Sunday’s Super Bowl pitting the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks will be watched intently around these parts by only the most serious of football fans. For the rest of us, it’s an excuse to eat some bad food and watch some good commercials.
But anybody who lives around Boston should be cheering for Seattle, and it has nothing to do with the Broncos knocking the Patriots out.
It has to do with Breno Giacomini, the hulking right tackle for the Seahawks.
Breno grew up in Malden, the son of Brazilian immigrants. His dad, Joao, worked in maintenance at the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel in the 1990s when Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was at some function. Joao Giacomini sneaked young Breno in to meet his idol, and as soon as Breno had that autograph he was determined to follow in Bledsoe’s footsteps.
At Malden High, Breno played quarterback as a freshman. He played his sophomore year, too, but then quit football to concentrate on basketball full time, hoping he could get a college scholarship.
That’s where my cousin Rich and his staff come in. Rich Cullen was the head football coach at Malden High, and had noticed Breno playing soccer in eighth grade. He asked Breno to come out for football. Cullen was crushed when Breno sat out football his junior year in 2002, and later convinced Breno that he’d have much more fun playing both basketball and football, rather than just basketball.
Breno came back and had a good but not off-the-charts senior year playing tight end and defensive end. He did have an outstanding game on Thanksgiving, his final high school game, against Medford, Malden’s archrival, and that was the film Cullen sent to all the big college coaches. None was interested.
Enter Malden High’s defensive coordinator, Ray Bogus. He played football at a small college in Montana for the father of University of Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino Jr. In fact, he coached the younger Petrino in a youth league in Montana.
“You’ve got to take a look at this kid,” Bogus told the Louisville coach. “He’s got great potential.”
The Louisville coaching staff was impressed by the film, and Petrino dispatched his tight end coach to Malden. Rich Cullen picked him up at Logan and was surprised when the coach turned and said, “Take me to your school cafeteria. I want to talk to the lunch lady.”
The lunch lady assured him that Breno Giacomini was a nice, polite boy.
“That’s good enough for me,” the coach said.
Breno’s college career wasn’t stellar, but he kept getting bigger, and he was relentless at getting better. The Green Bay Packers drafted him, but it was only after he joined the Seahawks in 2010 that he came into his own on the offensive line.
Still, it is what Breno Giacomini does off the field that should make you root hard for Seattle this Sunday. Every off-season, he comes back to Malden to run a football camp for kids for free.
“The vast majority of our student-athletes live at or below the poverty line,” said Dana Brown, Malden High’s principal. “Like Breno, about 40 percent of our students and athletes are the children of immigrants.”
Breno and Louisville teammate Gary Barnidge, a tight end with the Browns, are taking their free camp to other countries.
Last fall, Malden High head coach Joe Pappagallo was surprised to get a bunch of boxes delivered. They were full of cleats, gently worn by Seattle players. Breno sent them, just as he sent a box of gloves he picked up from the locker room floor.
Last year, the Seahawks appeared in a nationally televised game. As usual, the players introduced themselves on screen, saying where they played in college. But when Breno’s face flashed on screen, he didn’t say Louisville. He said Malden High.
Breno Giacomini will never forget where he came from.