Angelo Coia dies; ex-NFL player and Philadelphia high school star

Angelo Coia
Angelo Coia
Posted: January 04, 2013

Angelo Coia, 74, a sprinter who teamed with Herb Adderley in one of the most explosive backfields in Philadelphia scholastic football history, died Wednesday. The cause was not immediately known.

Like Adderley, Mr. Coia, who ran a 100-yard dash in 9.5 seconds while at Northeast High School, went on to play in the NFL. He spent seven seasons with the Bears, Redskins, and Falcons.

Despite their Philadelphia legend, neither Mr. Coia nor Adderley played running back in the pros. While Adderley became a Hall of Fame defensive back with the Packers and Cowboys, Mr. Coia was a wide receiver. He caught 121 passes and scored 20 touchdowns and started the first game in Atlanta Falcons history, Sept. 11, 1966.

But in 1955, Mr. Coia and his running mate burst into this city's consciousness and into its newspapers' headlines. Their breathtaking breakaway abilities propelled Northeast to a Public League title and earned them both first-team all-scholastic honors.

"My senior year we did very well until our city championship game, when we played La Salle," Mr. Coia told the Daily News in 1986. "Herb got hurt the week before in a playoff game and didn't play."

La Salle focused its defense on stopping Mr. Coia. The Explorers did so successfully in a 20-0 victory.

"Angelo had blazing speed," Adderley said Thursday. "He might have been the top high school sprinter in the state of Pennsylvania. He didn't run too much inside. But when he got outside, look out. There was no one who could catch him."

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Mr. Coia was not only big for a back in that era but unusually fast. He and Adderley were on Northeast's 4x100-meter relay team, which finished third at the 1956 Penn Relays.

Mr. Coia signed with the Citadel. But a year later, when that school's running backs coach, future Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, went to Southern California, he transferred there.

Drafted by the Bears in the 20th round of the 1960 NFL draft, Mr. Coia played for the legendary George Halas and was a member of the 1963 NFL champion Bears.

Recently, when Washington managed a dramatic victory over Baltimore, Mr. Coia was recalled for his role in another Redskins comeback.

On Nov. 28, 1965, Washington trailed Dallas, 31-20, with six minutes to play. Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen then led the Redskins on two long touchdown drives, the last one topped by a game-winning, 29-yard scoring pass to Mr. Coia.

After Mr. Coia retired as a player, he trained and owned racehorses and also coached youth football in the Northeast. Later, he reunited with Davis and worked several years as a Raiders scout. He spent his final years in Brigantine, N.J.

In addition to his wife, Connie, he is survived by five children.

On Monday there will be a viewing from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church in Brigantine and a Mass at 10:30.

On Wednesday, there will be a viewing from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Christ the King Church in Philadelphia and a Mass at 10:30.


Contact Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @philafitz. Read his blog, "Giving 'Em Fitz," at www.philly.com/fitz

|
|
|
|
|