For Joseph Passaro, a three-sport athlete who earned top accolades in each, including William Floyd’s 1978 “Outstanding Male Athlete” award, becoming one of this year’s William Floyd Athletic Hall of Famers “meant the world” to him.
“You’re not going to meet someone so adamant about sports as me,” said the retired Suffolk police officer, class of 1978, who played football, baseball and basketball.
Passaro was joined by three other former standout student-athletes, a world champion professional boxer, a league champion varsity baseball team and the local youth baseball league, Tri Hamlet Sports Club, in the district’s 12th class of Hall of Fame recipients.
Inductees were enshrined at a ceremony attended by more than 100 people in January at the high school.
A ‘Friday Night Lights’ moment
Now 58, Passaro can still recite important plays and moments from his high school days, including the time he had a broken leg but managed to convince officials he was ready to play a cross-county game against Plainview High School by writing “Joe can play now” on a doctor’s note.
The team was down 6-0 with 26 seconds left to the game. Instead of taking a knee, Plainview fumbled. That’s when Passaro, a wide receiver and safety, went up to his coach and insisted: “You put me in the game and I’ll score a touchdown.” And he did, keeping a streak of the most consecutive games with a touchdown reception alive.
“It was like someone out of ‘Friday Night Lights,’” said Passaro, of Center Moriches.
“It’s not something I was expecting to happen, but it’s great,” said Joe Smith Jr., 29, of Mastic, class of 2007, who earned the honorary award. Smith will challenge Dmitry Bivol for the WBA World light heavyweight championship on March 9. “It was cool to be there with all the honorees.”
Smith, who trains out of Unique Fitness Xtreme in Shirley and started boxing at 13, said that while he did not do any school sports at Floyd, the teachers always supported him. “I always boxed as I was attending Floyd,” he said.
Smith is a former WBC International light heavyweight champion who is likely best known for knocking out Bernard Hopkins out of the ring in his final fight.
Ginine (Lucarello) Duda, class of 2002, not only went to Floyd, but also works for the district as a third-grade teacher at Moriches Elementary.
In fact, she found out she was being inducted into the Hall of Fame via interoffice mail.
“It was a nice surprise coming into work,” said Duda, 35, of Shirley. “I was a little taken back and overwhelmed.”
Duda was a dominant track and field and cross country athlete who won the Suffolk County “A” Cross Country Championship in 1999 and set numerous Floyd records. Her outdoor 1,500-meter record of 4:54 still stands.
She coached middle school track in the district, but has taken a break to spend time with her 14-month-old daughter, Kelsey Rae. She plans to coach again once her daughter is in school full time.
Of the Hall of Fame ceremony, Duda said, “It was really cool because they had the high school culinary run the program, and the food was amazing. And there were photo dropbacks like you were going to an awards show.”
Duda started in soccer and track in the seventh grade, but her coaches suggested she go in the direction of running, which led to cross-country.
“It’s a team sport. It’s not just about coming in first place, but beating your time.”
She said coaches would take her to special meets and made sure she was on top of her grades. And teachers would let her take tests on different days or give her extra time.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get a full ride to a college without track,” said the Manhattan College grad, who later went to St. Joseph’s College to earn a master’s. “That’s what led me to want to become a teacher. Because I had so many good role models with teachers.”
This year’s other Hall of Fame honorees include:
- Steve Murphy (Class of 2009), a two-sport athlete (football and lacrosse) and a two-time All-Long Island First Team lacrosse player who was ranked No. 26 as a recruit by Inside Lacrosse Magazine, among many other accolades in lacrosse. He also earned several top honors as a member of the football team such as All-State (First Team), All-Long Island (First Team) and the Boomer Esiason Award given annually to the best quarterback in Suffolk County.
- Courtney Murphy (Class of 2013), a standout lacrosse player who amassed 252 goals and 55 assists during her time as a Colonial. She earned All-County (three times), All-Long Island (twice) and is a two-time Under Armour All-American as well as an All-American for Inside Lacrosse magazine. She also earned All-County honors in two other sports – basketball and field hockey. Steven and Courtney Murphy became the first sibling tandem inducted.
- The 1976 league champion varsity baseball team coached by Mike Ferrigno, which finished with a 17-1 record and made it to the top four in the Suffolk County baseball tournament.
- The Tri Hamlet Sports Club was inducted for its in the community with the youth interested in playing baseball.
The William Floyd Athletic Hall of Fame now includes 72 athletes, six coaches, four honorary recipients, four community recipients, 12 team award recipients and one recipient in the category “Floyd Fanatic.”