By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Dom Guarnieri heard his Spackenkill teammates excitedly saying “It’s Saquon, it’s Saquon” on Tuesday, but there was no sign of the Giants’ star rookie running back.
That’s because Barkley was already blanketed in a sea of Spackenkill players after training camp in East Rutherford, N.J. Saquon meets Spackenkill was one of the many highlights of the trip organized by Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and Spackenkill coach Clint DeSouza. Gettleman, a Boston native, helped start Spackenkill’s football program in 1973. He was Spackenkill’s head varsity football coach from 1973-78.
“I’m a really big Giants fan and I go to camp every year,” said Guarnieri, a junior running back/defensive back. “But this was amazing. It was the coolest thing to see some of my favorite players up close. When I saw Saquon, it was awesome. I was breathless. It was just an amazing day for the team.”
Added DeSouza: “It was even more incredible that I expected. It just shows you how much of a class act that Mr. Gettleman is. Saquon came over and took every picture, he took every selfie. It was pretty surreal and it was a proud moment for our program. It was something special.”
According to DeSouza, Gettleman was not at practice on Tuesday. The 67-year-old is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for lymphoma. Gettleman was diagnosed with the cancer in June, but is now in remission. He was named general manager of the Giants in December.
“It is a great pleasure for the Giants to be able to host the Spackenkill High School football team at training camp,” Gettleman said. “My football roots as a coach and evaluator are there, and I have many fond memories of my time as head coach. I am proud of what Coach Clinton DeSouza is doing with the program and thrilled to be able to help.”
DeSouza said his team arrived to East Rutherford for breakfast at 9:30 a.m. and watched practice in a V.I.P. tent. After practice, several players, including Barkley, defensive lineman Damon Harrison, linebacker Alec Ogletree and offensive lineman Nate Solder visited with the team and signed autographs.
Harrison posed for a picture with DeSouza, his wife, Katrina, and their infant daughter, Olivia. Barkley took a picture with Katrina and baby Olivia. DeSouza, in his ninth year as Spackenkill’s coach, connected with Gettleman four years ago and regularly keeps in contact with him via email. Gettleman, the former general manager of the Carolina Panthers, visited Spackenkill in October.
“Mr. Gettleman is all about giving back to the community,” DeSouza said. “Everything he is going through right now with the chemo and he still has time to take care of us. Mr. Gettleman is a true example of what a good man is. I have been blown away by his generosity. He has always been true to himself and he will remain that way no matter what title he holds.”