There are many authoritative figures present at a UB football practice.
For instance, head coach Maurice Linguist sends shivers down each player’s spine with his confidence and poise. Offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery instills an adrenaline rush on the receivers and running backs. But there’s a powerful presence that earns players’ respect unlike any figure on the field — and he’s a U.S. Marine.
Guy Allegretto, a Vietnam War veteran, has been giving motivational speeches to the UB football team for the last 11 years. He believes you can’t put a price on war stories, so he never charges a cent.
“I’ve been offered a lot of money, but I don’t want it because I know how lucky I am to be alive,” Allegretto said.
It was 1968 in Khe Sanh, Vietnam. Corporal Guy Allegretto and his fellow Marines had the odds stacked against them. There were 6,000 Marines against over 40,000 “hardcore” North Vietnamese troops.
There were seven different hills on which Allegretto could have been blindsided by rockets, mortars, artillery and even hand-to-hand combat at any second, so he and his fellow Marines dug trenches.
They lived in those trenches for 77 excruciating days. All 6,000 Marines were expected to perish. At the time, President Lyndon B. Johnson was so confident that the Marines would fail in Khe Sanh that he considered a nuclear contingency. Although they faced doubts from the president, Allegretto and his fellow Marines felt confident.
“We had them right where we wanted them,” Allegretto said. “Nobody on this earth intimidates the U.S. Marine Corps. Not one U.S. Marine ever complained.”
Allegretto was part of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines nicknamed, “The Walking Dead.” This battalion earned its chilling name during the Vietnam War by having the highest casualty rate in Marine Corps history.
But in the face of bullets, bombs and barricades, Allegretto survived the living hell that was the Vietnam War.
And at age 74, he has plenty of stories to tell.
While he continues to struggle with PTSD and depression, Allegretto has channeled his traumatic experiences into words of wisdom by becoming a motivational speaker.
After the war, many Americans perceived Vietnam veterans as scum. They blamed them for fighting in what they considered to be a pointless war.
Students at the University of California at Berkeley even went as far as to send medical supplies (such as IVs) to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, which were intended to aid communist soldiers in their fight against the U.S. This package was intercepted by Allegretto and his fellow Marines.
“It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life and the worst betrayal,” Allegretto said.
In response to the package, Allegretto and his fellow Marines threw their M16s to the ground and “cried as hard as someone can cry.”
U.S. civilians’ responses to the war deeply upset Allegretto. But he didn’t need that support.
“The U.S. Marine Corps was not built on sympathy,” Allegretto said. “That was the highest form of mental toughness, discipline and teamwork of all time.”
Those principles have stuck with him over the years and have become key elements in his motivational speeches.
Years later, the Amherst native developed a relationship with the UB football team. He started giving motivational speeches to the team when the Bulls were coached by Jeff Quinn in the early 2010s. This tradition carried over to Lance Leipold’s regime, as well as current UB head coach Maurice Linguist’s.
Allegretto found himself at a UB practice during the 2021-22 season — head coach Maurice Linguist’s first season at the helm of the Bulls.
The Bulls had just been dominated by Nebraska in Week 2. Following the 28-3 loss to the Cornhuskers, Allegretto felt the players didn’t seem upset enough.
Linguist wasn’t outside with the players yet, and the intensity on the field was lacking.
“They were lollygagging like they just won the national championship,” he said.
Allegretto noticed this lack of discipline and asked Linguist if he could speak with the team for 30 seconds after practice. Linguist obliged and told the Vietnam veteran to take as long as he wanted.
He didn’t hold back.
“You guys came to practice today, and you’re laughing and telling jokes,” he told the assembled players. “You just got your ass kicked by 25 points. That was a horse s—t practice.”
Allegretto gave the Bulls some tough love as he went on to explain just how replaceable the team’s captains are and that there are dedicated players on the team who would take their roles if given the chance. The players acknowledged Allegretto’s speech with a “yes sir.”
Allegretto says that “every practice was top shelf” from then on.
Allegretto exhibits brotherhood through accountability and discipline. Early in the Bulls 2021-22 football season, Allegretto provided the team with an eye-opening analogy.
“There’s a big, open [football] field. That’s where the enemy is,” Allegretto said. “Two words are on everyone’s mind: contact eminent. They’re over there and you’re over here. You know they’re coming, and you know you’re going to answer, it’s kill or be killed.”
He believes that every football game is akin to a fight, a fight where everyone on the same team is in a heated battle for their lives.
Allegretto instills an adrenaline boost in the players as he makes a connection between his bond with his fellow Marines and the bond between football players. The bond is that of a brotherhood, and having each other’s back when it matters most.
“They got your back and you got their back, you fight for each other,” Allegretto said. “We go above and beyond to take care of each other. What you all fight for now is to do your job. You’re there to keep your brothers alive and to execute.”
To this day, Allegretto continues to teach his inspiring lessons of discipline and brotherhood to UB football players. His experiences on the battlefield, while traumatic, have molded him into someone whose purpose is to motivate and inspire.
Dylan Greco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com