CHICAGO HEIGHTS | It was 51 football seasons ago when Dave Mattio was a freshman at Marian Catholic High School with dreams of gridiron glory.
Those dreams reached their ultimate peak on Friday when officials at the south suburban Catholic high school officially named their football stadium for Mattio, who in addition to playing for four years and graduating in 1966, returned to the school in 1971 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Illinois University.
He was head football coach for the Spartans’ program for 37 years and has been athletic director since 1974.
Mattio retired from the daily coaching duties following the 2012 season, but still remains Marian Catholic athletic director.
During ceremonies held just before the Spartans’ game Friday against Carmel Catholic High School, fans who packed the stands were told a new scoreboard at the stadium would bear Mattio’s name.
Mattio is the 19th winningest coach in Illinois High School Association football history with 251 wins and 141 losses. He led Spartans football teams to playoff spots 20 times, winning a 4A state championship in 1993.
“He was a mentor to thousands of young men,” fans were told during ceremonies. Four of Mattio’s players went on to play professionally in the National Football League.
So what does Mattio, who embraced his wife, Jody, at the moment the renaming was announced, think of the way his football life turned out?
“When I came here, I took a liking to the place because there were some great people here who became mentors to me,” the coach said. “I tried to do the same for all the students who played on my teams.”
As far as the renaming-of-the-stadium honors? “I never would have thought that possible,” Mattio said.
When the ceremony came to an end, he motioned to his family members on hand (many who were wearing black-and-gold T-shirts identifying them as the “Pop Pop’s Field Crew”) and told them, “Let’s clear the field.”
“This is a cyclical business with all its ups and downs, but (Marian Catholic) is one of the great places to me, and I’m pleased that I was able to be here so long with such a great staff.”