Caputo caught on quickly with Red Flash

SFU Hall of Fame

Note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles of 2019 Saint Francis University Hall of Fame inductees. The induction ceremony is scheduled for Friday:

LORETTO — Winning games didn’t come easy for star wide receiver Michael Caputo and his Saint Francis teammates during his four years in Loretto, but it wasn’t for a lack of offensive production.

Caputo, the program’s career leader in receiving yards, receptions and receiving touchdowns, first appeared on Saint Francis’ radar as somewhat of an afterthought.

The Flash saw Caputo play while recruiting his high school quarterback Anthony Doria out of Seton-LaSalle High School in Pittsburgh. Caputo impressed the staff and was convinced to join Doria in Loretto. From that point forward, all of the Saint Francis passing records were in serious jeopardy.

Doria, SFU’s career leader in virtually all passing statistics, teamed with Caputo and fellow WPIAL product Luke Palko from West Allegheny High School to form one of the top passing attacks in school and league history.

Throw running back Todd Harris into the mix, SFU’s second all-time leading rusher, and the Red Flash had an offensive juggernaut.

“I really enjoyed playing in that offense,” Caputo said. “Anthony (Doria) and I had an instant chemistry going back to our high school days and Todd was the most talented player I ever played with. We went into every game knowing that we would be difficult to stop.”

One such game proved more difficult than the rest.

The Red Flash, who finished the season No. 1 in the NEC in total offense at over 407 yards per game, traveled to Fairfield, Conn. on Oct. 29, 2005 during Caputo’s junior season. From the get-go, it was obvious it would be a shootout.

“I remember going in at halftime and my wide receiver coach (Ralph DelSardo), who was a close friend of mine, was looking at the stat sheet and told me I was on pace for 360 yards and four touchdowns,” he said. “That’s when I knew what was going on was pretty impressive.”

Caputo tacked on an additional 115 second-half yards and another score to finish with 14 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Red Flash lost 53-45.

“What I remember most about that game was the number of difficult catches Mike made,” former Saint Francis offensive coordinator Paul Failla said. “Mike was the best wide receiver I ever coached when it came to catching the ball in traffic. He had an incredible body control and would catch anything in his radius.”

Caputo’s 294 receiving yards still stand as the Saint Francis and Northeast Conference single-game record as does Doria’s 494 passing yards from that evening.

Caputo went on to lead the NEC in receiving yards that season at 130.3 per game, one spot ahead of former NFL and Monmouth University wideout Miles Austin. His 92 receptions from that season are the NEC single-season record.

“Mike wasn’t the biggest wide receiver in terms of stature but I think he used that to his advantage. Opponents would look at his numbers and then look at him during warm-ups and get this false sense of confidence that they would be the ones to stop him,” Failla said.

“Mike never once backed down from a challenge,” Failla continued. “He carried himself with this swagger on the field and liked to jaw with his opponents but he always backed it up regardless of the opponent.”

“It’s really cool to look at the record book and see my name still at the top, but it is a testament to the offense we had,” Caputo said. “I was fortunate to play for a really outstanding offensive coordinator in Paul Failla and play alongside great offensive players like Anthony, Luke and Todd. I like to think we laid the groundwork for the job Coach V has done in leading this program to new heights.”

Failla agreed with Caputo’s assessment and credits his success to his work ethic and attention to detail.

The thing that Mike doesn’t get enough credit for was just how smart of a football player he was. We asked him to play four different positions as a wide receiver, and I never once saw him make a mental error or line up wrong,” Failla said. “He was always locked in during film and used it to hone his craft into an elite route runner that could run crisp routes in the short, intermediate and deep passing games.”

Taylor Powers works for Saint Francis University.

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