefit in New York City for the scholarship fund established in Eacobacci’s name is an indication of how many Hoyas appreciate him.

“It was amazing to see so many people [who] came out to remember Joe,” current defensive-line coach and Eacobacci’s former coach and teammate Rod Sgarlata (CAS ’94) said. “From guys that played with his brother years ago to guys on the team now.”

Joe’s brother Tom (MSB ’93) spoke at halftime of Georgetown’s first game following the attacks, a game held at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. Georgetown Head Coach Bob Benson coached Eacobacci from 1993 to 1995 and remembers that day.

“We took a big loss that day on the field,” Benson said. “But that wasn’t what hurt us the most. We missed Joe. That was a difficult day.”

Although the Georgetown football family has not stopped hurting from the loss of Eacobacci, Saturday will not be a day of mourning.

“This is not another memorial service. It is a celebration of Joe and what he brought to this team,” Sgarlata said.

Eacobacci’s 183 career tackles over his four-year career and the Coaches’ award he earned after his senior campaign pale in comparison to things that will never appear in the record books. During his four years as strong safety, defensive back and outside linebacker, Eacobacci’s competitive edge and love of football inspired his teammates.

“Joe was a leader with a contagious approach to football. His teammates fought to rise to his level,” Benson said.

Eacobacci took the same approach to life on campus. The Queens, N.Y., native seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy that he applied to everything he did.

“Joe was always the center of attention,” Sgarlata said. “He was always upbeat and never without a smile.”

Georgetown students who never got to meet Eacobacci will get the chance to appreciate him as an athlete and a Hoya this Saturday. As his number is retired, his family and friends will remember his energy and his smile. Those who never knew him will be introduced to a person who could easily have been their best friend.

“This ceremony is a chance to really honor his spirit,” Benson said.

For the Georgetown football team, Joe Eacobacci is hardly a stranger. The 2001 season was dedicated to the former captain who was very close to a large number current coaches and recently graduated players.

“Joe’s memory is a real rallying point for this team,” Sgarlata said. “Our current players have the privilege of honoring Joe’s memory on the field. They are very lucky to have that opportunity.”

This team can demonstrate Eacobacci’s value to them and to Georgetown with their efforts against Fairfield. They are also fortunate to have a number of opportunities that Georgetown Football did not have when Eacobacci led the team.

“I would like to think the Patriot League was a dream of his,” Benson said. “He would love to be playing on Harbin Field.”

These opportunities were created by the efforts of Eacobacci and his teammates. They helped raise this football program to a higher level. His efforts in each of his games, whether he knew it or not, helped build a program worthy of a move to a better field and a stronger division. Eacobacci accomplished this through nothing more than his appreciation of the game.

“He played all the way,” Benson said. “If everybody played his way we would never lose.”

Beyond wins and losses Eacobacci serves as a larger example for athletes and non-athletes alike. For the current football players, his example is one of community and friendship that makes it rewarding to retire his jersey and honor his memory this Saturday.

Joe Eacobacci, from your fellow Hoyas, “Welcome home.”

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