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Stephen P. Trapilo, BC football star, volunteer; at 39

On the football field, Stephen P. Trapilo, a star at Boston College High School and Boston College before playing six seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, was known as a rugged and fierce competitor. Off the field, Mr. Trapilo was remembered yesterday as a warm-hearted giant whose generosity and loyalty knew no bounds.

Mr. Trapilo, 39, died of a heart attack late Friday night on vacation with his family at their summer cabin in Effingham, N.H.

"He was a gentle soul," said Jim Cotter, who coached Mr. Trapilo at BC High, the beneficiary of Mr. Trapilo's largesse when he donated a weight room to the school five years ago. "He was one of the most generous guys I've ever known. When you say he's a guy who would give you the shirt off his back, you meant it because he was a guy who would. He was just a great kid."

Mr. Trapilo cherished his role as a father to his three children and to the BC High football players he coached as a volunteer assistant for the last six years.

A Milton resident, Mr. Trapilo leaves his wife, Kimmy, 34, twin 5-year-old daughters, Jordyn and Devyn, and a 2 1/2-year-old son, Ozzy-Dean, who was named after a 4-year-old orphan whom Mr. Trapilo befriended and helped while playing for the Saints.

"One of my girlfriends in Florida adopted the boy," Mr. Trapilo's wife recalled yesterday. "He came from a terrible background and she was hoping to get him to change his name so he could forget his past. But he was very proud of his name."

The boy made an immediate impression on Mr. Trapilo. "He came right up to Steve, stuck out his hand and said, `Hi, my name is Ozzy-Dean,' and Steve just roared in laughter," said Kimmy Trapilo.

"Steve was so good to that little boy and really came to love him like a father," said Mr. Trapilo's brother, Richard, 49, of Milton. "I remember him saying, `If I'm lucky enough to ever have a child, I'm going to name him Ozzy-Dean.' "

He also leaves two brothers, Robert of Florida and Richard F. of Milton; and one sister, Susan of Scituate.

Mr. Trapilo met his wife in 1989, when she was working at Gold's Gym in Braintree and denied him access because he showed up for a workout without his identification card.

"He showed up looking a bit like a slob, wearing an old BC High T-shirt, sweatpants with one leg hiked up to his knee and different color socks," Kimmy Trapilo recalled. "We dated for about two months and he never let on that he played for the Saints. The ironic thing is that we went on together to build these [five] health clubs, 21st Century Family Fitness, with 205 employees and a lot of wonderful members."

Mr. Trapilo played with distinction in the college and professional ranks. He was a sophomore starter on BC's famed "Secret Service" offensive line, which protected Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie in the Eagles' drive to the 1985 Cotton Bowl. He was named captain as a senior and earned Eagle of the Year honors that season.

Drafted by the Saints in the fourth round (96th overall) in the 1987 draft, Mr. Trapilo earned a berth on the NFL's All-Rookie team.

"He was the happiest guy," said Barry Gallup, who recruited Mr. Trapilo to play for BC in 1982. "We were so happy he was inducted into the BC Hall of Fame two years ago, because he wanted to make sure we inducted the linemen from that '80s team, and he was the first. It was one of the biggest nights we've ever had.

"Other than losing a member of your own family," said Gallup, who lost his oldest son, Darren Douglas, in a car accident in February of 2003, "it's tough to lose someone you've coached, and he's the first we've lost from that class."

When Mike Maser, Mr. Trapilo's former offensive line coach at BC, was fired from his NFL job at Jacksonville, "one of the first calls I got that day was from Steve," said Maser, now with the Carolina Panthers. "He says, `Mase, listen, you go look. If you don't come up with anything you don't worry about it, we'll set you up as a manager at one of our health clubs and you won't miss coaching a damn bit.' This is the kind of kid he was. I was absolutely flabbergasted by the offer."

Despite his successes on the field and in business, friends and relatives remembered Mr. Trapilo was proudest of more personal achievements.

"It was being a father that was more important to him," Richard Trapilo said. "That and being a coach. He loved it when you called him, `Coach Trapilo.' "

We're 10 years difference in age, and I can remember he was the last of five kids and he was the bonus baby," Richard Trapilo said. "He was completely bigger than life in size and person. I can still remember carrying that baby home through our front door from St. Margaret's Hospital in Boston. He was such a wonderful gift. A wonderful gift. He made my life better." A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Wednesday at BC High's McNeice Pavilion. Burial will be at Milton Cemetery. 

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