The defense never rests
Jon DeMarco played a solid game of football in his day at Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains. Tossing a ball on a sunny afternoon recently, he’s still very much at home with the pigskin. Though he always played defense – high school and college – he catches the ball like a receiver and tosses it with a tight spiral. Even at 35 years old, an open-field tackle still appears to be a part of his skill set.
“He was very hard nosed,” said his coach at the time Mike O’Donnell. “He was our captain and the meat of our defense.”
O’Donnell is still the Stepinac football coach. He is joined on the sidelines these days by DeMarco, who is his defensive coach. The praise O’Donnell offered for the young DeMarco has carried into adulthood. “He’s an excellent coach. We’re lucky Citibank lets him come to practice every day.”
DeMarco is vice president/relationship manager for middle-market banking for Citibank. Stamford is his home office, but most days he is on the road managing his portfolio of 100 business clients, each of whom posts from $20 million to $200 million in gross sales. “I manage the day-to-day relationships with the bank,” he said. He seemed to know the next question was coming, the one about the economy: “It's a challenging market. But we're still seeing growth because our range of clients is so vast. There are definitely opportunities out there.”
In college at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., DeMarco majored in economics and political science while starting four years on the gridiron and becoming team captain. A favorite game was against Williams College, a 5-point 1993 loss that he nonetheless cites as a career highlight. “There were 12,000 fans; that's a lot for Division III.”
DeMarco's father died at age 52 in 1995, just as DeMarco was leaving Wesleyan to pursue a job in finance. He barricaded that career path and instead stepped in to run his father's restaurant, The Maple Tree in Rye. “I had worked as a bartender from time to time and as a busboy in high school. Luckily, my father was an extremely well-liked and respected man and the boss and the employees were extremely helpful. The manager stayed on for six months to train me before leaving to open his own place.”
While managing the restaurant, DeMarco was invited to coach at Bryant College, then christening its football program, though well established as a business college. He took the job. He emerged from a three-year coaching experience at the Rhode Island-based school with an MBA in finance.
The restaurant bug never really left DeMarco – “another passion,” he called it – and he is, if anything, a man of energy. “My brother and two close friends, one of whom worked with me at The Maple Tree, were interested in purchasing a restaurant in Rye,” he said. “We signed our lease in October 2007 and opened in March 2008.” The four Rye Roadhouse partners kept in mind the good-food ethos of old-style mom-and-pop restaurants. Their approach, as DeMarco puts it, is “great food in a fun atmosphere at a reasonable price.” The equation so far “has been doing great.” The Web site is www.RyeRoadhouse.com.
The Stepinac Crusaders were battling for a playoff berth in Catholic AAA-league play when DeMarco spoke amid players running drills. Last year the team was 10-2 – and champions – of the AA-league.
“This year we’re up against schools two to three times as big as we are,” DeMarco said. Stepinac has 600 students and is the smallest of the AAA schools. Chaminade in Mineola has 1,600 students; St. Anthony's of Huntington, co-ed, has 2,400; both are on the schedule. The Stepinac players running drills appeared up to the challenge of larger talent pools, even as their season hovered around .500.
In another, more important arena – life – the Stepinac football players appeared to be fine ambassadors for their school: organized and focused and, back to that life thing, possessing the civility so often lacking in youth. They’re well coached.