Jan. 28, 2014
In May of 2015, Blake Costanzo ’06 will be all decked out in a tuxedo and armed with a bouquet of flowers. At the age of 31, it's a scene that's practically expected. The former Lafayette football star will be of the age when friends and teammates are getting married seemingly every other week.
Only Costanzo will be getting escorted to a hotel where he'll walk into a ballroom filled with giddy teenagers, many of whom won't yet even have their senior driver's licenses.
The man who has spent the last seven years making his mark as a special teams player in the NFL will be escorting Lauren Loose to Easton High School's senior prom.
Loose, the daughter of John Loose, Lafayette's defensive coordinator, was born with Neurofibromatosis type I, a genetic disorder that can affect multiple systems of the body and often causes tumors to grow. Since she was a toddler, Lauren has battled brain tumors, rare blood diseases, strokes, malignant sarcoma in her spine and vision problems. Lauren will be a senior in high school next spring when Costanzo accompanies her.
“A long time ago I promised Lauren I would go the prom with her,” Costanzo said proudly. “So we have a prom date. Even if she has a boyfriend, she is taking me. And I told her no matter where I'm at, we're going to be there together.”
Costanzo, an NFL free agent after having played for the Bills, Browns, 49ers and Bears, said it's a small way to give back to John Loose and his daughter, who he connected with and grew fond of during his four years (2002-06) at Lafayette, which prepared him well for his time in the NFL and actually pushed him toward giving extra time to kids.
“I can't say enough good things about him as a coach and person,” Costanzo said. “The crazy thing is, we saw how much time and effort Coach Loose put into us and how he helped us with whatever we needed in life. And to have a daughter going through that and to put all that time into us was just unbelievable. The whole family is awesome. I got real close to Lauren and the whole family, and Lauren inspires me.”
Lauren smiled from ear to ear when she heard of Costanzo's admiration for her, and even though the prom is nearly a year and a half away, she already has started researching parts of her big day.
“I'm really looking forward to it,” she said. “I'm already looking online at dresses.”
Marianne Loose, Lauren's mom and John's wife of 20 years, watches with joy every year when Costanzo comes to town to take her daughter out for dinner and then, no matter how stuffed the two are from a big meal, head to Dairy Queen to scarf down Blizzards.
It's times like those that touch Marianne's heart.
“It's one thing when somebody treats you the way that you want to be treated, when someone is kind and generous,” Marianne said. “You can't help but have an affinity for that person. But when somebody does something for your child, it's a whole other level of appreciation. He's genuine and humble and generous in a way that a lot of people in his position are not –- he's generous with his time and has a real affinity for children, especially for children with special needs. He doesn't want a lot of fanfare. He does it because he wants to do it.”
The other thing Costanzo wants to keep doing for a while is playing football. He has visions of spending at least 10 years in the NFL. And although he doesn't know where he'll land this season, he knows that what he learned at Lafayette, thanks to his coaches and his teammates, he'll continue to have success on the field.
“We were a close team and that sets you up in life,” Costanzo said. “It shows you that you don't have to be at the best school or be the fastest kid; it's about how hard you work. It told me that no matter where you start, if you believe in yourself, you can do things. I never really had a doubt.”
Costanzo admitted he's not sure where life will take him once his playing days are over, and he knows that's not too far away. He's thought about incorporating football in some way or finding a way to work with kids, something he loves.
Or maybe he'll try something new all together and put to use his anthropology and sociology degree.
“Lafayette demands academics,” said Costanzo, who was the first person in his family to graduate from college. “You can't say enough about the school. We have classes that are smaller, we get individual attention, teachers know your name and you could always get extra help. If you needed something, people were always there for you.”
Just like he'll be there for Lauren Loose.
By Mandy Housenick
House on the Hill