Jeff Jacobs: Joe Tessitore Thrilled To Be Home To Emcee Walter Camp All America Dinner

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Image 1 of 1 Joe Tessitore will serve as master of ceremonies for the Walter Camp All-America dinner on Saturday evening at Yale's Lanman Center. Joe Tessitore will serve as master of ceremonies for the Walter Camp All-America dinner on Saturday evening at Yale's Lanman Center. Photo: Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images Jeff Jacobs: Joe Tessitore thrilled to be home to emcee Walter Camp All-America dinner 1 / 1 Back to Gallery

Joe Tessitore’s familiar deep voice is even deeper than usual. He is lying in bed Thursday at his Wallingford home. Battling his sinuses, battling the effects of two weeks on the road broadcasting the Sugar Bowl, the national championship and hosting nearly every show associated with the two.

“My body just gave out,” Tessitore said. “I don’t even know where I am. I just need a day.”

In other words, he’s fired up to serve as master of ceremonies for the 51st Walter Camp Awards Dinner Saturday at Yale’s Lanman Center. Although Tessitore, the play-by-play announcer for ESPN/ABC, has been an attendee for many years, this is his first chance to host the event.

Most of his emcee gigs are national. He recently hosted the College Football Hall of Fame inductions of Peyton Manning and Marshall Faulk at the National Football Foundation awards dinner in New York. Saturday will be different.

“I get a phone call saying Walter Camp — I’m a New Haven guy, I feel a great sense of obligation and a great sense of making sure the legacy stays at a certain level,” Tessitore said. “For me Walter Camp is the foundation of our sport.

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“There is something very important that the thread of Walter Camp runs well through our community.”

In many ways, this is like Chris Berman with the Travelers Championship. The bigger the names, the more heartening it is when they make contributions to state sports.

“I moved here in the winter of 1995 [at 24, as sports anchor at WFSB in Hartford],” said Tessitore, a Schenectady, N.Y. native. “This is where I met my wife. This is where my kids were born. This is my home. My career has been defined by boxing and college football and, for all intents and purposes, football was invented in New Haven. The basic rules of our sport are because of the man whose name is on this dinner and All-American team.”

The Tessitores are members of the New Haven Lawn Club. They play tennis and squash there and get a kick out of it being the social/athletic club of Walter Camp’s family.

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Jeff Jacobs

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“ When you go down the stairs you see Walter Camp’s son was the club tennis champion in, like, 1941 ... pretty cool,” said Tessitore, who joined ESPN in 2002 as a boxing announcer and blossomed.

Mark Richt, who’ll be honored as Walter Camp Coach of the Year? Tessitore spent 90 minutes with the Miami coach in his hotel suite overlooking the ocean, going over the game plan before an ABC game in Week 11. Camp Player of the Year Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma? Tessitore was in Dallas broadcasting the Red River Rivalry.

“These are people I work with every week,” Tessitore said. “The thrilling part is for them to come in and experience the old, tradition-rich foundation of our sport in my hometown. They play in 100,000-seat stadiums and $300 million facilities. I think it matters to walk onto the campus in New Haven and understand where the seeds of the sport were planted.”

Tessitore’s son John, the No. 9 high school prospect in the state and No. 16-rated kicker in the nation, played four years at Choate Rosemary Hall, was its captain and committed to his dad’s alma mater, Boston College.

“Choate prep school football is like Walter Camp in that you can’t believe you’re part of the lineage,” said Tessitore, who served as volunteer coach at the school. “John F. Kennedy played football there. You look around, the history of this probably surpasses anybody’s.”

Choate did n ot lose a game during John’s four years. He set lots of kicking records. His father did not force him go to BC.

“One p oint in his recruiting process, he turned to his mom and said, ‘Are you sure dad wants me to go to BC?’ ” Tessitore said. “I was so conscious of trying to stay neutral. Yale, Virginia, Army, I made a big deal of the other places. He loves Steve Addazio, obviously an area guy.”

It was here Tessitore’s voice grows even deeper. “Man, I am blessed,” he said.

Joe was 3 when his sister Dana was born with cystic fibrosis. Joe’s parents were told Dana could make it to sixth grade. She did not make it to preschool. His parents were devastated. Joe grew up an only child. He grew up to be one of the most relentless fundraisers for CF anywhere.

“I’m a carrier,” Tessitore said. “I can produce the disease. Rebecca is not a carrier. We went to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center when we got engaged to have her tested. We would have adopted if she was carrier. We are blessed to have two healthy children.”

Tessitore’s press-box spotter for ABC/ESPN, Mike Black, was a standout kicker at Boise State. When they’d go on the road, Black would teach John all the fundamentals, leg lock, approach steps, follow through, balance. John was kicking 35-yard field goals by the seventh grade. Who knows? Maybe the kid kicks an overtime winner with his dad calling the game.

Tessitore has been a magnet for tremendous finishes over the years. Sports Illustrated took to calling it the Tess Effect. The list of his greatest games would be a mile long, he said.

He did offer his favorite broadcasting weekend. Oklahoma State was No. 2 in 2011, in control of its destiny for the BCS title game. The Cowboys had a game at Iowa State on Friday night. As part of a split national broadcast, Oklahoma, preseason No. 1 and still highly ranked, was playing at Baylor on Saturday.

Tessitore was asked if he thought he could do both games.

“Let’s go for it,” he said.

The day before the game women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash. A four-touchdown favorite, the Cowboys lost in double overtime in a massive upset.

“I don’t k now if 52,000 people can fit on this field, but they’re sure going to try,” Tessitore said memorably as Iowa State fans swarmed Jack Trice Stadium. Years later, Tessitore walked into the Iowa State football facility and there was his quote posted.

“So one half of the BCS got blown up,” Tessitore said. “Now, we’ve got Oklahoma and Robert Griffin III going toe-to-toe on ABC. RG3 throws a last second touchdown pass to beat Bob Stoops. In a span of 24 hours, I got to call two of most electrifying games ever.”

Tessitore suddenly doesn’t sound so sick.

“I have the same passion as I did in 1995,” Tessitore said. “I’ve come to see my career as an extension of my family. Jesse Palmer, Tim Tebow, they are like uncles to my kids. You come to Connecticut, you stay at my house, you have pasta.”

Before he climbs on a flight Monday to broadcast the South Carolina-Kentucky basketball game, before he talks to John Calipari, before he resumes a hectic career, Tessitore will pause Saturday and consider where he is.

“The altar of college football,” he said.

Jeff.J acobs@hearstmedia

ct.com; @jeffjacobs123

Source : http://www.ctpost.com/sports/jeffjacobs/article/Joe-Tessitore-thrilled-to-be-home-to-emcee-Walter-12494906.php

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