BLOOMFIELD, NJ--Chet Parlavecchio began his high school football coaching career during the final years of the Reagan administration, at Bloomfield High School.
Now, almost 35 years later, a prestigious Hall of Fame will open its doors to Parlavecchio.
The Essex County Football Coaches Hall of Fame will welcome Parlavecchio in its 2021 class. The full class of Hall of Famers will be announced in the coming weeks.
Parlavecchio coached high school football for 25 years, begining at Bloomfield, from 1987-1990. He then coached at Irvington for two years (1991-1992), Passaic Valley for 10 seasons, covering two tenures (1994-1998 and 2015-2019), Clifton, from 1999-2003 and Elizabeth, where he guided that program to a state championship, from 2006-2009. He had a career record of 123-117-1 (he still doesn't like to talk about the 1988 tie, at home, against Belleville).
When he arrived at Bloomfield in 1987, that program was in the midst of a long winless streak, which would reach 40 games (0-39-1) by the second game of the 1988 season. Bloomfield finally got on the winning track, when it blanked Paramus Catholic, 7-0. The '88 squad would finish 3-5-1 and a season later, Parlavechio had the Bengals in the NJSIAA playoffs, as the team finished 8-1 in the regular season.
Lorenzo Sozio, now the athletic director at Mount St. Dominic Academy, was a senior quarterback at Bloomfield in 1988, when the Bengal snapped the log string of futility.
“Coach P was very influential in my life as a high school athlete,” said Sozio. “I have taken so many of the things that he taught us about life into my adulthood and profession."
The friendships Parlavecchio built with his Bloomfield players has transcended time.
“There is no doubt that the four years I spent at Bloomfield were incredible,” said Parlavecchio. “All these years later, I've stayed in touch with so many of those guys, and it's great to see so many of them doing well in life, as fathers and husbands. When I look back at coaching, I can remember some games, but the thing that really stands out is seeing former players doing well. That's what it's all about.”
Parlavecchio also lamented some of the players that perhaps he didn't reach.
“I look at the names, and there are some young men who have passed away. I always wonder if there was more that I could have done. That does resonate. Every stop I made in high school, I came across some great kids, and they were wonderful times," he said.
Parlavecchio grew up in Irvington and played his high school football at Seton Hall Prep, in South Orange. Upon graduation, he played linebacker at Penn State for four seasons (1978-1981) and was selected in the 1982 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
An injury cut short Parlavecchio's playing career after three years in the league, and coaching football was soon a passion, with his first head coaching job at Bloomfield. He would be a head coach on the high school level from 1987-1992, at Bloomfield and Irvington, then was a college assistant at Temple University in 1993.
In 1994, he was back as a high school coach, at Passaic Valley, where he spent five very productive seasons, with five straight winning years (37-12 overall) and three playoff appearances, including a state final appearance in 1996, at Giants Stadium.
Parlavecchio would then coach five seasons at Clifton High, then took two years off to watch his son, Chet Jr., play at Delbarton. He returned to the sidelines in 2006 and led Elizabeth High to a state sectional championship. Chet remained at Elizabeth for four seasons.
In 2011, Parlavecchio landed a dream position, as an assistant coach with the NFL's Tennessee Titans. Chet's college roommate, at Penn State, Mike Munchak, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, had been named head coach of the Titans and brought Parlavecchio on board to work with the special teams and linebackers.
Chet coached for three seasons in the NFL (2011-2013), then returned home to New Jersey and was rehired by Passaic Valley High, for a second tenure as head coach, starting in 2015. He retired as a coach following the 2019 campaign at PV.
Parlavecchio's son, Chet Jr. is now a successful head coach at New Providence High School.
Mike Carter succeeded Parlavecchio as Bloomfield's head football coach in 1991 and completed his 30th year at the helm last fall. Carter was once an assistant on Parlavecchio's staff.
“I'm very happy to see Chet get this recognition,” said Carter. “He's done so much for football in Essex County, as a player and later, a coach. His career speaks for itself. It's well deserved.”
Parlavecchio, who generally downplays personal coaching accolades, admitted his entrance into the Essex County Football Coaches Hall of Fame was extra special.
“This means more than I can say," the coach said. “It really does. To be included with some great coaches is an honor. I look forward to meeting the other inductees (for 2021). Without question, it's a major highlight in my life.”