Gridiron alums kick in for Gladiators

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The football alums of the New Hyde Park Gridiron Fund have kicked in $500 as their initial contribution for practice equipment to help the current generation of New Hyde Park Memorial Gladiators.

Sports insurance agent Richard “Big Daddy” Salgado and Tom Dluginski, leaders of the gridiron fund initiative, and former Gladiator footballers presented a $500 check to a grateful New Hyde Park head football coach Kevin Dolan at Umberto’s Ristorante & Pizzeria on Monday. Salgado also treated the entire Gladiators team were treated to a Columbus Day pizza lunch.

Umberto’s owner Umberto Corteo had already contributed $500 to the fundraising effort.

“Community and alumni support for the kids – there’s nothing like it. It’s a good thing for the kids to see,” said Dolan, whose current team is off to a 1-4 start.  

The contributions had already enabled the team members to subscribe to a high school football Web site, thehuddle.com, that enables the players to improve their skills by viewing game films of National Football League teams.

Salgado’s big play is to replace the playing surface of the well-worn football field at his high school alma mater. He figures that will take approximately $50,000, but said he has clients who manufacture the synthetic FieldTurf – the latest technology in the field – and he is scouting fields that have been resurfaced. 

A large contribution for a project like that would require approval of the Sewanhaka Central High School District. Salgado said he’s already discussed the FieldTurf project with school district administrators, and they are receptive to what the Gridiron Fund can do for the school’s football program.

“They’re asking for help,” Salgado said.

Salgado doesn’t have a timetable for getting the project done, but he said, “We’re on our way. It needs to be done.”

In addition to the contribution from Umberto Corteo, Salgado himself contributed $200 and said he successfully pitched a client of his at News Corp. into making a $500 contribution.

Salgado’s connection to Umberto’s grew out of his weekly delivery of pizza from the popular New Hyde Park eatery to the New York Giants training complex for their Friday lunch.

Dluginski had already started a Facebook page for Gladiator gridiron alums when he and Salgado came up with the game plan to give back to the football program that had given them so much. 

Salgado and Dluginski both have fond memories of playing for the 1984 Gladiator team that went 9-0 to win the Rutgers Cup trophy as the top team in Nassau County in their senior year. Salgado was an offensive  and defensive lineman and earned a football scholarship to the University of Maryland.

The two rallied their alumni troops for a Friday night game against H. Frank Carey High School at Michael J. Tully field in late September and drew contributions from more than 50 form New Hyde Park Memorial footballers who came to the game.

“We’re there to supplement anything they need,” Dluginski said, adding that they hope to make the gridiron fund an ongoing effort.

Speaking on behalf of his teammates, Nick Perrone, captain of the New Hyde Park Memorial varsity football squad said the contributions from the alumni are morale booster.

“It means a lot. We put in a lot of effort practicing since this summer. It feels good to be appreciated for our efforts,” Perrone said.

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