Countdown to Kickoff: Wilbur Cross Players Working Hard on and Off the Field

Wilbur Cross Head Coach John Acquavita knows that many of his players are helping make ends meet at home. But he makes sure that doesn't mean they miss an opportunity on the field.

You’ll learn a lot about Wilbur Cross football players if you walk a mile in their shoes. That is, if those shoes aren’t falling apart.

"First time I ever touched the ball I remember it was on kickoff,” said Wilbur Cross junior Jabez Cubiz. “I was on kick return. I caught it and I almost had a touchdown but I ended up falling because the whole bottom part of my cleat fell off."

That’s not an uncommon story for head coach John Acquavita to hear. He’s seen it all his life, himself a graduate of Wilbur Cross.

"I think having lived here and just going through the school system, you just know what to expect a little bit," Acquavita said.

What he expects: his team captain, Chino Grant, working an after school job as a thank you to his aunt, who raised him. Or, Cubiz, one of Acquavita’s best players, sometimes missing practice to help his single mom when she can’t meet his younger siblings at the bus.

Both players giving a nod to the women in their lives, working tirelessly to provide for them.

“Sometimes you're the one at home because the furnace guy's coming or the electrician’s coming or someone's there to fix something,” said Acquavita. “There's a lot on these guy's shoulders.”

More than once, Acquavita has called players’ managers at work, hoping they can spare them on heavier practice days and game days.

”I've worked out more deals and created more schedules than probably any coach in the state of Connecticut,” said Acquavita, understanding that sometimes his players may miss a practice, but they shouldn’t miss an opportunity.

”It should be a prerequisite that you have to coach in New Haven one year,” he said. “And then you're allowed to coach somewhere else so you can see.”

You can see what it’s like to walk a mile and help your players take off running.

“Coach Ack, I feel like he's a part of my family,” said Cubiz “He’s not coach, he's family.”

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