Heeerrre's ... Rocco!
While longtime TV personality Ed McMahon is famous for introducing Johnny Carson for years on "The Tonight Show," it was Watertown native Rocco Canale who was the topic of discussion for a few moments on the program in 1969.
McMahon, serving as Carson's sidekick, told a story about lining up against Canale during a scrimmage while trying to make the football team at Boston College. McMahon recalled holding his own against Canale on one occasion before getting "creamed" by him on an ensuing collision.
McMahon turned in his uniform. Canale, who had been a standout in football, track and wrestling at Watertown High School before graduating in 1939, did not.
Canale played at Boston College for three seasons, appearing twice in the Orange Bowl and once in the Sugar Bowl. A captain at BC for one season, Canale played at right guard for the Eagles from 1940-42 and gained All-America recognition after his final season, making the Daily News first team and UPI and AP second teams.
He graduated from BC in 1943 before entering the Army at Fort Niagara. Later, he was assigned to the First Army Air Force Fighter Command Headquarters on Long Island, where he taught physical education.
But his days as an Eagle were not over.
Canale drew the interest of Philadelphia Eagles coach Earle "Greasy" Neale, joining the NFL team for seven games in 1943 and nine games in 1944. His participation with the Eagles continued in 1945, but the majority of his football action that year came with the First Air Force Team in the Air Force League.
A trade sent Canale to the Boston Yankees in 1946, and he remained with that club through 1947 before rejoining the Eagles in '48. He was bothered by a twisted ankle and a bone spur during training camp at Saranac Lake, eventually returning to Watertown help run his family's restaurant business.
Canale's football career was linked to that of Al Fiorentino. The two played together with WHS, Boston College and the Yankees.
Canale coached the Watertown Red and Black for three seasons, a span during which the team lost just two games. In 1981, Canale, who also played for the team, received the Old-Timers Certificate of Appreciation at the Red and Black's annual banquet.
Boston College honored him in 1993 with his induction into the school's Hall of Fame.
He died on Nov. 1, 1995, at age 75.
A scholarship fund in Canale's name is maintained at Jefferson Community College.
To read about previous selections to the Times' list of The North Country's Greatest 100 Athletes of All Time, log on to www.watertowndailytimes.com.