So, who is this Fabio everyone's been cheering about?
Updated: Oct 10, 2022
If you’ve been to a Yale High School football game this season, you’ve likely heard his name chanted from an emphatic student section:
“Fabio! Fabio! Fabio!”
That’d be Fabio Cocco, and he’s not your ordinary varsity football player.
He didn’t grow up dreaming about the day he could represent his school under the lights on a Friday night. He doesn’t have photos of himself in oversized shoulder pads from his peewee football days. In fact, he had never touched a football until a month ago.
“I played soccer in Italy, and when I came here, my host brother told me, ‘Why don’t you try football?’” Cocco said. “I didn’t know anything about football and I never went to a football game. I started to watch a football game with [his host brother] and his friend and I started to understand the rules.”
When he steps on the field to lead the Bulldogs in a kickoff, you'd never know it was his first season.
Cocco is a foreign exchange student from Italy where he grew up playing club soccer, and after just four football games, he’s gained more fans than he ever did back home. He said having so much community support has been a pleasant surprise.
“In Italy it’s totally different. I think the people here are more [community-oriented],” Cocco said. “We play for a club, we don’t play for a school [in Italy], so no one cares who you are in the school, but here people say, ‘Hi Fabio, nice kick yesterday,’ so that’s really cool.”
Even students at other schools know about him.
“I was at the JV football game at Cros-Lex and I was talking to a girl and she said, ‘Oh you’re Fabio, I’ve heard about you,’ and Cros-Lex is like what, 30 minutes from here?” Cocco said. “She said she knew me because the student section cheers for me during the game.”
While Cocco said he understands the general concept of the sport, he doesn’t necessarily understand all of the plays in Yale’s book, but that’s OK. The Bulldogs count on him for one job, and he does it very well.
“It’s a big-time advantage to have Fabio out there,” head coach Garrett Grundman said. “When he kicks off and the ball goes into the endzone, the other team starts at the 20-yard line. And when he kicks it to the 5- or 10-yard line, a lot of times they’ll only return it to the 20 or 25, so they don't get the advantage of good field position and it helps us defensively to pin them in their zone.”
So far this fall, Cocco has recorded five touchbacks on 14 kickoffs – not bad for someone who didn’t know what a kicker does to start the season. Yet he’s eager to do even more.
“My favorite part of the game is when I go to the kickoff because everyone’s cheering for me. When we go to the line, my teammates say to me, ‘Go as far as you can, we know you can do it,’” Cocco said. “I like the tackling too. I think I could do better and I’d like to try other positions, but the season is almost done.”
Yale has two games left to play in the regular season, and at 3-3, the Bulldogs have already won more games than they have in the last two years combined, giving the community even more to cheer about. They'll pick up another win with a forfeit from Algonac and take a bye this week, giving them extra time to prepare for their final league game on the road against Almont on Oct. 14.
Then they'll return home for their last home game of the season against Lutheran North on Oct. 21, giving Bulldog fans one last time to cheer on their new favorite kicker.
“It’s been great. You should hear the student section screaming his name. He’s a great kid and he participates in almost everything,” Grundman said. “He just wants to be a part of the culture of football and I think he really likes the environment. I think he enjoys it as much as we enjoy having him.”
Fans cheer for Cocco as he prepares to kick against Richmond on Sept. 16.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
To receive notifications about new stories from The Sports Report, subscribe for free.