For one Spring-Ford family, a number's roots run deep

Dean Vagnozzi poses with his children, from left: Gabrielle, Alec, Felicia and Mitchell, all athletes who chose to honor their father by wearing the same No. 42 he did as a college player at Albright. / PHOTO COURTESY KELLY O'KEEFE

Dean Vagnozzi never said anything to his kids. It was just something they did on their own. And that, he said, is what has made it so special.

Vagnozzi, the patriarch of an athletic clan in the Spring-Ford school district, was surprised when his son, Alec, came home a few years ago with a football jersey bearing 42, the same number he wore as a college football player. When his daughter, Gabrielle, a promising soccer player, struck a deal with a teammate to claim the number, he knew a full-blown family tradition was born.

And it’s one that won’t be dying soon. The two younger Vagnozzi children, 13-year-old Mitchell and 10-year-old Felicia, also wear the number for their travel baseball and soccer teams, respectively. Gabrielle is one of the area’s top sophomores and is likely to play in college.

“All their teammates know: hands off, that’s the number they’re wearing,” Vagnozzi said.

The No. 42 didn’t have any initial significance to the family. Vagnozzi selected the number randomly when his high school number was already taken at Albright. But now, the number has claimed a life of its own.

“To see them running around with the same number I had, it’s flattering,” Vagnozzi said. “It’s kind of neat, like a piece of me out there with them.”

With Alec, a two-way lineman and all-purpose player for Spring-Ford’s football team, set to graduate this year and unlikely to continue playing, the family wanted to capture the moment. Vagnozzi’s wife, Christa, recently commissioned a family portrait of everyone wearing their 42 jerseys. Vagnozzi’s still fit, albeit a little snugger than it did in the late 1980s when he was a three-year starter at fullback and punted for Albright.

The family posted the picture on their respective Facebook pages, and it generated hundreds of likes and comments.

“Normally, the kids fight us on everything,” Vagnozzi said. “But when we got that picture done, they were proud of it.”