CHATHAM, NJ - It was a 47-year journey for Al Errico in his career as an athletic trainer, but he finally achieved one of his lifelong goals when he came to the end of the road, serving as a part-time athletic trainer for Chatham High School over the past two years.
"It's something I always wanted to do from when I graduated from college, to work in Chatham," Errico said. "It happened at the end of my career, not the beginning. It's my hometown I've always had pride in Chatham."
The 70-year-old Errico retired this month, with the Chatham High boys soccer game held on Oct. 27 marking his final game.
"I learned that something new and interesting can happen at any time, at any place," Errico said of his career. "My overall impression has been that the athletes have always been very respectful, the coaches likewise, so it's been a pleasant time, especially the Chatham coaches and staff. They've made me feel a part of the team whenever I've been there."
Errico was part of the team at Chatham High in the 1960's when football coach Herm Herring made him the manager of the team.
"I was too small to play football when I was in high school, soaking wet I was 130 pounds, compared to what Chatham had at that time, a line that averaged 250 pounds," Errico said. "I wanted to get involved. Herm Herring accepted me as his manager. We had great teams in those days."
From Chatham he went to Seton Hall University and received his degree in Physical Education and Health, being mentored in athletic training Eddie Coppola of Seton Hall and Sam Martucci of Seton Hall Prep. He started out as a graduate assistant at Columbia University, where he was a teacher in the PE department for two years.
"Columbia was one of the best experiences I ever had in dealing with the students," Errico said.
Along the way, there were stops working as an athletic trainer in Old Bridge, Pennsville, Elizabeth High, Union High, West Orange and Madison. He also covered games for the Morris County Secondary School Ice Hockey League.
A member of the National Athletic Trainers Association since 1969, Errico got a chance to work in national and international tournaments as an athletic trainer, including the Special Olympics and U.S. Blind Athletes Association.
"I even did a short stint with an AAU junior basketball team that went to Europe for two weeks, playing in Italy, Denmark, France, Sweden, and Greece," he said.
Now that he has more free time, he will on keep in shape at the gym and continue hobbies such as growing vegetables as a member of the Morris County Park Commission Community Garden. The late Farmer Paul Suszczynski dubbed him "Chemical Al" because of the fertilizers he uses in his garden.
"They don't call me Chemical Al for nothing," he said. "My cabbage heads get to be 10 pounds. I've also grown tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and other vegetables."
Since 2007, he was able to work on a per diem basis for a number of schools until the Chatham Board of Education added a part-time athletic trainer position. Errico had a short commute to Chatham High from his home on Pine Street.
"I want to thank the Chatham Board of Education and the parents of Chatham for allowing me to work with the athletes," Errico said. "I really appreciated that. I want to especially thank Bill Librera and his assistant, Ginny Leslie, who treated me very professionally and I will consider them friends for the rest of my life.
"I also want to thank Mike Colavita, the athletic trainer at Chatham High for allowing me to work with him. He is one of the best athletic trainers that I know in the county and the state. I'm grateful that the Chatham coaching staff treated me professionally and as a friend."