Catch Up with the the Nassau County Product Jim Gehman
After not choosing a running back during the 1996 NFL Draft, The Jets looked in their own backyard and saw Lou D'Agostino, a former Lawrence High School standout, and the 1990 Thorp Award winner, given annually to the most outstanding football player in Nassau County.
And All-Yankee Conference/All-American at the University of Rhode Island, D'Agostino, who grew up "definitely a Jets fan," was given a tryout by the team he cheered for.
"I think there was some Long Island connection. I was able to get a workout with (offensive coordinator) Ron Erhardt," D'Agostino said. "And Pat Kirwan, who was the director of player personnel, there was some connectivity there. He knew of me. And at the workout, I did some really good things, which led them to invite me to camp. It was definitely a very cool experience."
A cool experience, but D'Agostino realized it was only the beginning if he hoped to put on a Jets jersey.
"It was something that just even as a kid was really, really exciting," D'Agostino said. "But I recognized the work had not been done, and it was never done. Especially when you're undrafted, every minute's your last minute. But I was really excited about that opportunity."
D'Agostino's opportunity was knocking at the Jets' Training Camp at Hofstra University, only a half hour's drive from his family's home.
"It was very cool to be local. I don't even want to give this as a soundbite because it would be funny, but a lot of guys thought I was Wayne Chrebet," D'Agostino laughed. "Guys used to ask me through the fence, 'Can I get your autograph, Wayne?' And I used to have to tell them, unfortunately, I wasn't Wayne.
"The experience was great. I think also at the time, it was business. You're there, you're practicing. Practices were very different at that time. Two-a-days. A lot of contact. And a lot of it was just preparing.
"I wasn't in spring training, so I had a lot of learning and catching up to do very quickly. So I really didn't have a lot of time to be nostalgic about it. Twenty-something years later, you look back, and you're like, 'Wow, it's pretty awesome.'"
Playing in nine games in 1996, D'Agostino, the only rookie running back on New York's roster, made his contribution on special teams. The Jets, however, we're less than special, posting a 1-15 record. Head Coach Rich Kotite was let go and replaced by two-time Super Bowl Champion and now Hall of Famer, Bill Parcells.
"I thought he was incredible, an incredible reputation, he was a winner. The team needed what he was going to bring and provide," said D'Agostino, who wasn't eligible for the practice roster in 1997, and was released during Training Camp. "Even albeit for a short period of time, I saw how he educated the team in every possible game situation and every possible moment.
"So my takeaway from Parcells is his teams needed to be mentally tough. Some of the smartest teams out there, they understand circumstances. And I just remember, not coming from a huge school, wishing you had that information and knowledge years prior. He was really big on execution and making the most of opportunities. And he was big on education. You definitely knew you were around special people when (Parcells and his staff) came in."
While D'Agostino's time with the Jets wasn't as long as he would have liked, it did provide lifelong memories.
"Meeting some of those players like Victor Green and Hugh Douglas, Marvin Jones, the guys that were there, the camaraderie," D'Agostino said. "But more importantly, I think just being a New York kid playing for the Gang Green was just incredible. And then also, just having that kind of belief that you belong there and you can be there."
After going on to play for the Florida Bobcats in the Arena League, and for the New York/New Jersey Hitmen in the XFL, D'Agostino earned his licenses to trade stocks and equities. But...
"Truthfully, I didn't really want to be a stock broker. It wasn't something that I was interested in," D'Agostino said. "But I did like finance. So I ended up getting hired by a firm that did insurance, but their clients were financial services firms. So that to me was a really great fit.
"I kind of felt it right away when I joined them. I ended up selling a variety of insurance solutions to the firms in that space, and kind of carved out a nice little niche for myself. And 20-something years later I'm still doing the same stuff."
Now the Managing Principal, National Hedge Fund Practice Leader at EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants, what does D'Agostino enjoy most about his second career?
"I love the financial services aspect. I love helping clients," he said. "And to be quite honest, very much like how my approach was on the sports field, it's just a lot of effort. Wanting to serve, wanting to give back to people, and just going a bit above and beyond. I like the service aspect of our business. I like the technical aspect of our business. And you don't ever get bored. Every time I meet a new client, it's a new opportunity.
"It's a commitment to always be learning and growing. The process of selling and building new relationships, it's the closest thing to competitive sports there is. So I kind of satisfied that need. You really learn a lot about business. I feel I've been in business school for 21 years."
D'Agostino and his wife, Lori, who make their home in Nassau County, have five children: Anthony, Louis Jr., Isabella, Michael, and Juliana.