Written by Steven Culhane, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:01
Last week the unthinkable happened to the Hicksville Crusaders Football and Cheerleading program. Mike Torrellas, the organization’s founder and leader passed away suddenly at the age of 53. Family and friends filled the pews of St. Ignatius Church to pay homage to a person who made Hicksville a better place for our kids.
Everything about Mike was unassuming. With his sunglasses and hooded sweatshirt, Mike could have easily been mistaken for a truck driver who took a wrong turn down Andrews Road; but make no mistake, he was the face and lifeblood of the Hicksville Crusaders.
Anyone who was familiar with Mike knew a discussion with him would always eventually circle back to topic of football. It was the place where Mike was most comfortable. However, Mike didn’t always talk about the X’s and O’s of football but rather on the finer aspects of the game that can help mold a young person’s life. He would reflect on the more important elements of football that can assist in someone’s life such as discipline, accountability, commitment and of course, teamwork.
Torrellas was a star linebacker for Hicksville High School and his personal experiences playing football were so overwhelmingly positive that it compelled him to find a way to allow Hicksville kids to have the same opportunity. “What other sport offers all the dynamics like football does?” Mike would say. Mike’s love of the sport was undeniable just as much as his enduring impact on the kids of Hicksville was. In a way, Torrellas’ infatuation with football became Hicksville’s gain. Most people would have stopped after donating so much of their time towards getting a program off the ground. Not Mike. He always did more, as he selflessly took it upon himself to lobby hard for politicians to construct the field known today as Walker Field. Mike took care of everyone. His motives were always genuine, pure and he never sought accolades or recognition for his constant generosity. However, people who were involved with the Crusader organization knew of his anonymous acts of kindness. They saw a man who reached into his own pocket when new equipment was needed and the money was not in the organization’s budget. They witnessed the countless registration fees that were waived by Mike in order to allow kids from less fortunate families to participate in youth football in Hicksville; or, they saw the way he went out and welcomed kids from neighboring towns that did not offer a youth program to join the “Hicksville Family” of football. “Bring them down, we will suit them up tomorrow” was all he would say.
When Mike embarked on his dream to establish the Crusaders in the summer of 2002, some thought he was crazy. He knew there would be several struggles along the way but his passion for the sport fueled him to move forward. As long as it involved football the obstacles always seemed to be invisible to Mike. Although Hicksville was a town known more for embracing other sports such as soccer or lacrosse, Mike never wavered from his drive to resurrect a program that was dormant in Hicksville for nearly two decades. “If they play it once they will come back.” His prophecy rings true today as the Crusaders now field eight teams in the Nassau County Youth Football League, as well as a cheeerleading team.
While Mike’s death has been a heavy blow to this community his legacy of goodwill will always carry on. Mike Torrellas’ contributions to Hicksville carried much further than just being someone who ran a league; he was in the business of pointing young people in the right direction.