Obituaries

Armond Colombo, legendary Brockton football coach, dies at 87

Westwood, MA---9/23/00----Brockton head football coach Armond Columbo is hoisted in the air by his players following his 300 career victory over rival Xaverian High. Library Tag 09242000 sports (regular edition only) Library Tag 09192002 Globe South 3
Matthew Lee/Globe Staff/file 2000
Armond Columbo was hoisted by his Brockton players following his 300th career victory.

Armond Colombo felt a sense of pride in 1970, his second year as head coach of Brockton High School’s football team, when his players took on visiting Brookline High at brand-new Rocky Marciano Stadium.

Marciano, the former undefeated heavyweight boxing champion who had died in a plane crash more than a year earlier, was Mr. Colombo’s brother-in-law.

“I’d just love to have the first Brockton football team to play in Marciano Stadium go on to an undefeated season. It would be a tribute to the kind of man Rocky was,” Mr. Colombo told the Globe prior to the early October matchup. Marciano, he added, “never would or could allow himself to be beaten.”

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His team made Mr. Colombo’s wish come true. Brockton defeated Brookline en route to a 9-0 season, becoming the first of many great Boxers teams he coached.

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Mr. Colombo, whose teams won nine Eastern Mass. Division 1 Super Bowl championships, died in his Brockton home Sunday of a heart attack. He was 87.

His 316 career coaching victories — 55 of them at Archbishop Williams High in Braintree — rank second all-time among Massachusetts high school football coaches. Along with his nine Super Bowl wins as a head coach, he had two more as an assistant to his son Peter.

In 1972, with Peter at quarterback and future NFL player Ken MacAfee Jr. at end, Brockton defeated Newton North, 16-14, in the first Eastern Mass. Division 1 Super Bowl.

“Armond was like a psychologist. He molded different personalities into one team and he cared about every aspect of your life,” MacAfee said. “When I got to Notre Dame, I was so prepared, especially as a blocker, that I was able to start as a freshman. And that was because of Armond and his coaching staff.”

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Peter Colombo, who is now Brockton’s head coach, was the first of five brothers to play football for his father. Mr. Colombo retired as Brockton’s head coach after the 2003 season, and then served as an assistant coach on Peter’s staff until 2017.

“It was incredible to be together. He was a phenomenal assistant who never took the credit,” said Peter, who lives in East Bridgewater. “You couldn’t be around him without feeling the intensity. He would tell the kids, ‘If you put on the uniform and play this game, you have gained my respect.’ I started coaching as his volunteer, and he finished as mine. He never really stopped being a coach.”

In a 2001 interview with the Globe’s Bob Ryan, Mr. Colombo said of his players: “I don’t know if they’re sophomores or juniors or seniors. I’m just playing the best kids. . . . If they’re sophomores and they’re here, they should be able to play.”

One sophomore who earned a starting role was running back Odell Wilson, who went on to star for the Boxers’ 1984 Super Bowl champions and who later played for Penn State.

“Coach Colombo had high expectations and was firm, but fair, and that never changed,” Wilson said. “You had to be tough and willing to be a team player, and I have taken that approach through college and to this day.”

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Charlie Bergeron, a former WBET radio announcer of Brockton games for more than 20 years, said that “no coach I ever dealt with was more accommodating or helpful than Armond. I’d ask him about football and he would first ask me how things were going in my world.”

Tom Pileski, a former assistant to Mr. Colombo and a former Brockton High athletic director, said Mr. Colombo “was committed to excellence. Every single player was important to him.”

Pileski added that Mr. Colombo “was so focused that once he told a player that he had given up too much yardage on a play, and I said: ‘Coach, the runner only gained one yard.’ ”

Mr. Colombo also was a mentor to those in other sports, such as former Brockton High basketball coach Vic Ortiz.

“You could count on him,” said Ortiz, who said Mr. Colombo had a great sense of humor and always showed up at basketball team fund-raisers.

Armond Celeste Colombo was a son of Michaelangelo Colombo, who worked in Brockton as a meat cutter, and the former Giovina Ferrara.

Mr. Colombo was an all-around athlete at Brockton High, from which he graduated in 1949. He was the quarterback on the undefeated 1948 team coached by Frank Saba that triumphed over Miami Edison High in a postseason game at the Orange Bowl in Miami. When Marciano Stadium was dedicated, Saba was one of the honored guests.

Mr. Colombo, an inductee into the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches, Brockton High, and Stonehill College halls of fame, played baseball at Stonehill, where he was the leadoff hitter and center fielder. One of his teammates was first baseman and future Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman, with whom he remained friends.

After graduating in 1955, he was hired at Archbishop Williams as an assistant coach under Jack Garrity.

“Jack gave me the foundation for success . . . as well as the keys to drive the team bus,” Mr. Colombo would later tell the Globe.

Also in 1955, he married Elizabeth Ann Marchegiano. One of the ushers was her brother, Rocky Marciano, who told the Globe that “this is Betty’s day,” and added: “I’m going to have my day Sept. 20” – the date he was scheduled to fight heavyweight challenger Archie Moore.

While serving as head coach at Archbishop Williams, Mr. Colombo led his teams to five Catholic Central League titles and three Class D Championships. He began coaching at Brockton in 1969 and posted a 3-6 record the first year. Then he turned a losing program around while changing the team’s nickname to Boxers.

“Armond was born to be a football coach. He had other coaching opportunities but was loyal to Brockton, where he could positively impact the lives of young people,” said Mr. Colombo’s brother-in-law Peter Marciano. Marciano’s three sons were football captains at Brockton High and called Mr. Colombo “Uncle Arm.”

Marciano said that for many years on Thanksgiving, Mr. Colombo prepared stuffed artichokes for the family dinner as skillfully as he prepared his players for their game earlier that day.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Colombo leaves four other sons, Donald of Easton, Daniel of Arlington, Armond Jr., who is known as Chuck, of Andover, and Thomas of Waxhaw, N.C.; a sister, Beth Ann St. Andre of Brockton; and 13 grandchildren.

A service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brockton.

Gene Marrow, a longtime assistant coach to Mr. Colombo and a former Brockton High principal, said his best friend did everything in his power to help his players. He made calls and helped players get into universities such as Michigan, Syracuse, and Clemson, and also into Division 2 and 3 schools.

“He exuded a passion for football you wouldn’t believe,” Marrow said.

Ed Schluntz, Brookline’s head coach that day in 1970 in Marciano Stadium, regarded Mr. Colombo as “a fine person and an outstanding coach. He was devoted to his football program and his players, who shared his enthusiasm for the game. And he was devoted to his community.”

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.