Back on the Sidelines

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(KALB) -- It’s a hot, humid evening in College Station, Texas.

The town is very much defined by the school that gives it an identity, as the closer you come to Kyle Field, the more and more maroon engulfs every street corner, sign, and parking garage banner. This fall revealed that Texas A&M’s football program is the most profitable in college football, surpassing the Longhorns of Texas. Just more evidence that football is king in the Lonestar State.

It’s 4:27 p.m., and walking out onto the tunnel and onto the field are the
Northwestern State Demons. Some of the first out onto the grass are the quarterbacks group. The team hasn’t made a formal quarterback announcement at this point as to who will be starting, leaving fans curious as to what the season will bring with an unknown entity at the sports’ most valuable position. Jogging out onto the field with the group of signal callers is Anthony Scelfo, the Demons’ quarterback coach.

As the group begins their warm-ups, there is a calmness from Scelfo that can only come from someone who has been on a similar stage, even if it was years ago.

Anthony Scelfo was a two sport athlete for Tulane, playing both baseball and football for the Green Wave and excelling at both. During one season, Anthony scored a touchdown against the LSU Tigers, and hit a home-run against the LSU baseball team.

“I’m sure I’m the answer to a pretty cool trivia question somewhere,” Scelfo said, chuckling.

Regardless of who you are, that’s a very special athletic feat. For Scelfo, it’s one in a long line of athletic accomplishments.

At Jesuit High School, he became the first player in over 50 years to win the Catholic league’s Most Valuable Player award in both football and baseball. Soon after, he would sign on to play two sports at Tulane, his entire year and life engrossed in the sports he loves.

“It was amazing. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

The Demons would fall to Texas A&M, in a similar fashion to the way Scelfo’s Green Wave would fall to LSU on that fall night in 2006. But since that game, the Demons’ have defeated Grambling State and won their conference opener on the road in dramatic fashion against the Lamar Cardinals. The quarterback battle has been won by transfer Shelton Eppler, who tossed six touchdowns in the Demons’ win against the Cardinals.

Safe to say, the quarterback position is under the guidance of a man who refused to take this opportunity for granted. This Saturday, when the Demons travel to Hammond, Louisiana, to take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, the man guiding the Demons’ quarterbacks will get the opportunity to face the figure that made him fall in love with the game in the first place: his father.

THE JOURNEY
“I didn’t want him to get into coaching, I really didn’t,” said Frank Scelfo.

He has committed a life-time to the sport he loves, working his way up from the high school level all the way to the NFL, where he was the quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Making collegiate stops at Arizona, UTSA, and Tulane, where he had the opportunity to coach Anthony for two years, he never had the opportunity to be the head coach. That is, until Southeastern Louisiana University hired him to lead their program this last spring.

“One reason I didn’t want him to get into this profession is how smart he is. He will be successful at anything he does, including coaching, but this is a ruthless profession,” said Frank. “I didn’t want him to have to deal with that.”

Anthony pursued his dream of playing professional baseball, spending four season playing in the Rays organization, including a year that saw him make the New York-Penn League All Star Team in 2008. After that, he graduated with a degree in political science, and work for several years as a financial advisor. But, underneath the surface, there was always the itch to get back on the sidelines.

“I was happy with my work, I was,” said Anthony. “But, something deep down, I missed the competition. I missed the comradery, I missed the interactions with the players. I knew that it was now or never, in terms of pursuing coaching.”

It’s not hard to see why Anthony fell in love with the profession. Anthony spent a childhood in meeting rooms and on the practice field, even getting to spend quality time with some of Tulane’s greatest players, including Sean King, Patrick Ramsey, and JP Losman.

“From as early as I can remember, I tried to emulate these guys,” said Anthony. “I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I wanted to be like them.”

“He got to see a different side of those guys. Those guys were his friends. He would hang out with them, he got an experience that the casual fan wouldn’t understand,” said Frank Scelfo. “He was around greatness from day one, and he got to see the work-ethic and determination it takes to be great.”

Even with a father in the profession, Anthony found it difficult to break through into coaching.

Anthony eventually broke into coaching as a graduate assistant, working on a staff with his father at the University of Texas San-Antonio, assisting with the coaching of tight ends and quarterbacks.

THE DESTINATION
This past January, Northwestern State’s new offensive coordinator, Brad Smiley, received a phone call from an old friend.

“It was Frank. He basically pitched Anthony to me as a quarterbacks coach, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was a pretty good idea,” said Smiley.

He first met Anthony at the age of 14, when he started at Tulane as a graduate assistant, working on the staff with Frank.

“I kinda got to see him grow up, and then got to coach him on the staff at Tulane. It was always evident how much of a hard worker he was.”

Smiley brought on Anthony as the Demons’ quarterback coach, an opportunity that Anthony doesn’t take lightly.

“This was huge. When this started coming together, I knew that this was going to be special. And now that I’m here, it feels right.”

“He’s going to be great. He’s great at everything he puts his mind too, and this is going to be no different,” said Frank.

Whenever Southeastern and Northwestern State square off, it will have the father and son come full circle.

“I played for him, I coached with him, and now I’m coaching against him,” Anthony said through a laugh. “It’s funny how this all worked out. He’s taught me everything I know,…so it should be interesting to see if I can take everything I’ve learned and go out there and get a W.”

“I know what he’s thinking, and I know his approach,” said Frank. “We need to have the same approach or they may end up beating us.”

Saturday night, after the lights fade in Strawberry Stadium and the fans have exited, Frank and Anthony Scelfo will both be on the same sideline, just like they were while Anthony was growing up. Only this time, it will be after the two have spent three hours trying to defeat the other at the sport they both so dearly love. The Scelfo family wouldn’t have it any other way.