Jan. 10, 2014
Front page image: Former WCU offensive lineman - and current San Diego Chargers' offensive line coach - Joe D'Alessandris (right) with his WCU college friend, Ernie Lasher (left), and his wife, Rebecca Lasher (middle), who is a professor at WCU in social work.
Cullowhee, N.C. - Though Western Carolina has been void of a player in the National Football League (NFL) since the retirement of standout fullback Brad Hoover (1996-99) of the Carolina Panthers, WCU and Cullowhee are still represented in this year's NFL post-season.
Joe D'Alessandris, a veteran coach of more than 37 years, is currently the offensive line coach for the San Diego Chargers. And this season, he was able to make his first-ever trip to the NFL playoffs, coming with the southern California franchise - a 27-10 road win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
This weekend, the Chargers again hit the road, traveling to the AFC's top-seed, the Denver Broncos, in Sunday's late game on CBS.
A former Catamount offensive guard from 1973-76, D'Alessandris was a four-year letter winner and three-year starter, garnering the "Big Cat Award" for team MVP and captain status as a senior. In an article written for The Beaver County Times in 1975, legendary WCU head coach Bob Waters was quoted as calling D'Alessandris, "our most consistent offensive lineman."
"Joe D is the most intense offensive lineman we have had here at Western Carolina in my seven years as head coach," the story quoted Waters. "He plays with a great amount of enthusiasm and pride. However, what impresses me the most about Joe is the way he places the team above his personal desires. He is the most team-oriented player we have."
Following his graduation in 1977, he joined the football coaching staff in Cullowhee as a graduate assistant and earned his master's degree from WCU two years later.
His combined six years in Cullowhee landed the Aliquippa, Pa., native his first full-time coaching position in 1979 at Livingston University (1979-83). Over the next 29 years, his coaching stops included stints at the University of Memphis (1984-85), Chattanooga (1986-89), Ottawa Rough Riders (1990) of the Canadian Football League, Birmingham Fire (1991-92) in the World League, Samford (1993), Texas A&M (1994), Memphis Mad Dogs (1995) of the Canadian Football League, the University of Pittsburgh (1996), Duke (1997-01) and Georgia Tech (2002-07) before venturing into the NFL coaching ranks.
He additionally coached for the Gray squad in the 1999 Blue-Gray Classic.
D'Alessandris' first job in the NFL job came in Kansas City in 2008 where he served as the Chiefs' assistant offensive line coach. Under his tutelage in 2009, offensive guard Brian Waters was voted to his first-career Pro Bowl while running back Jamaal Charles recorded his first-career 1,000-yard season.
D'Alessandris then coached in Buffalo from 2010-12 including the 2011 season that saw the Bills lead the league in fewest sacks allowed (23) despite eight different offensive line combinations. The 23 sacks allowed were the third-fewest in team history during a 16-game season. The play of the offensive line played a large part in Buffalo's running game ranking fifth in the NFL for average yards per carry in 2011 and fourth in 2012.
Of his 37 years as a coach, 35 have been spent working with the offensive line.
In 2010, D'Alessandris was inducted into the Beaver County (Pa.) Sports Hall of Fame and the Center High School Hall of Fame. He was a first team offensive and defensive tackle in the Midwestern Athletic Conference at Center HS, while also earning All-WPIAL honors at defensive tackle.
D'Alessandris and his wife, Toni, have three children; Anna, who's married to Allen Thomas; Kelly and Emily.