By: Paula Kowalewski Sullivan Compiled from numerous sources including an interview, news/sports networks such as NECN, CBS and ESPN; publications such as The Boston Globe and The Sun Chronicle; and online sources such as nfl.com, Yahoo Sports, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter and others.
Many of us Wrenthamites just love this town. Some of us were born here, others just found it by luck. Some found it and managed to find a way to live here, and some found Wrentham was a sanctuary for them and their families on their paths of life, even when fame found them.
So this month we’re covering a local, living Notable in this piece, a wonderful husband, father, and Patriots football coach named Dante Scarnecchia. It was recently announced that our neighbor, Mr. Scarnecchia, is to receive an Award of Excellence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this year.
Mr. Scarnecchia told us he initially moved to Massachusetts in 1982 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas to work for the Patriots as a special teams coach. He was coaching in the NFL since then and other than a brief stint in Indianapolis, he's been a fixture on the Patriots' sideline, lasting through six different head coaches (from Ron Meyer to Raymond Berry, Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick) and three separate stints in New England -- 1982-88, 1991-2013, and 2016-19. Safe to say those bosses all had different styles and approaches to the game, but Scarnecchia has been a trusted member of each and every one of those coaching staffs. Primarily an offensive line coach during his 34 seasons with the team, Scarnecchia has won six Super Bowl titles.
On Monday 3/27/23, CBS News Boston reported, “When speaking to reporters at the league meetings in Arizona, [Bill] Belichick unsurprisingly had plenty to say about his former assistant. ‘Well-deserved. Yeah, Dante's a great football coach,’ Belichick said. ‘Obviously had a long, long history with the Patriots in multiple roles. But when I was here in '96 with Bill [Parcells], it was Dante, Romeo [Crennel], Al [Groh] and I on the defensive staff… three great people to work with. So I got to know him pretty well then, and then of course when I came back, he was coaching the offensive line, so I kept him as the offensive line coach.’ Though Scarnecchia didn't run the offense or defense for Belichick, he served as an assistant head coach for 14 years and as the offensive line coach under Belichick for 18 years…. Widely considered the best O-line coach in the league, Scarnecchia retired after the 2019 season. Belichick continued: ‘He made a huge impact on our team and me. Just a wonderful guy to work with on all levels. Hard-working, dedicated, unselfish, good fundamental coach. Understands offense, defense, kicking game. Very good teacher, detailed, tireless worker. Well-deserved.’"
As Wrenthamites, initially the Scarnecchia family lived over by the Crocker Pond area for 8-9 years and then Dante went to work for the Colts for a couple of years. When he returned (happily) to the Patriots in 1990, he and his family “loved the Carriage House Lane area,” and eventually built their own home nearby. He tells us, “We’ve lived here a long time and love this town. Our kids were educated in the school system here – my son Steve eventually went to Syracuse University after KPHS. He is Chief of Staff for the NY Jets. My daughter Lisa went to Roger Williams after KPHS and then got a job the day after she graduated!”
Mr. Scarnecchia has rightfully earned his reputation as one of the Patriots’ most respected and revered coaches in franchise history. He attended Taft Junior College before transferring to California Western University in 1966, where he played football as an offensive lineman and earned a degree in physical education, while also serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for six years.
Throughout his multi-decade coaching tenure, Scarnecchia coached at his alma mater, California Western, and made stops at Iowa State, Pacific, Northern Arizona and Southern Methodist before joining Ron Meyer’s Patriots staff in 1982. He would later spend two seasons as offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts under Meyer and landed back in New England under Dick MacPherson in 1991.
With the Patriots, Scarnecchia went on to hold the titles of special teams coach, tight ends coach, special assistant and defensive assistant. He’d be named offensive line coach in 1999 and remained in that capacity following Bill Belichick’s arrival as head coach at the start of the millennium.
The 75-year-old wound up spending 34 seasons with the Patriots and winning six Super Bowls across three stints. He initially retired after the 2013 season and thought he was finally done with football. According to a Boston Globe article, “He didn’t leave the Patriots because he had soured on coaching. He just needed a break. ‘I didn’t retire because I didn’t like coaching football,’ Scarnecchia said. ‘I retired because I got tired of the lifestyle. Two years off, I’m OK.’”
But Patriot fans had adopted an "In Scar We Trust" motto, and Bill Belichick talked him into coming back to save the New England Patriots‘ offensive line. The offensive line was one of the team’s weak points in the 2015 season, and Scarnecchia’s return as the offensive line coach made an instant improvement. The 2016-17 season even ended with the Patriots winning 2017’s Super Bowl LI against the Falcons. Scarnecchia won his sixth Super Bowl title when the Patriots defeated the LA Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
Scarnecchia’s involvement in the Patriots organization and his subsequent impact have been immeasurable. In 2015, Scarnecchia received the Pro Football Writers of America’s Paul ‘Dr. Z’ Zimmerman Award — named for the late, longtime Sports Illustrated writer — recognizing Scanecchia’s lifetime achievement as an NFL assistant coach. Now, he will get the chance to be further recognized for his vast and impressive career. The Awards of Excellence is a program, launched by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022, to honor those who have made a positive impact on individual teams and the sport of professional football. The Hall of Fame typically recognizes a collection of assistant coaches, athletic trainers, public relations staffers and equipment managers per year. The Hall of Fame will honor Scarnecchia, along with 16 other recipients in Canton with an evening reception on June 28 and an awards luncheon June 29, 2023.
Mr. Scarnecchia has the longest coaching tenure in Patriots history. And it’s kind of cool that he lives in Wrentham!