Coaches today get a lot of notoriety and a lot of credit, and I've been fortunate to receive both during my career.
But I know I wouldn't be where I am without the help of those who mentored me along the way.
My biggest influence and one of my best supporters was my uncle, Frank DeLeo. Uncle Frank died last week, and the outpouring of support from his former players and so many in the sports community really didn't surprise me.
He was that kind of a guy. He was my first coach, when I was in fourth grade in the Altoona Parochial League at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where he coached for 20 years.
He was a youth league coach who made football fun and important, and it made you want to go out when you got to junior high and high school.
He was always a tough, ornery guy off the field and even tougher on the field. He bought no excuses. There was no such thing as a sprained ankle or bruised arm. Or that you were too tired. There was no such thing as hurt self-esteem.
But as tough and hard as he could be, he was never mean to kids. He really cared for the kids.
I always thought of him as the Italian version of John Conlon. And I have so much respect for John Conlon because of his influence on the youth of the area.
Uncle Frank especially took an interest in the Italian kids and the obstacles you had to overcome. He was the first guy to teach me you could get anything you want if you can outwork the next guy.
He taught me to be a proud Italian, to be proud of my heritage.
Uncle Frank was a second father to us, to me in particular. He was the older brother my dad didn't have. We lived right next door, and my cousin Mike and I would sit for hours on the front porch in the summer, and Uncle Frank would start lecturing.
His nickname was "Fat," but he was a big believer in conditioning, and that's been steady throughout my coaching career.
He's the guy that drummed it into me. He always told me if you want to play, you've got to be in better shape than the next guy, and if you want to coach, the same would be true with your team.
He also loved his trick plays.
He always emphasized being humble, and you always give credit to others. If you were a running back and you scored, it was because of those guys up front. That was probably because he was a lineman on those old railroad teams!
I was able to play four years of college football [at IUP], and he and my dad convinced me I could. I wasn't that talented, but I was tough enough to play, especially my last year, and all of that came from him and my dad - especially Uncle Frank.
He's the toughest guy I've ever been around. I'm where I'm at today because of the toughness I learned from him.
As I look back the last couple months, as he slowly went downhill, I thought: Here's a guy 91 years old, and not a lot of people know him.
People know me because I coach a game, but what I've done on a football field doesn't even compare to what he did throughout his life.
To me, he was always a true hero.
He fought almost three years on the front line in World War II, and very few people knew about it except for his family.
He was the typical Greatest Generation guy. You never knew what he experienced until probably 10 years ago.
When I look back, he was one of my greatest influences. I always credited Tom Irwin and my Uncle Frank, and my Uncle Frank was first because he was the one that made sports so important and so much fun to us.
Somewhere up there, he will be smiling at the next trick play his nephew's team scores by claiming proudly, "I taught him that one at Mount Carmel!"
John Franco is the head football coach at Tyrone Area High School. He won a PIAA title in 1999.