SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Western New England's football team started pre-season drills on Sunday, August 12, with approximately 150 players reporting to campus, including a pair of local freshmen who have strong family ties to the Golden Bears program.
Sean Coverdill (left) and Ken Vollaro, both from Somers, Connecticut, certainly know the history of the program better than most, if not all, of their classmates since both of their fathers proudly wore the Blue and Gold during their undergraduate days.
Sean's father Rich Coverdill and Ken's dad Rich Vollaro were teammates for three years and were members of the final club season in 1980 and first NCAA Division III team in 1981. Rich Coverdill also served as a team captain in both 1982 and 1983.
In addition, Ken's mother Mary Vollaro was a swimming standout for the Golden Bears after her father (Hank Bazan) started the program. She used to keep the stats for her father at the games. Mary is now in her 16th year as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western New England. Ken's uncle Stan Bazan played football for four years (1983-86) for the Golden Bears.
The biggest supporter, though, is Ken's grandmother Josephine Bazan who continues to attend games each fall and who is by general consensus the family's most avid spectator.
"I have shared articles with Ken so he can appreciate the history of the program," said Mrs. Bazan. "I also gave him a jacket that was worn by Hank and his players that had the original logo on it. When I think about that, it brings a tear to my eye because I know how proud Hank would be to watch his grandson play at Western New England."
Rich Vollaro and Rich Coverdill know the feeling just as well.
The two former standouts played on the same side of the offensive line for three years (Vollaro at tackle and Coverdill at guard). Now, they are anxiously looking forward to sitting in the stands and watching their sons in action.
"It's exciting knowing that Ken will be carrying on his family tradition playing football on the team his grandfather helped start as well as coach in the beginning," said Vollaro. "I'm glad that Ken will have the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships and learn some intangible life lessons only taught on the football field."
Rich Coverill echoed his former teammate's thoughts.
"Our family and Sean are very excited as he starts his journey as a Golden Bear. Initially, Sean considered other schools and received acceptance, but after learning more about Western New England's excellent curriculum, support system, reputation, and seeing the great program Coach Keith Emery and his staff have developed, his choice to attend WNE was very clear," stated Coverdill.
Ken and Sean are among 95 Western New England freshmen getting their first taste of college football. It's the largest first-year group ever to report to pre-season drills in school history.
Both enjoyed tremendous high school careers at Ellington/Somers who went undefeated at 10-0 during the regular season (and winning the Pequot-Uncas Division title) before dropping a 32-26 overtime decision against Wolcott in the Connecticut State playoffs.
Vollaro, who played on the offensive and defensive lines, received an honorable mention on both the Hartford Courant and New Haven Register All-State Teams. The 6'3", 240-lb. performer also was a two-time wrestling champion and lacrosse performer who finished with nine varsity letters. His twin brother Doug will attend Lehigh this fall on a wrestling scholarship.
"This is a win-win situation for me because not only will I be able to play football, but also get a great education as well," said Vollaro who is considering Accounting or Marketing as a possible major. "Overall, I'm extremely happy to play college football and follow in the steps of my father and grandfather. I'm looking forward to the season and all the new experiences that college has to offer."
Coverdill, who is 6-2 and weighs 225 pounds, was a defensive lineman who gained First-Team All-Conference honors. He also qualified for the State Track & Field meet in the shot put and served as a team captain in both football and track/field. Coverdill's brothers Brendan and Alex also play high school football for the Knights.
"I'm excited by the opportunities that Western New England offers, both in the classroom as well as on the football field. I look forward to the challenges that await and am ready to put forth my best effort in achieving success," said Coverdill who plans to major in Accounting.
Both players know they will have to continue to improve in order to see playing time for the Golden Bears who are coming off a school-record 10-2 showing and the program's first-ever New England Football Conference (NEFC) title and NCAA Division III Championship appearance in 2011.
Western New England coach Keith Emery likes what he sees so far with his two recruits. "It's nice having both Ken and Sean at Western New England. They are talented players who could contribute early to our program," said Emery.
Western New England has an ambitious schedule this fall, which includes a 10-game varsity slate along with six junior varsity contests. The Golden Bears open their season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, September 1, at Norwich in Northfield, Vermont.