Colonie High School will be naming its football field in honor of the late Mike Ambrosio, following a recent vote by the district’s board of education.
Ambrosio, who led the Garnet Raiders varsity football team for 14 seasons ending in 2011, died in January 2019 at the age of 64.
“I coached football with him and taught physical education with him for a long time, and he was such a genuine guy,” Colonie athletic director Joe Guardino said. “People trusted him, and he’d tell you the truth. He was a very positive guy. So up-beat. Kids found him to be very approachable.”
Ambrosio taught physical education at Colonie from 1985 through 2017, and also coached lower-level football, wrestling, track and lacrosse in his time there.
“Kids who didn’t play for him but had him in gym class years later would say he was a nice guy,” Guardino said.
Guardino said the naming of the field in Ambrosio’s honor was endorsed by numerous community members.
“We have a website where people are able to chime in with public comments, and it was overwhelming. So many thought it was a great idea,” Guardino said. “I submitted the application, but it was backed by a lot of people.”
“He never forgot that it was about kids, and that he was there to teach and be a role model,” state football coordinator Gary VanDerzee had said at the time of Ambrosio’s death.
Guardino said a committee will be formed to work out details, such as the manner in which Ambrosio’s name will be permanently displayed at the field and when the field dedication will take place.
“It’s going to happen,” Guardino said. “A lot of things are still to be determined.”
“You couldn’t put a more deserving name on the field! One of the truly nicest gentlemen to ever coach football in Section 2,” former Troy head football coach and current Schuylerville assistant Jack Burger wrote on his Twitter page.
Ambrosio’s 1998 Colonie team pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in Section II football playoff history when it erased a 27-0 deficit and beat Shenendehowa 47-33 in a semifinal game. One of Ambrosio’s many standout players, R.J.Harvey, scored four touchdowns in that victory.
“Considering the situation and the importance of the game, it ranks up there as one of the all-time greats,” VanDerzee had said. “For the players, it was a lifetime experience. You don’t remember the test in math class at your 30th, 40th, 50th reunion. That’s what they’ll talk about.”
Ambrosio’s 14 varsity football teams posted an overall 66-62 record. Eleven of them made Section II playoff appearances, and three reached Class AA championship games.
“It’s hard to place just football on his legacy,” Guardino said. “He was known for a lot of things.”
Ambrosio was a big supporter of all Colonie athletic teams.
“He was one of the most visible physical education teachers and coaches I’ve ever known,” Guardino said. “He was at all the events. He was everywhere.”
Ambrosio stepped away from his varsity football coaching role in the 2008 season so he could watch his son Mark compete as a senior at Shaker, and returned to his position afterward for three more seasons.
“He taught kids about teamwork. Commitment to excellence. He instilled in the kids things they could take into life,” Colonie varsity baseball coach and longtime friend Kevin Halburian said of Ambrosio. “He preached life.”