By Erich Gillespie (Whetstone Staff)
Barely any words were exchanged before Coach Steve Azzanesi interrupted his interview.
“I don’t know why you’re not doing this on one of the players,” he said.
Thousands of high school scouting reports littered the desk of the wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator for the Wolverines, but pictures of his wife and children somehow managed to stand out from the clutter.
His face full of passion and energy, Azzanesi stresses the importance of family and doing things the right way.
“My father coached me and always taught me to work hard and be positive,” he said. “I was always smaller than everybody else so I had to work.”
Years removed from his All-ACFC Wesley College quarterbacking days, the man who everybody refers to as “Coach Azz” now teaches and coaches at his alma mater.
Entering his eleventh season at Wesley, Azzanesi attributes all his success and passion to one thing: “I love working with the players.”
But this excitement for football is not only reserved for his players.
At the end of any given practice you can catch his wife Margaux, their daughter Marin, and two sons Luke and Paul making their way on to the field. Two little boys who, at ages 6 and 4, are just as animated and lively as their father is.
“His kids love him to death and you can see that every time they are around,” said Chris Sfamurri, the Wolverine’s offensive line and strength and conditioning coach. “In the weight room, I have seen how guys have grasped the concept of doing things the right way, partly because Coach Azz won’t let them do it any other way.”
After playing four years of baseball and football, Azzanesi cited the 2011 playoff game against Linfield University as his most memorable, a game in which Wesley mounted its largest comeback in school history on its way to another semifinal appearance.
“It was great seeing the team pull together and battle through so much adversity,” he said.
Much like the adversity that reared its head one morning when he was on his way to teach his 8 o’clock Sports Communications class.
“My car broke down on route 8 and I knew I was running out of time.” he recalled. “I just reacted.”
Less than 10 minutes later, he strolled through the door of the classroom hauling his book bag, fully drenched in sweat from his sprint to campus. Surely a disappointing sight to his students who were minutes away from victory – much like Linfield was.
This special strand of dedication also lent itself to a life-threatening situation when the Wesley football team was traveling to Ohio for a game in 2011.
Ben Knapp, son of associate head coach Chip Knapp, went into cardiac arrest in the middle of the night and Azzanesi responded immediately. He provided essential CPR, saving his life.