From a being a football player to being a high school and college coach, Mike Cella been on the field and walking the sidelines in stadiums on fall weekends for six different decades.
Mike is the son of the legendary Silvio Cella, former Revere High football coach and athletic director. It was at the old Paul Revere Stadium [now Harry Della Russo Stadium] where Mike began his lifelong connection to football as a sideline assistant (ballboy) when his father was coaching the Revere Patriots in the old Greater Boston League.
As recently as two years ago, Mike, 70, was an assistant coach on Paul Sobolewski’s staff at Pope John High School when the 12-0 Tigers advanced to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium only to be denied a state title by St. Bernard of Fitchburg. Pope John closed its doors in 2019 and Cella sat out last football season.
Sobolewski is back as the head coach at Lowell Catholic High School and he wanted Mike Cella, who gave Sobolewski his first coaching opportunity at Revere High School, to be an assistant coach on the LC staff. But Cella, while grateful for the chance to resume coaching, has decided that his 60-plus years in football may be coming to an end.
“I was going to coach, but I want to watch my grandchildren play football,” said Cella. “I thought about it but I don’t think I can maintain the level of coaching that I wanted to do the way I am today, so I have to be back off, unfortunately,” said Cella in announcing his retirement from coaching.
Cella recalls hiring Sobolewski on his RHS staff in the mid-1990s. Sobolewski said he learned a lot about coaching in those two seasons and when he became a head coach at Winchester, Georgetown, Cathedral, and Pope John, the first call he made was to Mike Cella to continue to be a coach on his staff.
The Revere Years
Mike remembers his earliest days as a ballboy in the 1963 and 1964 seasons when [future NFL player] Jim Del Gaizo was the Revere High quarterback and his twin brother, John Del Gaizo was the leading pass receiver.
“Jimmy told me years later that my father was way ahead of his time with the offense he put together,” said Mike.
Mike Cella played one year of freshman football at the Garfield School under coach Henry Hooten and three years of football at Revere High School for his father Silvio’s varsity team. “I was a fullback and a linebacker all three seasons,” said Mike.
He remembers his RHS football teammate Alan Drover, who went on to play at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. Mike himself went on to play college football at Northeastern University.
After first being an RHS assistant coach and then accepting an assistant coaching position on Ed Nizwantowski’s staff at Peabody High, Mike returned to Revere High as the head football coach, succeeding former NFL football player John Miller.
Remembering All-Scholastic running back Marc Silvestri
Mike Cella coached Revere when the school was a member of the Greater Boston League that included Everett, Arlington, Medford, Malden, and Somerville, among other schools.
“There were no easy games on the GBL schedule back then,” said Mike. “I was never a fan of the Northeastern Conference who really didn’t respect our league. I’m very glad that Revere High is back in the GBL.”
He coached some terrific football players at Revere High. Cella led Revere to a 5-5 record with Derek Dick as the star quarterback and George Campbell as the standout receiver on the 1990 team. He noted the exceptional talents of JoJo Giordano as well.
He calls All-Scholastic running back Marc Silvestri “one of the best players I ever had.”
Silvestri, who is now the director of veterans’ services in Revere, was truly in a class by himself, according to Cella.
“Marc was so tough coming out of the backfield,” said Cella. “If he didn’t run past you, he would run over you.”
Mike said he’s very proud of Marc Silvestri for serving with distinction in the United States Army. “That’s the type of guy he was. He was always a great leader and motivating his teammates. I thank Marc for his heroic service to our country.”
Cella said the other captain with Silvestri was Richard Gallucci, who is now the principal at the Rumney Marsh Academy.
A Decision to Retire
Mike Cella is content right now to leave the game he loves and become a proud grandparent sitting in the stands and watching his two grandsons continue the family’s legacy on the gridiron.
“I just can’t give to the kids today the coaching I normally did, like getting down in three-and-four-point stances, firing off the ball, showing them steps – my knees and my hands won’t give it to me,” said Cella. “I was able to instruct the players but I had to have one of the better athletes show the other players the actual technique. That’s not the way I wanted to coach. I’m 70 years old. I’m not a kid anymore.”
Mike and his wife, Pamela, hope to spend this fall watching their grandsons, Julien Cella (Wilmington) and Domenic Cella Scalese (Peabody) begin their high school football careers.
Julien is the son of Steve Cella, who had a superb career at Peabody High before becoming a two-time All-American football player at Trinity College in Connecticut.
“When I was coaching at Revere, Steve was playing for Peabody and he made an interception, showed me the football, and he ran right past me on his way to the end zone for a touchdown. We didn’t have dinner together for the rest of the season,” Mike said in jest.
Domenic is the son of Stephanie Cella Scalese, who played softball and ran track at Peabody High.
“Domenic is a kicker and we’ve been working out at Peabody High School,” said Mike. “He’s 14 years old and he’s been kicking 35-40-yard field goals.”
Mike will also be keeping tabs on his great-nephew, James Murphy who is a talented sophomore quarterback at Reading High School.
The Silvio Cella Foundation
Mike Cella and his sister, Gina Cella, have carried on the family name in an impressive way. Together they founded the Silvio Cella Foundation to honor their father and his enormous contributions to high school football. The fieldhouse at Della Russo Stadium is named in memory of Mr. Cella.
The Cella Foundation holds an annual golf tournament every year and has donated more than $100,000 in scholarships over the past 10 years.
“I have to say my father was a good man and a great father,” said Mike. “He was Harry Agganis’ freshman football coach at Boston University. Harry used to come with Silvio to the house and my grandmother [Louise Cella] would cook dinner for him.”
Though Mike Cella will not be coaching on the sidelines, he said his heart will still be very much in the game of football and he will always carry forth all of the memories.
“I have great memories of being a part of Revere High football,” said Mike. “And I want to thank Paul Sobolewski for putting me on his staff for all those years.”