There’s no doubt - Chris Della Vella ’96 was in the thick of it during a legendary era of Saint Ignatius football glory days. He played on three State Championship teams and was a powerhouse linebacker on the 1995 USA Today National Championship team in his senior season. Chris led the team in tackles from his middle linebacker position and earned First Team All Scholastic, First Team All-District and First Team All Ohio. He was named AP Division Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was a team captain leading one the Wildcats’ best defenses ever.
Chris describes his position as being fortunate in a loaded defensive line, with four of the state’s best players in front of him, allowing him to “get the glory.” Looking back, he is emphatic about his high school career highlight: “Whenever you’re named a captain by your teammates, it means the world to you. I was a captain as a freshman on the JV team and on the varsity team. And what stood out by far my senior year was being voted MVP by the other players.”
Chris observes that “the craziest thing about the whole Ignatius success was that you’d think there’d be all this pressure, but we just went out and had fun. They had a system to make everyone comfortable in their role.” He felt blessed to have been coached by defensive coordinator Tony Antonelli, the legendary Chuck Kyle ’69, and strength coach Marty Eynon who Chris describes as a father figure to the team.
He also lettered in basketball, smiling as he says, “I was never a great basketball player. I sat on the bench a lot, but I really liked coach Brian Becker. Making the team was huge for me.”
Attending Bowling Green University on a football scholarship, Chris was a two-year starter and played all four years. After college he began working for his father’s Della Vella home remodeling business with his brother Chuck ’95. His two daughters are involved in gymnastics and basketball. He coaches their Westlake travel league basketball team and describes himself as a devoted Cleveland sports fan.
“To think I not only made it onto the field, was a captain and an All-State player, then in the Saint Ignatius Hall of Fame. It’s humbling. So many guys deserve to be in my spot, guys on my team and teams before me,” says Chris. “The way you learn to carry yourself at Ignatius, I try to instill those things in my daughters, and teach the values I learned there. Being part of the success of the football team gave me a template for how to run a business and gives me something to show my daughters.”
Chris Della Vella and his wife Sarah live in Westlake with daughters Gianna (11) and Luci (6).