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Joe Scanella

Sport: Football

Born: May 22, 1928

Died: May 3, 2018

Town: Clifton

Joseph Louis Scanella was born May 22, 1928 in Passaic to Tony and Jennie Scanella. Joe grew up in Clifton and always had a little coach in him. He often recalled that, as a boy in neighborhood games, he liked to “boss people around.” A good student and gifted all-around athlete with a strong arm, Joe distinguished himself as a quarterback at Clifton High School and earned a scholarship to Lehigh University in 1946 after serving a year in the Army. He played three varsity seasons for Bill Leckonby’s Engineers, and was the starter as a senior in 1949. That season Joe teamed with running back Dick Gabriel to lead Lehigh to a 6–3 record. Joe did more running than passing in the Engineers’ attack, but 10 of his 46 pass completions went for touchdowns. He was a second-team Little All-American; Eddie LeBaron was picked in front of him.

Unlike most Lehigh grads, who pursued careers in engineering, Joe dreamed of a career in pro football. He was not drafted by the NFL and failed in a couple of attempts to make the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. He began what would be a slow but steady climb to the pros as a high-school assistant back in Clifton and then to a head coaching job for Oceanside High on Long Island. From 1964 to 1968 he was Scanella2the head coach and Athletic Director at CW Post, and then had brief stints in the NFL and CFL before taking the head coaching job at the University of Vermont.

In 1972, John Madden hired Joe to coach special teams for the Oakland Raiders. He held that position for six seasons, collecting a Super Bowl ring in the process. One of the other coaches on Madden’s staff was Ray Malavasi—a fellow Clifton High grad. Joe was an old-school coach who pushed his teams hard in practice and wasn’t afraid to get in an underperforming player’s face.

In 1978, Joe was hired to succeed Marv Levy as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes. The team’s personnel director had known Joe since his Lehigh days. Joe led the Als to the Grey Cup finals in his first two seasons, but they lost both games to Edmonton. A disastrous start in 1981 led to Joe’s dismissal. He returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Browns and Raiders before retiring in 1993. He scouted for the Colts part-time after that. Joe passed away at the age of 90 in 2018 in California.


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