Greco doesn't let obstacles block path
Physical limitations put to side while chasing coaching dream
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Walt Disney may have made that line famous decades ago, but Bobby Greco is living that bit of wisdom to the fullest.
Greco is in his fifth season as student assistant football coach at Division III St. John Fisher in Rochester, N.Y., where he works with the offensive line. After graduation, he hopes to pursue his dream and become coach at the college or professional level.
But Greco’s pursuit of his dream has not been without severe challenges. He was born with a rare congenital disorder called arthrogryposis. At birth, his joints were locked in different positions than they should be. Doctors first told Greco’s parents their son would never talk or show emotion.
“When I was born, my arms were turned outward and I couldn’t bend at the elbows,” Greco said. “My hips were also turned outward and locked – they called it ‘frog legs.’ I had to have two hip releases within the first 18 months of my life.”
Greco underwent 21 surgeries in the first 14 years of his life -- 16 of them coming before the age of three. Most of the surgeries have been orthopedic procedures to unlock joints and correct their position.
While doctors have done everything possible to help ease Greco’s condition, there are certain things they were not able to fix because of his lack of muscle tissue. Greco is confined to an electric wheel chair, has limited use of his hands and needs assistance from an electric lift to move from his wheel chair to his recliner. A day does not pass without suffering from constant discomfort and pain.
But, somehow, despite the obstacles, Greco still musters up the will and desire to coach young men in a game he will never play.
The 23-year-old grew up in Geneva, N.Y., a couple hours outside of Buffalo, and like many little boys in the area became a diehard Buffalo Bills fan at young age, which sparked his passion for the game of football. At the age of five, he met Buffalo Bills’ players like former quarterback Jim Kelly, and Greco was hooked for life.
“That helped my love for the game come out because I realized they were just regular people, and not super heroes like you think they are as a kid,” Greco said.
Greco had to figure out a way to be involved with football, and that’s when he caught the coaching bug.
In eighth grade, a door opened for Greco to start chasing his dream. His cousin, Joe Davis, who was also Greco’s in-school aide, began coaching the eighth grade modified team at his school. Greco eagerly watched and learned.
“That’s when I started developing my skills and realizing that it is not too impossible of a dream because I can figure out ways to do it – it will just be a little different,” Greco said.
In his freshman year at Geneva High School, Greco helped the JV offensive line, and then worked with the varsity squad in his final three years. Geneva won the New York Class B state championship in Greco’s senior year.
When it was time to look at colleges, Greco called St. John Fisher head football coach Paul Vosburgh and set up a meeting.
“I had seen him several times on the sidelines with Geneva High School’s team, so I kind of knew who he was because my son was playing at a rival high school,” Vosburgh said. “I told him we would let him be a student assistant and be with the team because he told me his aspirations about being a football coach.”
In his first year helping at Fisher, Greco took time to learn the new offense before jumping into coaching.
“We talked about that we he first got here,” Vosburgh said. “He needed to learn the game so he could explain what he was talking about. He had to understand the techniques and assignments.”
Greco caught on quickly, and for the next two seasons, he served as the JV’s offensive line coach, and now serves as the varsity’s assistant offensive line coach for St. John Fisher, which is ranked 17th nationally in the AFCA poll.
But unlike most football coaches, Greco does not have the option to get in the middle of a drill and demonstrate a pancake block. He has found other ways of getting his points across.
“Being handicapped my whole life I guess I’ve become good at explaining things I need if I can’t show someone what I need,” Greco said. “I use different analogies or try to get the players to visualize what I’m telling them. If I can visualize it and get the players to visualize the same thing, then we’re on the same page and that usually works. It’s just like them watching me do something if they have that picture in their head.”
Greco, who has also coached at the Jim Kelly Football Camp in Buffalo during the last two summers, has college graduation in his crosshairs. When he finishes school, Greco will look to fulfill his dreams of coaching in college or the pros.
For now, Greco continues to tackle his everyday challenges and serves as an inspiration for the St. John Fisher coaches and players.
“He is fighting some adverse conditions that none of us have,” Vosburgh said. “We don’t have any idea what he goes through on a constant basis and for him to want to be a part of the staff and be involved with football – he is no doubt an inspiration and a role model for coaches and players.”