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Italian American Stars of the NFL: NFC South

This Sunday, February 12th, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs go head to head in Super Bowl LVII. America Domani is looking back on players, coaches, and front-office executives of Italian descent through the ages. 

Below are the names of the greatest Italian football players of the NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons: Joe Vellano

The Rexford, New York native started playing football as a defensive tackle at the University of Maryland. He was signed to the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent. His first start was against the Cincinnati Bengals replacing Vince Wilfork, who was on injured reserve. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, playing against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Today, he plays for the Parma Panthers in the Italian Football League. 

Carolina Panthers: Dom Capers

Dominic Capers was the inaugural coach for both the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans, serving four years for each team. The Cambridge, Ohio native got his start coaching at Kent State University and the University of Washington. Capers led the Panthers to a 12-4 record, getting them to the NFC Championship game where they would lose to the Super Bowl XXXI winners, the Green Bay Packers. That season was Capers’s only winning season as a head coach. 

New Orleans Saints: Jim Mora

Jim Mora coached in the NFL for 15 years from 1986 until 2001. As coach of the New Orleans Saints from 1986-1996, he turned a losing team into a winning franchise. Mora’s football career began at Occidental College as a tight end. He would eventually coach for his alma mater, leading the team to an 18-9 record. After coaching for the New Orleans Saints, he would go on to coach the Indianapolis Colts where he would also turn them into a playoff contender. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vinny Testaverde

Vincent “Vinny” Testaverde is a Brooklyn native and the son of Al and Josie Testaverde of Sicilian descent. Vinny’s father wanted him to become a professional football player, sending Vinny to military preparatory school to gain discipline on and off the field. At the University of Miami, he started as a quarterback, winning the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the country. He was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987 and would stay with the team for 6 years. By the end of his career, Testaverde had played 21 years in the NFL and had 46,233 passing yards.

AJ Forrisi

Assistant Editor for America Domani, AJ Forrisi is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on food, travel, sports, landscapes, and urban scenes. You can find him on Instagram @aj.photo.works