By Cary Shuman
The victories are not yet piling up for the Anna Maria College football team but Everett’s Joe D’Onofrio sees a bright future ahead for the program.
D’Onofrio, a former Everett High running back who also starred at Pope John High School, is having an excellent season for Anna Maria, a Division 3 college football program located in Paxton just outside Worcester.
The 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore scored Anna Maria’s lone touchdown in a 28-7 loss to Norwich University Saturday on Homecoming Day at Amcats Field. D’Onofrio’s TD came on a fake field goal in which he caught a pass from holder Trai Weaver and then outraced the Norwich special teams’ players to the end zone for 33-yard touchdown.
“Vinny Iaquinta took two guys with him to the outside on an out route and I took it straight up the middle and Trai Weaver lofted it right over the middle and I just caught it and kept running to the end zone,” said D’Onofrio. “We practiced that play a good 20 times in the past three days.”
Though the Amcats fell to 0-6 on the season, their large rooting section saw the versatility of D’Onofrio’s talents as he was the team’s leading rusher, pass receiver, kickoff and punt returner in the game. He is among the nation’s leaders in kickoff returns and has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in all-purpose yards. D’Onofrio said the program is making progress and he’s happy to be playing college football.
“We’re a new program and I just come out here and play hard and do it for my team,” said D’Onofrio. “I make sure everyone is doing the right thing. We have great coaches and everyone is working hard and staying positive.”
D’Onofrio, who had four catches for 59 yards versus Norwich, said his years in Everett football prepared him well for college and playing various roles in the Amcats’ offense.
“Coach [John] DiBiaso put me at running back and wide receiver so I learned a lot and I feel I’m prepared for wherever position they want me to play in the offense,” said D’Onofrio. “Coach Brian Vaughan [Pope John] also put me at running back and wide receiver.”
D’Onofrio, who prepped at Bridgton Academy, is also excelling in academics at Anna Maria while majoring in Business Administration and Marketing Communications.
“I like the football program, my teammates, the coaches, the academic environment,” said D’Onofrio. “I’ve been given a real opportunity to show what I can do as a football player and a student.”
The former Everett Pop Warner standout is particularly grateful to special teams coordinator and running backs Dan McKenna, who has maximized D’Onofrio’s contribution to the offense and on the kickoff and punt return units.
“Coach Dan McKenna is one of the greatest special teams coaches that you could hope to play football for,” said D’Onofrio. “He made me in to a good special teams player and he has a brilliant mind and comes up with trick plays. He’s a fantastic coach.”
McKenna said that D’Onofrio is a hard-working kid who comes to practice every day and shows 100 percent effort.
“All the players on the team know that Joe is going to bring it every day,” said McKenna. “He’s doing all the right things in the classroom and on the team. He’s a great example for our program.”
McKenna said he knows the tradition of Everett football and he’s happy to have D’Onofrio and Everett players Jon Pharel and Patrickson Pierre on board.
“We’d love to get more of those fine players from the eastern Mass. powerhouses like Everett,” said McKenna, who played football at St. John’s of Shrewsbury.
Joe said he was excited to see his father, Everett School Committee member, Bernie D’Onofrio, in the stands on Homecoming Day.
“Mr. Bernie D’Onofrio is a great guy and he comes out here and supports me,” said Joe. “He’s here all the time. He’s just a great dad. He’s on the School Committee and been bringing me along with him to support Everett for a long time. My brother, Michael, my sister, Michaela, and my mother, Connie – I love them all.”