Joe Licata spent four years as a face of UB football – he is the program’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
The Western New York native and product of Section VI high school football, was a standout during his time at Williamsville South High School and finished top-five in passing touchdowns in New York State history. He spent last year’s preseason as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Licata has now decided to use his experience to develop the next generation of Western New York football players by creating Joe Licata Football.
“There’s a huge need for development in all positions in Western New York,” Licata said. “That’s what I’m trying to get to and really redefine the negative stigma around Western New York football.”
Joe Licata Football is a program designed to help train middle school and high school football players who are looking to get to the next level in their careers. The program started after the Clarence High School coach asked Licata to work with his quarterback. Licata found five other quarterbacks in the region and put together a 10-week program to work on the fundamentals of the position.
After gathering more quarterbacks, he decided to add more positions to the program. He has now expanded to around 50 athletes, with 36 quarterbacks and 14 wide receivers.
“My main goal is to really expand this thing and encompass all positions,” Licata said. “Kind of make it like a football school, not just quarterbacks and the first move was to go after wide receivers because that was the easiest position to correlate with the quarterback.”
Licata also added coaching staff to work with the other positions. He has stayed local in his coaching search and brought in a team of coaches who have made their mark in Buffalo.
Licata brought in UB alumni Naaman Roosevelt and Matt Weiser to coach the wide receivers. Roosevelt is a Buffalo native and holds the UB program records for receptions and receiving yards as well as being second in receiving touchdowns. He spent three years as a member of the Buffalo Bills and is currently a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Weiser spent four seasons at UB with Licata. Weiser had a program tight end record in catches and yards as a senior and was named all-MAC.
“I was all about taking what we learned at our time in college and at the professional level,” Weiser said. “And be able to give that back to high school kids and be able to show them small techniques and little drills that they can do to make their football skills so much better.”
TJ Scamurra is the newest addition to the coaching staff. He was Licata’s center during their time at Williamsville South and played collegiate football at Division-III Hobart College. He will be tasked with teaching the offensive lineman in the program.
Licata said the next step will be the addition of running backs to the program before eventually moving to the defensive side of the ball. He wants to make sure the quality of the coaches is up to par before adding new positions.
“I’m handpicking coaches,” Licata said. “I’m not going to bring in some guy who doesn’t really know anything about the game just to put a face to the position.”
Licata said there is a lack of infrastructure in New York State that hinders student athletes in the area. The coaching staff is not as elite as those in other states and coaches sometimes struggle teaching the little details that can make an athlete better.
He also pointed out that New York State high school football teams only play seven regular season games while many other states play 10.
The coaching staff all emphasized the importance of pushing these players past the point of great natural athletes. Coaches expressed the need to work on the “little things.”
Licata’s biggest desire is to explain to the quarterbacks the “why” of what happens on the football field. Weiser said he plans on focusing on the specifics of route running and how to hand fight. Scamurra plans to focus on footwork and teaching his lineman that it’s more than “pushing 400 pounds off your chest.”
“At the high school level, a lot of guys get away with just natural ability, I want to change that,” Scamurra said. “I really want to focus on the technique of it all, I learned over my years of playing college football that football is a technical sport, strength can only get you so much, size can only get you so much.”
Daniel Petruccelli is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org