Satellite High Grad Jim Gentile Finished Career at Army as Black Knights’ All-Time Leader in Tackles
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // September 10, 2020
2018 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
2018 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE: As a senior at West Point in 1984, Satellite High grad Jim Gentile led an Army defense that finished 8-3-1, including wins over its two archrivals – Navy, for the first time since 1977, and Air Force, and, for the first time in the 95-year history of Army football, the Black Knights went against their tradition and accepted an invitation to a bowl game.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – There isn’t always a story of adversity or excelling beyond capabilities that make for good Hall of Fame stories. Sometimes, working hard, making the right decisions and having a good solid foundation and support behind you propels one to excellence. This is the case with former Satellite Scorpion and West Point graduate Jim Gentile.
Gentile was an Air Force brat growing up whose family settled in Brevard County. His father, Geno Gentile, who is Jim’s biggest fan, was a Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force stationed overseas and his mom, Charlene, taught elementary school.
His older brother Keith, a big influence on Jim’s life was a graduate of the Citadel where he played sports and would go onto have a very successful nearly 30-year career in the military flying planes such as the U2. Jim attended Holland Elementary, DeLaura Middle and then Satellite High where he lettered in football and wrestling.
There are decisions that many make in life that change things for better or worse. One Jim made came at just 17-years old. With a scholarship in hand to attend Middle Tennessee State, a friend suggested he apply for the United States Military Academy at West Point. To his surprise, he was accepted.
Being a graduate of Army comes with opportunity, but those opportunities are earned as life is hard in every way imaginable – physically, emotionally, and academically at West Point.
Entering his freshman season Jim was eighth on the linebacking defensive depth chart. However, injuries to those ahead of him pushed the Satellite Beach native into action early in his career, and he knew he hit the big time when he ran on the field at Missouri in front of 80,000 people as a 19-year-old playing big-time division one college football.
As a senior in 1984, Gentile led a defense that finished 8-3-1, including wins over its two archrivals – Navy, for the first time since 1977, and Air Force, and, for the first time in the 95-year history of Army football, the Black Knights went against their tradition and accepted an invitation to a bowl game.
In the 1984 Cherry Bowl against Michigan State University before 70,000 pro-Spartan fans in the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Gentile recovered a second-quarter fumble, which led to Army scoring their only touchdown of the game. Michigan State attempted a comeback, but the tough Black Knights defense led by Gentile held on for a 10–6 Army win.
Gentile finished his career at Army as a four-year letterman and the Black Knights’ all-time leader in tackles with 376. He is still second all-time on the list.
Jim participated in the 1985 Hula Bowl, an All-Star game for college players and drew interest from NFL scouts but playing football for a service academy in those days meant that you had to fulfill your military obligation, which Jim did in Air Defense Artillery. There were opportunities for NFL tryouts when he finished his obligation three years later, but he no longer wanted to play the game.
TEACHER, COACH AT VIERA HIGH
Gentile went to work at the Space Center for eight years and then in 1999 became a physics teacher at Merritt Island High before moving to Viera High.
The school opened in August of 2006 and he helped start the Hawks football, track and wrestling programs where he coached one of Viera’s first state champions in Ty Cartmell, who captured the 189-pound wrestling Class 2A title in March of 2011.
The Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame is proud to include Jim Gentile, not only for his accomplishments as an athlete and defender of our freedom but also for his dedication to the education of Brevard’s youth.
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