Cops Think Overdose To Blame
Ciampi's death stuns Hofstra
BY: By Brad Geiger and Steven Marcus. STAFF WRITERS
Hofstra football player John Ciampi appears to have died of a drug overdose, a spokesperson in the Nassau County Police Department said yesterday.
Ciampi died Sunday at Island Medical Center in Hempstead after being discovered in a semi-conscious state in his dorm room that morning.
"We're investigating the circumstances surrounding his death," the spokesperson said. "It doesn't appear to be anything but an accidental overdose." The medical examiner's office in Nassau County has not yet concluded the autopsy and toxicology report. A spokesperson in the office said results could take another week and would not speculate as to whether drugs or alcohol caused the 20-year-old Ciampi's death.
Hofstra athletic director Harry Royle said, "Hofstra University and the athletic department are waiting for the official report to come in from various agencies." Meanwhile, teammates, coaches and family members continue to mourn the loss of an athlete who was known for his lighthearted sense of humor and athletic potential that could have taken him to the NFL.
"It's difficult right now," Hofstra senior running back Vaughn Sanders said. "I would give up every game just to see his face again." Ciampi's grandmother, Roberta Ciampi, said by phone from Pelham yesterday that he was a popular young man. "I'm saying this from the bottom of my heart; everybody loved him ... You could go almost anywhere here and there was nothing but nice things said about him." Roberta and
her husband, Vincent, were Ciampi's maternal grandparents and raised him in Pelham. Ciampi's grandmother said he visited home Saturday night before returning to Hofstra for a party. "He went back to school with two or three friends," she said. "They had a party for Halloween. From there on everything has been a blur to me." Ciampi went to a nightspot near the campus following the party. Jon Cianciotto, an employee at the establishment, said Ciampi was there from around 3:30 a.m. until 5 a.m on Sunday. Later that morning, students noticed Ciampi in a semi-conscious state in his dorm room and called for an ambulance at 10:31 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m.
Ciampi's grandmother said he grew up rooting for the Denver Broncos and dreamed of playing pro football. "Very much so," she said. "That was his goal." It was a goal that appeared to be realistic. Hofstra coach
Joe Gardi said at the start of this season that Ciampi, a 6-4, 320-pound right offensive tackle, could be the highest draft pick ever out of Hofstra.
Ciampi, a junior, played one season at Division II Southern Connecticut State before transferring to I-AA Hofstra for the 1997 season. Roy Istvan, the offensive coordinator at Southern Connecticut State who coached Ciampi in 1996, remembered Ciampi as a "tremendous football player." In addition to his grandparents, Ciampi is survived by his brother, Vincent.
Viewings at the Yannantuono Funeral Home in Mount Vernon will be today and tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Burial is Friday at Ferncliff Cemetary in Hartsdale.
Hofstra Hangs On
BY: By Brad Geiger. STAFF CORRESPONDENT
Buffalo - In the words of Khary Williams, "All of us said
that John is looking down on us and laughing. He was always so cheerful." Williams, a junior defensive end, was the roommate of offensive lineman John Ciampi, who died last Sunday of what a Nassau County police spokesman said was a drug overdose. Thursday night, Williams and the rest of the Hofstra football players and coaches attended the wake in Mount Vernon. Friday, 14 of the players -including Williams, a pallbearer - and three coaches went to the services in Ciampi's hometown of Pelham.
Yesterday, with the emotions of losing a friend and teammate still inside them, the Dutchmen took the field against the University at Buffalo, each player wearing a decal on his helmet with Ciampi's No. 79 in tribute. The mission, many of the players stated, was clear. "We wanted to play for him and win for him," senior defensive tackle Jim Magda said.
Hofstra, ranked 10th in the Division I-AA poll, displayed a sense of passion that equaled Ciampi's 6-4, 320-pound frame. The emotion, as did much of a 20-point lead, disappeared, but the Dutchmen hung on for a 20-13 win in front of 8,699 at UB Stadium.
"We wanted to come out and play like John would've played the game," wide receiver Steve Jackson said. "With so much emotion flying around, that's hard to carry for 60 minutes." After the Dutchmen improved to 8-1 and took a step closer to securing a playoff berth, the memory of the past few days hung with the team. "It's so weird," said linebacker Jim Emanuel, who also attended the funeral, as did coach Joe Gardi, offensive line coach Kyle Flood and offensive coordinator Rob Spence. "When you see someone your own age, that's never expected. At times I think kids our age think they're invincible and nothing can stop them." Hofstra built a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter, then played as if Buffalo, a team that's 0-9 and just learning to crawl in its first season at the I-A level, had no shot to catch up. "It kind of reminded me of the Richmond game," Gardi said. "We just couldn't get the offense going. The difference was the defense continued to play inspired." Three weeks ago, Hofstra built a 21-7 first-half lead before falling to Richmond, 31-21. The Dutchmen compiled 242 yards in that game, then gained just 267 yards against Elon two weeks ago. They netted 444 against Buffalo, but 221 of those came by the time they had a 20-point lead with 11:49 left in the first half. "We haven't been able to put together an entire game and maintain consistency," said quarterback Giovanni Carmazzi, who completed 23 of 40 passes for a season-high 305 yards. Putting it together for one quarter was enough. Hofstra's first drive culminated in a 17-yard scoring run by Jimmy Jones, who gained 90 yards on 17 carries to move into third place on the school's career rushing list with 2,251 yards.
Buffalo's ensuing drive lasted two plays. Cornerback Lynde Washington, a transfer from Maryland, intercepted Buffalo quarterback Joe Freedy to give Hofstra the ball at its 44 yard line. Four plays later, Carmazzi and his 6-3, 220-pound frame bounced off linebacker Kulaa Bacheyie and outran defensive back Carlos Spencer for a 46-yard touchdown 5:32 into the game. After Chad Johnson kicked field goals of 42 yards, his longest of the season, and 24 yards, Hofstra seemed in command, especially when the Bulls failed to score three times in the first half after driving inside Hofstra's 25-yard line.