Holy Trinity quarterback Joe Tortello spent a lot of time between his junior and senior seasons running on the University at Albany track that surrounds its football field.
He’ll be spending a lot more time there in the future, as a member of the Great Danes.
Section II’s all-time passing leader has given head football coach Greg Gattuso a verbal commitment to attend UAlbany, a Football Championship Subdivision and Colonial Athletic Association member.
“I have been a fan my whole life,” Tortello said. “I wanted to stay close to home, and it’s right across the street. A half mile from home.”
Tortello will join UAlbany as a preferred walk-on, with the idea of earning an athletic scholarship. He said he will likely redshirt his freshman year, and is weighing business or communications as a major.
“I want to get bigger, stronger and faster,” said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Tortello. “Now it’s, ‘Get down to work.’ No excuses. Time to figure everything out.”
“He’s a gym rat,” Holy Trinity coach John Barber said of the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons student. “He is not going to be outworked. He’ll do what’s asked, and then he will do more.”
Tortello did a lot during his senior season, completing 111 of 149 passes and amassing 2,353 yards while throwing 38 touchdown passes with one interception. The 2019 Daily Gazette Offensive Player of the Year was a more mobile player, too, the result of an intense offseason training program that improved his speed and lateral movement.
“Me and my dad were just talking about that. If I didn’t have the senior year I had and didn’t change by body, I’m not at UAlbany,” Tortello said. “I wanted to play at a Division I school, and I had to make a big jump.”
Tortello’s short list of schools included UAlbany, Union, Wagner, Stonehill, Brockport and New Hampshire.
“Last spring and into the summer, he looked at a lot of schools and was invited to several prospect camps and examined everything,” Barber said. “His heart was always with UAlbany, and in the middle of the season, they said they were interested. It’s a great opportunity for him.”
UAlbany finished second in the CAA in 2019 with a 6-2 record, and went 9-5 overall with redshirt freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler running the offense.
“I like the coaches at UAlbany, and I like the system they run,” said Tortello, a two-time all-state first-team selection. “They like to throw the ball down the field. Run it at you and catch you deep.”
Undercuffler led UAlbany to its first FCS playoff win and a No. 15 rank on the final Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll in the 2019 season. He set program single-season records with 41 touchdown passes and 3,543 passing yards.
“If I want to get playing time, I’ve got to learn that system,” the 18-year-old Tortello said. “It’s kind of close to ours, but more complicated.”
“When his chance comes, he’ll be prepared,” Barber said. “He’ll be ready.”
Tortello was ready as an eighth-grade junior varsity quarterback, when he got called up to the Holy Trinity varsity late in the season, and his only pass went for a 32-yard touchdown. Over the next four years, he threw 110 more scoring passes and piled up 7,304 more passing yards to set Section II records in those categories.
He also set a Section II single-season record with 39 touchdown passes as a sophomore, when he led the Pride to the Section II Class C championship, two state tournament wins and a title-game appearance at the Carrier Dome. As a junior, he tied the state one-game record with eight touchdown passes.
“The run to the Dome was probably right up there, but the most memorable thing about my years here was all of the people I was able to meet because of football,” Tortello said. “All of the guys from Bishop Gibbons, Catholic Central and Bishop Maginn, all of the different families, all of the people from the Capital Region who supported me and the team.”
Tortello’s Holy Trinity teams won or shared three division championships. As a senior, the Reinfurt Division Offensive Player of the Year led the Pride to a Section II Class B title-game appearance.
“I really am pumped,” the National Honor Society member said. “I have heard from so many people that are excited to see me play again.”