A Story of Faith and Football at St. Francis (with video)

Joey Troina, a senior at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, is a committed young man. He’s a captain of the school’s football team and a member of the Prep’s student government.

But his devout Catholic faith and his willingness to profess that faith openly set Troina, 17, apart from his peers.

Joey Troina lines up at wide receiver in a recent game against Cardinal Hayes H.S., the Bronx. (Photo by Diana Colapietro)
Joey Troina lines up at wide receiver in a recent game against Cardinal Hayes H.S., the Bronx. (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

On Sept. 18, Troina was ordained an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion along with 10 other Prep students. He will now be able to influence the lives of his fellow students and athletes in showing them that it’s acceptable to practice their faith.

From the age of six, the Bayside native knew he would have a future in football, though it took a little coaxing from his father, Joe Troina Sr., who has two other sons that played football at the Prep. While attending St. Robert Bellarmine school and parish, Bayside, the young Troina, who also served as the water boy for St. Francis Prep’s team, learned the fundamentals of the game and developed the heart of a true football player on the gridiron.

“It was such a great experience,” Troina said. “I had talent for it, so it was just a growing love. I don’t know how much more I could love the game now.”

Troina played on the L’il Terriers freshmen and junior varsity teams before earning a spot on the varsity team last year as a junior. Once he worked his way into a starting role as wide receiver, he never relinquished it.

“I did some great things for my team,” Troina said. “They saw me as a leader. After the season ended, they voted me in as captain.”

Troina is aware of the heavy responsibilities associated with being a captain, and he certainly appears eager to attack the task.

“My middle brother Michael told me that ‘Being captain is not about the speeches. It’s not about what you say before the game. It’s about what you do on the field.’”

“As a leader and as a captain, he doesn’t stand in line too much; he really leads from the front,” said Rich Carroll, an assistant coach at the Prep for the past 10 years and Troina’s trainer in the offseason. “That’s what football is about, that’s what being the captain of a football team is about and that’s what being a young leader is about.”

So far this season, Troina has led by example. Not only is he catching passes for Prep as a receiver, but he also has lined up in the backfield as a fullback, as a blocker on the kick return team and even as the team’s long snapper on field goals and extra points.

“Wherever my team needs me, I’ll go 100 percent at that position,” Troina said. “It’s an unselfish game. It’s basically do whatever you have to do for a victory for the team.”

On the field, Troina tries to emulate his favorite New York Giants wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. He said he relates to Cruz’s story of being an underdog who succeeds on the field, and he studies Nicks’ every move, since the two are the same height at wide receiver — six-foot, one-inch tall.

A Fortunate Occurrence

During Troina’s junior year, St. Francis Prep announced that it would be accepting applications from students interested in becoming extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Troina immediately jumped at this opportunity.

“I was always a regular in church … always,” Troina said. “My brother was an altar server which inspired me to be an altar server. I went to church every weekend and said prayers every night, but that’s not faith to me. It’s the belief that you have. When you’re alone, who’s there for you? I believe it’s God.”

Troina wanted to surprise his family by keeping his plans for installation a secret. However, he was forced to reveal the surprise due to the extensive paperwork involved with applying for the service position.

He and his family compiled all the necessary documents and were ready to hand everything in, until one cold winter night after Mass, they couldn’t find the paperwork anywhere. After hours of searching, it seemed Troina’s journey to become an extraordinary minister was in serious jeopardy.

Joey Troina, left, and Father Bill Sweeney, chaplain at St. Francis Prep, pose at Troina’s installation ceremony. (Photo by Kathy Troina)
Joey Troina, left, and Father Bill Sweeney, chaplain at St. Francis Prep, pose at Troina’s installation ceremony. (Photo by Kathy Troina)

Several days later, Troina Sr. went to collect his mail, and sure enough, the papers were in the mailbox.

“It was meant to be,” Troina Sr. said. “I have no idea how it got there. Nobody left a name or anything. Someone brought it out of nowhere. It was amazing.”

Troina could be seen with a radiant smile during his installation ceremony at the Prep. He will serve as an extraordinary minister at school Masses and at his home parish of St. Robert’s. He’ll also serve during the football team’s weekly pre-game Mass — a respected tradition at St. Francis.

“I’ll be giving out the Eucharist to my team,” Troina said.

The Prep’s legendary coach, Vince O’Connor, who is currently in his 60th season at the helm of the L’il Terriers, said Troina’s character makes him the perfect candidate to stay involved with the Church.

“Today, more and more youngsters are finding it a difficult stretch to make any extra religious commitments,” O’Connor said. “Where other boys may find a reason to curtail some of their activities, Joey’s finding reasons to add to his activities. He’s a very well-spoken boy, very unpretentious and just a real pleasure to have out there. He’s a great credit to his school and the game of football.”

Troina said his dream is to become the next Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz by suiting up for an NFL team. He’s aware of the arduous path this will entail, but he’s committed to working hard through the rest of his senior year to earn a spot on a college football roster.

And with God firmly entrenched on his sideline, anything is possible.

IBL Hosts Halloween Hoop Tourney Oct. 19

The Inter-Parish Basketball League (IBL) will host its second annual Halloween Hoop Tourney beginning Oct. 19 at Shellbank J.H.S., Sheepshead Bay. Novice (age nine and under) and Bantam (age 10 and under) boys teams will be guaranteed two games. Contact IBL commissioner Mike Rossetti at 917-295-0993 for more information.