By DAVID FORSTROM
When he was just 10 years old, Ossie Antonetti had a dream. He had discovered the sport of volleyball and hoped to one day be among its champions.
But to look at Antonetti is not to witness the stereotypical California beach volleyballer; a lanky 6-6 bleached-blonde he is not. On a tall day, Ossie may barely measure 6-1, and he has this hair. Let’s just say his trademark haircut could put a porcupine to shame.
And who would have thought that this humble Catholic boy from Puerto Rico would fulfill his volleyball dreams at BYU, of all places?
But the Cougars are national champions and Antonetti is a part of it.
A big part.
Antonetti was raised by his mother, Lorelei, to whom he attributes his character and success.
“She’s my everything and No. 1 fan,” Ossie said. “She’s always been there for me and taught me to work hard for what I wanted.”
In fifth grade, Antonetti hit a volleyball for the first time in his life and knew instantly it was for him. From that point on, volleyball became his life.
At Colegio Calasanz High School, Ossie’s team won the Puerto Rico high school championship, and Antonetti was a two-time tournament MVP. While in high school, Antonetti met Penn State coach Tom Peterson, and after months of correspondence and meetings, Antonetti knew he wanted to play for Peterson.
Peterson had been a club coach at BYU before the university had an NCAA program. After a few years at Penn State, however, even with a 1994 national championship, he decided that he missed Provo and wanted to return. Seeing the coach leave the school even after winning a national title there came as a big shock.
“I wanted to be around coach Peterson, but I didn’t know about BYU,” Antonetti said. “He was such a good coach, I just figured that for him to go to BYU, there must be something to it.”
Once at BYU, Antonetti had to meet and get to know head coach McGown.
“At first, I wasn’t sure what he wanted from me,” Antonetti said. “He was really hard to read. I just wanted him to give me a shot.”
McGown had a different first impression of his soon-to-be-star.
“I saw this kid that couldn’t be more than six feet tall, and my first thought was — `What is Tom doing?'” McGown said.
Four years later, their relationship has blossomed. As McGown boarded the plane to return to Provo from the NCAA Championships, he took one last look at Antonetti and couldn’t believe it was over.
“Ossie meant everything to us,” McGown said. “We’ll never be the same without him.”
In his freshman season, he made the NCAA All-Freshman team and led BYU in digs, aces, games played and kills. He missed much of his sophomore year because of a broken finger, only to return in his junior year and make second-team All-American and first-team All-Conference.
And in his final year, Antonetti walks away from college as a first-team All-American, first-team All-Conference, national championship MVP, leading his team with an astonishing career-high 5.88 kills per game.
After the past four years together, fellow Cougar Ryan Millar has come to know Antonetti well.
“I wouldn’t trade the last four years with Ossie for anything,” Millar said. “He taught me a lot and we fed off each other. There’s not a guy out there who can pump up a team like Ossie.”
Coach McGown said Antonetti has been a big part of BYU’s development into a national power.
“Ossie is the ultimate teammate. He made us all better and he had this power to captivate fans. He’s been a coach’s dream,” McGown said.
As for the future, Antonetti will continue to pursue his dream. He hasn’t missed a beat since the season ended, playing for a club team his first day back in Puerto Rico. Playing for the Puerto Rican National Team is another goal within his reach.
By helping the Cougars earn their first national championship, Ossie Antonetti proved not only that dreams can come true when wished upon a star, but that he can jump high enough to personally place the order.