The Xavier High School football team and its community gathered for
the funeral of JV assistant and strength and conditioning coach
Bill Costa on Tuesday morning at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in
New York City.
Costa, who had officially been a coach with the team since 2005, died
Thursday night of a heart attack at the age of 56 according to the
Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
"We had our freshman in their white jerseys, JV in maroon jerseys
and the varsity in their blue jerseys and we packed half the
church," Stevens said. "The family really appreciated it and
the kids appreciated the team being there to celebrate him."
Stevens said Costa had been with the program since 1998, when his son
and current freshman coach James Costa became a student
at the school. Costa officially began as a JV assistant and a strength
and conditioning coach in 2005.
He developed the team's off-season regiment to help it train for the
upcoming season, as well as helping out some other teams in the school.
Stevens said Costa developed a "boot camp" for the football
team and Stevens said it was noticeable the difference his workouts had
on helping the players become stronger.
Last Wednesday, Stevens said that Costa told him during practice that
his chest felt heavy and he did not feel that well. Costa skipped
practice Thursday and died later that night.
"We're a pretty close group. We have about 130 kids playing ball
and it affected the whole program," Stevens said. "He trained
the upperclassmen and coached them when they were sophomores. He made a
difference as a physical trainer. The JV was affected. His son coaches
the freshman. It affected us program wide."
Monday, the team walked from its Manhattan-based school to the funeral.
Stevens said that students from the school joined the football players
to remember Costa and James Costa said some touching words about his
father. Stevens said Costa was James' best friend and part of the reason
he came back to Xavier was to spend time with his dad.
"It seems he kind of got cheated out of that," Stevens said.
While Stevens described the funeral as a "hard place to be",
the turnout stuck with him.
"It was a packed church," Stevens said. "It was
The team and school found out about Costa's death on Friday during its
"spirit day". Stevens said the school called the football
players down to the chapel and the administration talked to the players
about how they celebrate as a community but also need to mourn together
as a community during a difficult time like this.
There were guidance counselors or any other faculty members available
for the players to talk to if needed. Stevens said many players were
"broke up" by the news and it showed the effect Costa had on
"They were told to tell good stories about coach Bill,"
Stevens said. "Keep him alive in our memories and thoughts."
On Saturday, Xavier played its scheduled game against St. Francis Prep,
with the Knights emerging with a 35-14 win. Stevens said that football
teams need to teach camaraderie and how to overcome adversity and this
was adversity that the team was facing in real life. The team played in
honor of their coach and picked up a big win.
"He was the most laid-back physical guy you would ever want to
meet, that was probably the thing that struck me the most," Stevens
said. "He never said a nasty word. He was truthful, but he was very
laid-back. He was a really well-rounded guy. People looked at him and
thought he was a muscle head but he had multiple layers of depth to