2017 Heart of a Giant

2017 HEART OF A GIANT AWARD NOMINEES

The following Tri-State Area high school football players have been nominated for the 2017 Heart of a Giant award. Cast your vote today!

  • USA Football
  • Nominee Photo

    Aneeq Raja

    Defensive line
    Island Trees H.S.
    Bethpage, NY

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    NOMINEE

    Aneeq Raja

    Defensive line
    Island Trees H.S.
    Bethpage, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: As a player, the offseason is very important to me because it's where you develop most and for that reason, I do not have an offseason. I train 3 times a week on the field and lift every day except for Saturdays and Sundays. The offseason is also about team development. During the offseason, I stay in touch with my teammates and have them workout on the field or in the weight room. I also schedule 7on7’s with neighboring schools to get my teammates more reps before the season starts.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Commitment. Last year during our season opener I broke my ankle and had to get surgery. I ended up with a metal plate, 8 screws, and a lot of stitches. At first I told the trainer it was nothing and to tape me up and put me back in so I wouldn’t let my teammates down. The next day when I woke up I was in a lot of pain. X-rays showed that my ankle was completely broken and I needed special surgery. I was devastated, depressed, and emotional. I am a leader and to me going down meant I was leaving my team alone with no one to guide them. It hurt me not being able to contribute to my team on the field. I was on bed rest for a bit, but I knew I couldn’t sulk. I ate the right foods and mentally prepared myself to be a better player and leader in anticipation of playing my senior year. During my injury, I was unable to contribute on the field, however, I managed to contribute off the field every night before a game by texting every person on the team and giving them motivation. I made sure the bleachers were packed and water was filled for my teammates. I handled recording game stats and numerous other things just to help. Being with my team is my “happy place.”

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I was raised by a single parent most of my life. It's always hard leaving football games and seeing everyone with their parents. Being from a single parent household, you don't have two parents to provide you with the nicest equipment, such as cleats and gloves. Football was my way of being like everyone else. When the whistle blew, I was just another football player on my team. I could make a name for myself by playing the game I love.  Football became a family to me and my head coach became my father figure. Football is team game and has shaped me into to the young man and leader that I am, both on and off the field.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about playing football is being with my teammates. They are my family, and we always have each other on our minds. The months of the football season are a peaceful time for me. I am surrounded by the greatest people who have their best interest in me. I like making my family proud both on and off the field. I love doing well for my team and showing others that I have shaped into a great young man. I love the sounds and action of the game, practice, and preseason workouts. When my high school football career comes to an end, I know I will have made the most of my time on the field.

  • Nominee Photo

    Justin Abe

    Defensive line
    Jonathan Law H.S.
    Milford, CT

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    Justin Abe

    Defensive line
    Jonathan Law H.S.
    Milford, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: My offseason training starts the day after Thanksgiving. Lifting is my therapy and my life in the offseason. I love waking up and going to the weight room to see my teammates working hard. The team and I lift at high intensity utilizing power racks, benches, keisers and versa climbers, then hitting the turf for some conditioning. Complimentary to our weight room training, our team competed in two football lifting competitions, the Nutmeg Games Lifting Competition and a competition hosted by High Intensity. At the beginning of the training I was bench pressing 245 lbs. and squatting 335 lbs. Right then, I was preparing myself for the nutmeg lifting comp. My goal was to drop 20 lbs. for weight class and gain 30 lbs. on bench press and squat by the time the competition began. I had the will to do it and nothing would stop me. The morning of the competition had come and I was 215 lbs. (5 lbs. under weight class). I benched 275 lbs. and squatted 405 lbs. My hard work had paid off. The competition wasn't about winning, it was about proving to myself that I could achieve the goals I had set. In May, I participated in High Intensity’s competition where I placed first in bench press with 300 lbs., second in squat and third in power cleans. The offensive line worked very hard during this and won many trophies, including the overall .I was told by many that I would never bench over 305 lbs. and that it would be my plateau (I love doubters). Today (August 29), I now can bench 345 lbs. and squat 425 lbs. I never knew how hard work and dedication can drive a person until I personally achieved these goals. I feel very accomplished.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: WILL. I control the will to be the best I can possibly be.  I started off in the weight room to prove myself as a self-driven individual with mental and physical goals that I was relentless to achieve. If someone had told me that I have to do 100 squats a day to get to a 435 squat, I would do it without question. I am the type of player who will run through a wall if it means helping my team. The Heart of the Giant applies to me because there is nothing I will not do to be a better player and overall person.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: My 3 years of playing football as a fullback came to an end last year. I knew I was a great fullback and could make it to the next level, however when my high school got a new coach my role was moved as a result of our offensive system changing. There was an opening spot at guard that I initially refused to play. Ultimately, I made the decision to sacrifice my position and play guard when I saw my team hurting and in need. I strapped up and still play guard to this day. I did it for my team. In doing so, it taught me how to not be selfish and to be a better leader.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about football is playing and being around my teammates and best friends. There is nothing better than being part of a team effort and stopping a player that thought he had a chance against us. We share certain handshakes and routines that will stay with us far past our time playing football. It’s crazy to think of a day when my boys and I won’t be on the same field, but our time spent playing football is something that will stay with us forever.

  • Nominee Photo

    Joe McCarthy

    Running back
    Cedar Grove H.S.
    Cedar Grove, NJ

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    Joe McCarthy

    Running back
    Cedar Grove H.S.
    Cedar Grove, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: In the offseason, my team and I prepare for the upcoming football season together. We arrive at the high school at 8 a.m. every day to grind out a hard two-hour lift. We do various workouts including squats, bench press and flipping tires to get us physically prepared for the upcoming season and in the best shape possible. After our lifts, we work on conditioning. The only way that we can get ahead of our opponents is to wear them down by being in great shape. Not only do we lift and condition rigorously, but 7on7 is a big part of our offseason workouts.. We competed in various 7on7 tournaments over the summer to develop as a team and get in sync. Working hard is one of my greatest qualities, and I will not stop until I am on top. 

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: My WILL drives me to push forward both on and off the field. On the field, I make sure that nothing can stop me. I think back to all of the hours that I have put into the offseason, and I mentally make sure that nothing can block my goals. Whenever I get tired, I manage to push myself to new levels on both sides of the ball. On the other hand, my will off of the field helps me as achieve as well. I like to think of myself as a good student as I currently have a 3.5 GPA and flourishing test scores. I do not allow myself to slack nor regret any decisions I make. I know that it will all pay off one day, and that I will thank myself in the future. Overall, my will helps me both on and off the field and has shaped who I am today.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I faced adversity when I was very young and playing football. My grandmother was sick and in the hospital and my entire family was worried, including myself. Being able to go to football practice during this tough time was a huge sigh of relief. When I was out there with my best friends and having a great time playing the sport that I love, I felt like I was on top of the world. It gave me an escape from my fears and motivated me to work through the struggles of my family. Eventually, my grandmother left the hospital, but my motivation and drive from football helped me focus and keep my calm during this strenuous time.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The number one thing that I love about football is being out there battling with my best friends. Ever since I was young, it has always been my friends and I growing up together and playing the sport that we love. All my friends know that I would run through a wall for the team. I am confident enough to believe that they would do the same for me. That's why football has such a special place in my heart. It develops character and it builds bonds like no other that will never be broken. It is more than just a sport, it is a lifestyle, and I am so thankful that it has been a part of my life.

  • Nominee Photo

    Joseph Bumpus

    Linebacker
    Bloomfield H.S.
    Bloomfield, NJ

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    Joseph Bumpus

    Linebacker
    Bloomfield H.S.
    Bloomfield, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I participate in both indoor and outdoor track and field, competing in the shot put and javelin events. Track and field throwing events have become a passion of mine that started freshman year. In middle school, I was a successful county-gold medal winning 100-meter sprinter, but after an injury during my freshman football season in which I tore two ligaments in my ankle, the track coaches decided they wouldn't let me run out of fear of re-injuring the ankle. I've never been less than a three-sport athlete and I have never been one to stop in the face of adversity, so I quickly looked to the throwing team. Luckily, my football coach was also the head throwing coach. He assured me that throwing in track and field would not only be a way just to keep busy, but would help me get stronger, improve my balance, and be a way for me to fine tune my body. I have since taken throwing very seriously. I can say with full confidence that I have felt the positive effects on the field. I have grown much stronger and the intricate techniques of the sport have allowed me to gain a greater understanding of my body and its athletic possibilities. What I gained most from track is self-motivation. Even in the few days between each sports season, there was never a day when I wasn't in the weight room after school making sure I stayed in the best shape possible.  As soon as spring track ended, I was on the football field drilling anything from linebacker reads, to blocking off the line as a tight end, to improving my speed. Now that the season is here, I'm always sure to watch my film and study my playbook for at least 45 minutes a day. As a leader of the team, I know that it starts with me to lead by example both on and off the field, and get us ready for the Friday Night Lights.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Since I was young, my parents instilled in me a mentality that nobody is going to do the work for me. Whether in the classroom or on a tee-ball field as a young kid, I was the only one who could set my goals and work towards to achieving them. To me, there never has been any option besides giving all my effort so I can be at the peak of my potential. When I realized that I could work towards being the best and I had the potential to be the best in any field I wanted, there was no other option in my mind besides reaching the top. It is the strong WILL inside of me that has driven me to where I am today. Reaching high school, I was told more times than I could count that I was in for a challenge, that it was no joke, and there is no such thing as going through the motions if I want to be successful. While many others I knew got nervous or shied away from the challenge, I got excited. I saw high school as an opportunity to achieve anything that I wanted to. Starting in the summer and going into school, freshman football camp was underway. I already made the decision that I would work my way to not only being the best player I could be, but to be the leader the team needed. Going into my senior year, I've already been a captain of two sports as a junior, a position almost unheard of for anyone but seniors in my school. I've climbed to the number five ranking in my class out of more than 480 students. AP classes, the SAT, any sports opponent, are no match for me because I refuse to be outworked. I want to get somewhere and be someone. I know it all starts with me.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: If you looked at a picture of me when I was young, you probably wouldn't believe that it was me, mostly because of my size. I was a large kid to say the least. Although I wasn't one to shy away from sports or athletics, I wasn't exactly the most capable kid on any field. I faced a lot of criticism from the kids around me. I was known as the fat kid, the one who couldn't run fast enough to be picked anywhere but last in kickball, and the one that got tired going up stairs. They were simple things that I can now brush off my back, but as a young boy who didn't understand himself yet or who he wanted to be, I couldn't see anything besides being too big. I began wearing layers of clothes to hide my size and skipping out on meals behind my parents' backs trying to be who I thought would be looked at differently. It wasn't until I started playing football that I knew who I was. I was thrown into a sport that I didn't understand, and I thought there was nothing to football besides quarterback and receiver. My coaches saw something in me and told me that I had what I needed to be a skilled lineman. I honestly didn't know what a lineman even did, but I witnessed my experienced teammates, some even bigger than me, being athletic and helping the team by using the body that God had given them. This was eye opening. Our lineman coach always made the joke and preached to us that "fat people are people too." As much of a joke as it was, hearing that everyday and being part of a sport where my size was something important, helped me realizes that it was me who decided what I saw myself as. Without football, I wouldn't have the confidence that has gotten me to where I am today.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The football cliché almost everyone has heard is that the team is a brotherhood. I've played multiple sports throughout my life, including baseball, basketball, sprinting and throwing, but nothing has ever compared to how close I am with my football brothers. I've spent almost 7 months of each year for the last 3 years with my guys and now I'm in the middle of my fourth. Although there are always players graduating and young new players coming in, there's a bond between every player that no outsider can understand. Five-hour practices, sometimes in weather over 100 degrees, and on some days where we're in and out before the rest of our classmates haven’t even woken up yet, we are all pulled together by the goal of being the best team we can be. Everything goes back to being one of eleven, and there's not a single player on our team that doesn't want to see their teammate succeed. Knowing that I have brothers that count on me wakes me up in the morning before the sun rises and pushes me when my legs ache and my head hurts. I love football for too many reasons to count, but my love for my brothers keeps me coming back. Football won't always be there for me, but the family and memories I make will stay with me forever.

  • Nominee Photo

    Cameron Kelly

    Defensive line
    McMahon H.S.
    Norwalk, CT

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    Cameron Kelly

    Defensive line
    McMahon H.S.
    Norwalk, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: The offseason isn't really "off" for me, it's the start of getting better and to work continue to work on perfecting my craft. While not in season but still in school, I am hitting the weight room every day after school, however the real work for me begins in the classroom. I know that if I don't succeed there that I won't be eligible to succeed on the field. During the winter, I busted my tail getting stronger and really grinding so that the work I put in would eventually pay off. My team held mandatory workouts three days a week. I knew that staying with only those three weight room days a week would not put me where I wanted to be so I decided to go every day. My workouts mainly consisted of the basics – bench press, squats and cleans. During the winter months, I fought against the brisk cold and regularly did sprints on the field, in which most times I was the only one out there. When it starts to get warmer, track season rolls around and I take that opportunity to begin building my stamina while still working in the weight room. During track practice, you would still find me on the football field with a sled and a ladder perfecting my technique. One thing I find unique about myself when it comes to preparing for the season is that I love to watch hype videos from colleges and the NFL. I also watch motivational videos from former athletes as it helps get my mind in that football mindset that it's almost here. In the summer is when the real work is put in. I go to camps, engage with coaches, and try to learn any new ways to be a better athlete and football player.  After this time, I bring the techniques I learned and practice them with my teammates. Once the season is approaching I make sure that I maintain a proper diet, drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, and eat plenty of good food to fuel me throughout the day. When the actual season comes, I am an absolute animal. I eat, breathe,, and sleep football. Every single day I'm looking to see how I can get better. I often stay after practice and get in extra reps so on Friday nights it's nothing short of muscle memory. "Alignment and assignment” - a phrase one of my favorite coaches always praises. Know what you're supposed to do at all times and execute the play to the best of your ability. I become as serious as can be the day before a game. After walkthrough on Thursday, I go home and put my music on and watch film on my opponent, trying to learn every single thing I can about the player I’ll be lining up against on game day. When the day finally comes, it's go time!

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Having the Heart of the Giant is being fueled by unwavering WILL. Whether someone is an athlete or not, will is a driving characteristic for personal success. That fire in your stomach to do something is will, lit even through the toughest of adversity. The art of going the extra mile is catalyzed by will. I believe that I exhibit will on the field as well as in the classroom. One will not get anywhere without putting in 100% at practice, in a game or in their studies; you must do more than just try. Although I do find the sport of football to be fun, it is actually way more than that. I have a passion to play and perfect my technique, and ultimately be the best that I can be. Extra hours on the field and in the weight room, hours studying footage, and my willingness to fix and learn from my mistakes by seeking advice show my willingness and desire to succeed. Will is the foundation of dedication and commitment. There are eleven players out on that field, working as a cohesive unit of much importance; I strive to be my best while encouraging my teammates to be their best as well. I believe that this is the reason why I was chosen as a captain for my senior year; and by being captain it is that will that will propel me to be even greater, not just as a role model, but as a motivator. Football is something I see myself doing in the long term, however, that does not mean that I will turn a blind eye to my studies. I put the effort into both, regardless of how hard it gets. The heart of all giants is the will to be great together and succeed as people and as athletes in each respective realm. I strive to be as great as I can be and receiving the heart of the giant will be a testament to all the hard work I’ve put forth.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I've faced quite a bit of adversity in my life, but one time I truly stared down adversity was when my aunt passed away from cancer in 2009. I was young and it was very hard to deal with the loss. I didn't understand how someone could be there one moment and gone the next. It was as if someone took a piece of me and left an empty hole that I couldn't fill with anything. Originally football was just a sport to me, something my family liked me doing and it kept me in shape. Something changed after my aunt passed. Football became my getaway and I quickly began dedicating every rep to my aunt. Seems cliché doesn't it? I'm sure there are thousands of people with the same story as me, but I believe that before my aunt left, she had a major impact on me, so I want to pay her back in the one way I know I can. I started to take this sport more seriously until the point where I could think about nothing but football. This sport has helped me fight through so many obstacles in my life . When days were rough and I was angry at something, football was a way for me to relieve any hostility I had. Most importantly, the sport of football provided another family for me, which I believe is what truly helped me overcome the loss of my aunt. Football gives you a family like no other, There's nothing like having your brothers there for you through practice and through the tiring sprints telling you to push forward and not give up. I truly believe that the brothers I've played with these past years have been the reason why I’ve been successful on the football field. If it wasn't for those men and my aunt, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm honored to be in now.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy the separation from the rest of the world that only football can give me. I enjoy being under the lights and on the spot. I enjoy the thrill of hitting someone so hard your whole body is in pain the next day. The thing I enjoy most about playing this sport as I've mentioned before is the family and support that it gives you. The only way to play this sport is with your brothers. One man messes up on a play, we all mess up. That has to be the mindset when playing this game. Last season we went 0-10 and the previous year we went 2-8. It's extremely easy for most teams like that to fall apart and turn on each other, but my role as a leader of this team is to drive my teammates in the other direction and let them know that we aren't those same teams from two years ago. There's nothing that can replace a family who has bled, sweat, and cried together for so long and that is what I enjoy this the most about playing football. Our family now can set the tone for many more to come and show them what it takes to be great role models. Having a family like that provides a great support system for not only yourself but for others that aren't fortunate enough to have a family of their own. This is what I truly enjoy about this sport and what I'll always love about it!

  • Nominee Photo

    Dylan Laube

    Running back
    Westhampton Beach H.S.
    Westhampton Beach, NY

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    Dylan Laube

    Running back
    Westhampton Beach H.S.
    Westhampton Beach, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: As soon as my season ends, I begin intense speed training and lifting. Since I am in school, I workout on my own time starting at 5:00 a.m. and stopping around 6:15 a.m. This occurs during the winter seasons when it is both dark and cold out, so I only have car headlights as light for the turf. This helps me with the mental aspect of the game. When spring comes around, I play lacrosse which helps me stay in shape. When lacrosse season ends, my summer workouts begin. Most of my days are spent with the team. If I am not training with the team, I drive to a training facility to work on my running back skills to get stronger and faster. A couple times a week I like to go to the beach where the workouts become even more intense because of the soft sand. I can really push myself both mentally and physically. I choose these workouts for my team to help achieve the goals necessary to win.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I believe all the criteria define me, but the one that stands out the most is WILL. Despite what I face in the offseason and in-season, my will has always been able to push me the extra mile. For example, we have 3 separate challenges we are faced with as individuals and as a team. We run up steep hills thirty times which breaks you mentally and physically. Every time the thought of quitting comes into my head, I remember all the people that thought we weren't good enough, or those who have doubted our abilities. I won’t quit for my team or myself. Every drill, every sprint and every time I step on the field or in the classroom I have the desire to succeed. This past school year I made it my goal to succeed with a grade average of 90 and above in all of my classes. With the will to work hard, study hard, and make it my goal to put the extra effort in all my classes, I exceeded my expectations and maintained a grade average of 95 to finish out my junior year.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Playing football on Long Island is difficult in itself. We don't get much press coverage or big time coaches coming to see football on Long Island. By working so hard during the season and offseason, I want to show that football on Long Island and the players that come from here are worthy of playing at the next level. When I was at college recruiting camps, most of the coaches saw where I was from and simply brushed me aside. I never got a fair chance to be looked at. I had to work extremely hard to even get noticed. Every chance I had, I had to make it count. When I look back on everything I worked for, I know I laid it all on the line. I proved my skills and ability to others by achieving my ultimate goal of receiving a full Division-I scholarship offer to the University of New Hampshire where I will be attending next year. I could not have done this without my family, teammates, coaches pushing me, paired with my will to never give up.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy football because each time I step on the field, nothing else matters! The feeling is something you can’t really explain. It is the only time I forget about everything. All my senses come alive. I smell the turf, I hear the crowd, I see the lights and I hear my teammates, parents and coaches yelling my name. Football defines who I am, and I have become a better person because of it. My football family has become second family for life.

  • Nominee Photo

    Chris DeMarco

    Linebacker
    Howell H.S.
    Howell, NJ

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    Chris DeMarco

    Linebacker
    Howell H.S.
    Howell, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I go to the gym every day and I also wrestle. Whenever I have an off-day during wrestling season, I am getting better at the gym by either working out or doing cardio. I also pay for a trainer to always have someone pushing me to get better.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: COMMITMENT. During football season, I make sure I am at every practice or workout to help make my teammates and myself better. Nothing stops me from missing a practice or a game because I know it’s going to make me a better person. I make sure I am always early to practices so I can be the first one ready on the field. I also make sure to continually put football before my social life.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: When I was younger both my parents passed away. This was very hard for me to deal with. When I started playing football, I realized how much better it makes my life because I had such great teammates that always picked me up when I was down. Football made me realize that I am able to overcome any hard obstacles in my life because I have the help and support of my team.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The one thing I enjoy most about playing football is that it builds and shows character in a person. First off, football is a very hard and competitive sport. When something doesn’t go your way, it makes you have to work harder in order to make it better. Playing football can help you see how a person handles tough situations, and character means a lot to me.

  • Nominee Photo

    Michael Kane

    Quarterback
    Eastport South Manor H.S.
    Manorville, NY

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    Michael Kane

    Quarterback
    Eastport South Manor H.S.
    Manorville, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the entire offseason, I was speed training and lifting in the weight room no more than a week after our season had ended. In preparation for next season, I was on the turf working on speed training and conditioning a minimum of 5 days a week all spring and summer in effort to be in the best shape possible. I also prepared myself mentally by watching film and reviewing the playbook every day in order to make sure I clearly understand what needs to be done for our season and to help the team in every way I possibly can.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Having the Heart of a Giant means having the COMMITMENT to work non-stop for your team while playing the sport that you love. This applies to me in many ways. After the season ended in November, I started preparing for our next season. Everyday I was in the weight room or in my coach’s office during free periods studying the playbook. Lastly, I spent the summer lifting and speed training with no days off. Having the Heart of a Giant means having the commitment to work constantly through the pain and being the first one in and last one out.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: My grandmother was living with us when I was 15 years old. One night I heard some noise in her apartment so I went to check on her. She was trying to call 9-1-1 to get help. I took the phone and called for her. She passed away later that night and it was very tough for me and my family. Playing football greatly helped me get through this tough time. When I would go to the weight room, I knew I was with my 2nd family and they had my back. Knowing I had a great group of people having my back helped me get through this tough time and keep me going. Football is and always will be what I turn to to help me overcome anything.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing I enjoy most about playing football is working as a team to get the job done. Football is a sport where you have to be an unselfish unit in order to win. The way our team works to get the job done and reach a common goal is like nothing else in life. It makes me love the sport and every second of practicing and playing in the games enjoyable.

  • Nominee Photo

    Jeremiah Stevens

    Wide receiver
    Perth Amboy H.S.
    Perth Amboy, NJ

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    Jeremiah Stevens

    Wide receiver
    Perth Amboy H.S.
    Perth Amboy, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During this past offseason I lifted quite often and decided to join the track team as a means to working on my speed and agility. Throughout this time, I worked hard every day because I always tell myself the “grind never stops.” My work during the offseason has really showed some positive results since football started a few weeks ago.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The word that personally describes me as having the “Heart of a Giant” is DEDICATION. Personally, I feel that dedication is the heart of everything that you do. What DEDICATION means to me is having to put your heart and hard work into what you love doing. In my opinion, without dedication you won’t perform at your best. You want to enjoy what you love doing and put your all into it. In the end, that amazing feeling you get once you put in all that hard work and dedication toward something and achieving what you set out to achieve is the best feeling in the world.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Throughout my life I have had faced several bad situations resulting in negative outcomes, but the one situation that hit me the hardest was when my grandmother passed away. My grandmother was my life. She was everything to me. When she passed away I went through all types of struggles. Playing football helped me get through the passing of my grandmother. Before I head out to play I always do a prayer sent straight to her because I know she is always by my side while I’m playing the sport that I love.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about football is winning (of course!), but also my favorite thing about playing is being around my teammates and working hard together like a family to earn that victory. When it comes to a team sport, the main key is to make sure that you and your teammates are all on the same page. If they are not on the same page, then you try your best to make sure everyone is on point. You can’t go on the field with any negative vibes because that won’t get you anywhere and will get in the way of achieving your team goals.

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    Anthony Thomas

    Running back
    Becton Regional H.S.
    East Rutherford, NJ

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    Anthony Thomas

    Running back
    Becton Regional H.S.
    East Rutherford, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason I train 6 times a week. I try to mix it up by not only lifting weights, I also do speed training, footwork drills, and work on catching the ball a lot more than I would during the season. In addition to this training, I like to make sure I maintain a great diet so that I am in the best of shape at the start of camp. As for getting prepared for the season and games, my coaches do a great job of getting us ready both mentally and physically.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: My commitment to the game is what drives me the most. I try to have a winning mentality with anything I do. I strive to be the first person at practices, lifts, runs, etc. because it puts pressure on the other guys to work harder. My teammates feed off of energy and that helps me because it makes me want to work harder. I know someone out there is going to try to outwork me. Coming in first place means a lot to me no matter what I'm doing. I continually try to overcommit myself to tasks such as running miles for conditioning despite how tired I am. I always try to push to be first because I’ve made a strong commitment to the game of football.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: One time during my life when I faced adversity was when my cousin passed away. She was five years old when she lost her battle with cancer. With the little time she had on earth, she managed to impact all our lives. She brightened everyone's day with just her smile. It was a very tough time for me and my family when she passed. Thanks to football, I had a way to overcome it. I decided that no matter what I would always try to work hard and play for her because I know it would make her very happy to see everyone in the family happy.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing I enjoy most about football is being a part of a team. My teammates mean a lot to me. It's like having a big group of brothers added into your family. You may fight and argue with them, but no matter what your teammates are going to have your back through anything and everything. Through being teammates you also make many great memories on the field, but it doesn't end there because the teammates you have now are going to be your friends forever.

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    Donte Godfrey

    Running back
    Patchogue-Medford H.S.
    East Patchogue, NY

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    Donte Godfrey

    Running back
    Patchogue-Medford H.S.
    East Patchogue, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: My offseason starts as soon as I hear the final whistle of each season. I go and watch film and go over plays. I have always thought that the game is more than just physical, so I watch film to better myself. I always want to come out better than I came in. Of course, there is also the physical aspect of the game too. I tend to hit the gym as much as possible. I'm always grinding super hard year-round. I also wrestle in the winter. Wrestling is the number one conditioning sport so I always found it helpful. I want to be the most conditioned on the field, so you can count on me if it's “first and ten” or “third in fifteen.” I'm ready to play every snap throughout all four quarters. I also speed train throughout the spring and summer. I'm always trying to better myself both on and off the field.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: It seems like my entire lifestyle revolves around football, so I feel all of the traits of having the Heart of a Giant apply to me. Football is all I know, yet, I'll say dedication is my finest trait. I'm so dedicated to this game. I hate missing practices. I hate missing plays. I hate losing. I hate it if I don't reach my full potential every play. I'd like to thank my favorite football player of all time for this, Ray Lewis. I just love his vibe, his play, and his attitude. He brought it every play, and even harder the next. I don't expect anything less than greatness. My dedication should take me far. It's my passion, my job, my life.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I've faced so much negativity in my life. I’ve had to deal with deaths in the family, plenty of evictions, injury, and tragedies. You name it I've dealt with it. Football was always my motive. It always helped me escape. Most recently, I was involved in a tragic accident. We were all having a good night hanging out by the fire pit. Eventually, the fire pit erupted and my body caught on fire from head to toe. I ran around covered in flames for about 10 seconds, in shock and not knowing what to do. I eventually jumped in a pool to put the fire out. I was rushed to the hospital and spent 10 days in a burn unit literally having my dead skin scrubbed off, literally the worst pain ever. When I was able to, the first thing I asked my doctor was "when can I play football again?” She said, "I don't know, you may never be able to.” I kept working to get out of that hospital. Prayers and love got me out of the hospital more quickly than anyone expected. While recovering, my main motive was to put a helmet on again. When I was released. I wasn't allowed in the sun or else my skin could re-burn easily, so I would go out in the middle of the night to run a bit and get my body back in shape. I took the field Week 1!

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I love this game so much. It teaches you so much about yourself and your team. It helps with everyday life. I don't know where I'd be without it. It's my escape and I'm proud to say I'm a prime example of not letting anyone tell you that you can't do it because you can and I did.

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    Thomas George IV

    Defensive line
    Dwight-Englewood School
    Englewood, NJ

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    Thomas George IV

    Defensive line
    Dwight-Englewood School
    Englewood, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I train with a personal trainer who helps me to develop my speed, agility, and strength. I also lift with my football team June through August. The lifting with my football team helps me prepare for the season and games because I am blessed with the opportunity to create bonds of friendship and trust with my teammates. I believe this is the most important benefit of lifting with the team besides the actual gaining of strength I receive. You need these qualities in a team to win games. In addition, I train with my personal trainer to fine tune my athletic abilities because just lifting with the football team cannot add to all of the components that make up a great player.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Commitment, Dedication and Teamwork. These three points of criteria do not make up all individual football players. However, through his or her actions you can determine if the individual has any of these traits. Character is something that can be determined by observing a person's actions both on and off the field. I know character applies to me because it encompasses my acts both on and off the field. My character allows me to push through a game in the last quarter when my team is losing by three touchdowns. At the same time, I also help my local community through sending positive messages and making sure my community is okay. I think that I don't try to be nice most of the time, rather it is my character that influences me to create dedication, commitment and teamwork.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I moved from Los Angeles to New Jersey at the beginning of 4th grade. I never played a single game of football before moving to New Jersey. When I arrived to my town's elementary school, I didn't know anyone or anything in my town. I was met by a couple of bullies who preyed on new and nerdy kids in the school. They picked on me for my big size and odd clothing. I went on to tell my teacher about it, and he suggested I get involved in the sport of football. From that moment on, I played football and I have never regretted the decision of joining this amazing sport.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Playing football is a privilege. I understand that not everyone cannot physically or mentally play this very demanding game, even in some cases where they desperately wish they could. What I enjoy most about playing football is that I can be successful in the sport. When I do anything in life I am usually the overachiever. In my academics, physical activities, and other activities that require mental toughness, I try to achieve above and beyond. Football is no exception. Football is the most physically demanding and mentally demanding sport on the planet. I think that if I am excelling in this sport, I am achieving something very special.

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    Donovan Anderson

    Offensive line
    Cardinal Hayes H.S.
    Bronx, NY

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    Donovan Anderson

    Offensive line
    Cardinal Hayes H.S.
    Bronx, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: As soon as my season comes to an end, I immediately join the track and field team where I preform in two field events, shot put and discus. These two events help me dramatically with my football skills by making me more explosive, having more mobility with my hips, learning some amazing footwork, and by becoming stronger by the minute. To be a very successful offensive and defensive lineman, I must have explosive hips, amazing footwork, and be the strongest embodiment of myself that I can be. All these attributes that a lineman needs to master in his position, I master in the offseason. When it comes to preparing for a game, it is a weekly affair starting right after school every day until game day. My team and I prepare physically and mentally for the whole week by learning our opponents' strengths and weaknesses.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Truthfully, the criteria that defines one having the Heart of a Giant is Teamwork. In order for a team to succeed in their season, a team needs to be one, a unit or a TEAM. Every team needs a team leader, and I truly believe that's me. I personally have aligned and inspired people on my team to work together to achieve a common goal. Football is one sport that you must rely on the man next to you. For me, leading my offensive line helps them with techniques, how to block, and helps my team get better rather than worrying about myself and that's having the "Heart of a Giant.”

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome was when my fellow teammate, Delano Colan, passed away two years ago. Knowing that I unable to say my goodbyes or even play another snap of football with him hurt me emotionally every day. However, with football, I learned to control my emotions and translate any negative energy into a way to overpower my opponent on game day. Also, the brotherhood that football provides someone has helped me a lot. Every day, my brothers help me deal with my emotions. This support that football provides helped me become the athlete I am today.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing I enjoy most about playing the sport of football is the brotherhood that I have gained with my teammates over the years. Don't get me wrong, getting big hits, pancakes, touchdowns, interceptions and especially winning a game or state championship are all the best parts of the game. The only thing is that these achievements are all short-term. You can get touchdowns, you can win or lose a game, but after the season is over all the hype of what happened that season is gone. The one and only thing that remains is the brotherhood and friendships that are created during the season will never fade away. The most enjoyable thing about the game is just having so many different bonds with people and this is something that will last for a lifetime.

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    Jefferson Martinez

    Offensive line
    Hightstown H.S.
    Hightstown, NJ

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    Jefferson Martinez

    Offensive line
    Hightstown H.S.
    Hightstown, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: From the day I went to see my first ever high school football game as an 8th grader, I knew that one day I wanted to be on that field making plays for the Hightstown Rams. As a freshman and still learning the basics, I knew I would need to put in my best effort if I ever wanted to achieve my goal of playing on Friday nights. After the season ended, Coach Jeros introduced a new workout regimen to me. Although it was not mandatory, I took it upon myself to be present for every lift. Later, I started going to Nicola's Dungeon which is an amazing gym focused solely on producing elite athletes. Through the Dungeon, I became more confident in my ability on the field and in myself. Since then, I have continued to lift with the team in the winter and spring, grinding together to become better. Now with some experience under my belt, I know that each season and each week brings with it new opponents and new opportunities to succeed. By placing my trust in the coaching staff and allowing myself to be coached, I am attempting to do my part so when the time comes I am ready for anything that might happen under those lights.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Growing up in a Latino home can mean many things to many different people. To me, it means learning various life skills at a young age. One of those life skills that has been drilled into my DNA is taking pride in everything I do. This skill is what drives me to be dedicated to each task given to me and make sure that I do everything to the best of my ability. Those words are the constant reminder of why I do everything I do. Whether it be for myself or someone else, I take pride in my actions and strive to reach my goals. The way I see it is pride and dedication go hand in hand. A man cannot say they are dedicated to their objective if they do not take pride in what they are doing and vice versa. The same is true in the sport of football. A person cannot say they have pride in their team if he is not dedicated to seeing them succeed. Every day that I put on that royal blue jersey I can say I am proud to be a Hightstown Ram because I know that I am dedicated to seeing us succeed.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Throughout my life, I have experienced a lack of problems. Of course, some have been smaller than others but tough to deal with regardless of the time period. However, in the past few years when adversity strikes it has been easier to deal with because of football. Back when I was an incoming freshman, my family and I were forced out of the apartment we had been renting for the past 7 years. Our deadline to move out was the end of July and the date kept getting closer and our luck of finding a new home wasn't improving. July ended with no new home and we ultimately had to move in with some relatives and put the majority of our belongings in a 10x10 storage unit. August 10 rolled around and with it came the first day of pre-season. Football became my beacon of light and hope during a time when almost everything was bleak and colorless. Through football I found optimism. One day in October we finally found a home of our own. Most recently, I was struck with the biggest adversity I've ever experienced in my life. On the morning of June 20, my father was arrested by immigration officers and taken to a correctional facility in Elizabeth, NJ. My father’s business and all his burden had now fallen upon me. It was up to me to keep things running in his absence. I'd be lying if I said it was anything but headaches and endless problems. Through it all I kept my head up. With the support of my coach and other family members, I was still able to be on the field for the first day of preseason. After working relentlessly in my father’s restaurant, I could finally release all that pressure and anger that I had built up.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I personally love and enjoy the most about football is the camaraderie that is built through the efforts of winning games. The team must act like a unit to achieve their goals which builds a connection between yourself and the man you're fighting alongside. Those moments when the team is connected and everyone is playing their heart out is what it's all about. Years after the unit is disassembled and people go their separate ways, the bond remains. You feel like a part of something much bigger than one game or one year. Once you step onto the gridiron, you carry the legacy of those before you and become part of that ever-growing family. You have the responsibility to continue your brothers’ legacy and create your own, which is the part I enjoy most about playing football.

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    Daryn Blackwell

    Linebacker
    Toms River H.S. North
    Toms River, NJ

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    Daryn Blackwell

    Linebacker
    Toms River H.S. North
    Toms River, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: To me, offseason training is like being in-season. I am a two-sport varsity athlete that is always competing whether it’s on the field or in the track circle. I live in the weight room where I lift twice a day just so I can have the upper hand. On Sunday mornings, I go to the beach to run, cut and workout so I have some type of resistance to help me get used to running through people, with people on my back, or fighting off blocks and finishing my tackles. There’s no better way to mentally prepare yourself for a game than competition. That’s exactly what I do every day until I can’t anymore.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The criteria that best fits me is WILL. As much as football is a big part of my life and in my household, school is just as big. I want to go to school for sports medicine. The reason why is because I figure that if I played the sport and you talk to a former athlete, it’s easier for us to help you get better and back on the field. As a football player, there really is not an injury I haven’t had. That said, there is also no treatment I haven’t had yet. If I can go to school and further my knowledge on the subject when my football career as ended, I want to come back to my hometown and provide the expertise that we currently do not have. My mother pushes me every day to get better and better with my grades and schooling because I need the grades in order to accomplish my goals.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I was always a bigger boy. When I was younger, I was always the tallest in the class, the strongest, the fastest, and just an all-around faster growing person. I was never able to play football with my age or group of friends because I was too big and too fast. It hurt me at a young age because all I wanted to do was play ball with my friends and family that I’ve been going to school with since I was six but I never had the chance to. As a kid, being told you can’t do something because you’re too big is honestly the hardest thing to hear because you’re so used to hearing yes. When you hear that no, it eats away at you. From 2nd to 4th grade, I was on the team but I could never play because I was never the right weight. That was until 5th grade when they asked me to move up and play with 8th graders. Naturally I said yes because any opportunity I had to get back on the field I would take, but deep down inside I was terrified because I was playing with kids that were 3 years older than me. When you really let that sink in, it’s like a freshman playing and starting varsity week 1. I dominated at that level and took out all the anger I had that was built up from the last time I played. Still, in the back of my head every time I made a tackle, I just thought, wow I really am doing this, I really am playing the sport I love again.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I love the game itself. I love strapping up that helmet every day and going to work with my family. I love Friday nights and hearing the fans yell my name. When problems occur on the field or there is any doubt, trust me, I will do everything in my physical power to make things happen and correct those issues. I love meeting new people and learning their techniques to help upgrade my game. I love going back to work with the younger kids and teaching them how to play the game and showing them how to love it just as much as I do. I love meeting coaches and having conversations with them, knowing that just because you’re a coach doesn’t mean you’re a nobody. I just love the sport of football, including the history and the future of the game. I hope I can play or be around this sport for the rest of my life.

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    Brandon Birks

    Linebacker
    Indian Hills H.S.
    Oakland, NJ

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    Brandon Birks

    Linebacker
    Indian Hills H.S.
    Oakland, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: One's commitment to off-season training makes or breaks their season. Knowing this fact, I've always taken my training very seriously and made sure I put in extra effort everyday. A vigorous strength and conditioning regimen in the offseason has been the key to making sure I've been in great health and physical condition to perform over the course of the season. To better prepare myself for game time I make sure to keep hydrated, eat nutritious foods, and get plenty of high quality sleep every night. Keeping yourself as healthy as possible can truly make all the difference and greatly impact your performance on the field.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: WILL is a defining trait for those who possess the “Heart of a Giant.” Will within an individual is defined by one's drive to succeed despite any overbearing odds against them. My own willpower is responsible for my overcoming of various challenges throughout not just the course of my football career but also my life. My determination and will allows me to dig deep during a competitive game or any other trying moment. One recent time I had to showcase a tremendous amount of willpower was during camp this summer. This summer was one of the most physically and mentally demanding camps of my football career thus far. We had double practices each morning. I also had to find time to train on my own and go to work at my summer job every night only to repeat process the next day. As it went along the process became very challenging, but I called upon a substantial amount of willpower to succeed. I can confidently say that my willpower during this time paid off greatly and helped to make me not only a better player because of it but also a better person.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I've been no stranger to adversity, but the lessons learned from my experiences playing football have better prepared me to take on any challenge. One particular time where football helped me was during my recovery period after I had severely injured my pinkie finger. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from the game was the resilience and the ability to work through pain and discomfort. I injured my left pinkie during a lifting accident in the offseason. The tip of my finger was ripped off and many stitches were required to reattach it. The injury put me out of commission for several months and rudely interrupted my training regiment. Over the next trying months, I had to rest through the healing process and undergo physical therapy to regain the use of my finger. I was forced to watch as my teammates continued to train and prep for the upcoming season. I was tested mentally during this period of time, but the resilience I learned playing the game of football helped keep my head high and think positively.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Football is a fun and amazingly challenging sport, and people of all kinds are attracted to this game. The most enjoyable thing about the game to me is the relationships one builds with coaches and teammates. Friendships made with coaches and teammates through the game are those that people carry with them for the rest of their lives. I know personally that the relationships with friends that I hold most dear are that with my team. The analogy of football to a brotherhood undoubtedly holds true. By far the greatest and most enjoyable thing about the sport of football is its ability to bring people together and forge everlasting bonds.

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    Chris Maser

    Running back
    Sachem H.S. North
    Lake Ronkonkoma, NY

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    Chris Maser

    Running back
    Sachem H.S. North
    Lake Ronkonkoma, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I work out constantly to improve myself as a player and as a teammate. Working out during the offseason allows me to stay in shape for the following season. My workouts from the winter to the summer include attending workout programs including “Revolution Athletics” and my own school’s workout agenda. Workouts that involve Revolution Athletics, or “Revo,” focus mainly on the speed and agility aspects of my game. Some of the drills that I do at Revo include ladder drills, cone drills, and other drills that help improve my explosiveness. I recognize that these drills are especially crucial to me because I’m a tailback. Although I’m a tailback and I run the ball, it's also crucial for me to improve my strength daily during the offseason and during the regular season. During the offseason and regular season, I always make it my goal to improve. I always make sure that I bench, squat, deadlift, do push-ups, etc. frequently. Doing this allows me to maintain all the work that I put in during the offseason and improves my strength as well. In the summer, I work on my conditioning extensively and it has allowed me to stay fresh for longer periods of time. Some of my favorite exercises during this time are dragon shuttles, mile runs, waterfalls, triangle drills, etc. The list goes on and on, however all is lost without a good work ethic. Anyone can just do all these drills and say that they are improving, however, when I do something I make sure I give it my all with a never lose attitude. No excuses. If I come in second place during a drill with my team, I consider that a loss in my mind. What makes me different from all the players who say they grind all the time is I put my all in every rep.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: To have the Heart of a Giant means you need to have the willpower to push through all of the tough times, whether they be in football or life in general. A person needs to have the mental fortitude and power in their heart to get through all the wrinkles they come across. Quitting isn't an option for someone like me. If my team and I lose a game, we’re going to work hard at practice and give it our all to win the next one. It takes will for someone like me to be all in on a team where you sacrifice some things to benefit the team. For example, I’m a great offensive player and I’m one of the best running backs in the league. However, I know that I have to sacrifice some touches in order to help my team on defense. Someone who doesn't have will, wouldn’t get past that wrinkle, and they wouldn’t trust the coaching like a player should. Will makes a good player a great person in life. It creates the mindset for a young individual to push through all the hard times, make good of a bad situation and eventually succeed.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Everybody faces adversity in their life and many people use different ways to counter the adversity they're facing. Anytime I face adversity, I know that everyday I’d be able to step out on to the field I love with my team and be able to play football. Just the thought of that calms me down and helps me counter any challenges I face off the field. I know that if I play football and do what I love all the time I won’t have to worry about any problems that occur during my life. I’ll just be able to play the game.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Playing football for me has been my favorite thing to do during my free time. Ever since I started playing, I’ve made it my goal to be the best that I can be. Football became a big part of my life during my younger days and has only become a bigger part of my life ever since. My favorite thing about football is that it’s team-oriented and it takes all 11 guys working together to succeed. Every person must give it their all on every play and if someone takes a play off, it can affect the whole team. Teamwork is a big thing to me because it allows us to work in tangent to try and accomplish our task to win. I also love the teamwork part of the game because it shapes us for the future to be able to work with other people in everyday life. It develops our ability to be patient, keeps us disciplined when we know that we shouldn't say anything out of place, and builds our character to make us better everyday people.

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    Evan Townsend-Henry

    Linebacker
    The King School
    Norwalk, CT

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    Evan Townsend-Henry

    Linebacker
    The King School
    Norwalk, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: In the offseason, I train with my team in the weight room and on the turf running routes, etc. I also workout at Athletic Gaines in Stamford, CT. We work on running stances and mechanics. We also work on my agility and speed. They allow for me to become more explosive and successful on the field while being agile. I also like to go to the local high school and run on the turf or the track to build stamina.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I would say that my dedication is what makes me the best I can be both on the field and off. I strive to be not only a great football player but also an excellent person within the community. For our football team, we believe that what one does off the field effects everyone, and I live by that. I strive to create an example for my teammates off the field and on. I try to be the best player on the field no matter the circumstances. Even when I tore my meniscus, I was in the weight room as much as possible. I always believe in creating an example for the younger guys.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I faced adversity this summer when I tore my meniscus at the Boston College camp. I went into the camp thinking that they might offer me a scholarship or that I might get interest from other schools. The injury prevented me from attending other camps and unable to receive any offers. Eventually, I was able to overcome and recover and still able to play the sport that I love. I might not have gotten every school’s attention but I still was able to help my team get better and further improve as a person and player.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thrill of the game is my favorite part. I love running out to the field and looking into the stands and seeing the fans and parents cheer you on. Playing for your school and playing with some of your best friends is the best part of the game. Making plays and hearing the sound of the fans roar when you make a big play is the greatest feeling. I love playing for the fans and playing with my brothers on the field.

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    Shayne Simon

    Linebacker
    Saint Peter's Prep
    Jersey City, NJ

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    Shayne Simon

    Linebacker
    Saint Peter's Prep
    Jersey City, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: It doesn't seem like I have an offseason. When football ends, basketball begins and after that in the spring is track. I enjoy using other sports to help me get better at football. This year our coach signed us up for the Victory Road program. It's an intense training program focused on leadership and mental and physical toughness. It gave our team a great opportunity to make our bond stronger.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Commitment. I've had a few challenging obstacles in my life that I have had to overcome. My love for sports and my love for football have kept me focused throughout. I live to compete. That means I desire to do well in the classroom as well as on the field, court, or track. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA while participating in varsity sports year round. Even when homework keeps me up well into the early morning hours, I'm committed to an ethic of excellence. I believe in outworking others to be successful as well as never giving up or backing down. I desire to be a role model when it comes to imposing my will through hard work.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: When I was 9 years old, I had open-heart surgery to repair a defect. I had injuries before, but this was different. Football was instrumental to my recovery. I had recently come off a fun season, and I wanted to get back on the field. The best distraction for my discomfort in the hospital was watching ESPN and focusing on how I could play again. Finally, my football coaches and teammates were so supportive and helped me through the tough time. I got back on the field in time for the next season and have always retained a deep appreciation for the ability to suit up. I consider it a gift that I get to play, and I never take that for granted.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The best part about football is the connection I get to make with my brothers on the field. Together, we have a mission. We can only accomplish that if we work together and push and pull each other. We each have to do our job. I enjoy being inspired by my teammates and trying to inspire them back. We work hard both on and off the field. Seeing that hard work pay off is special. I have teammates that have gone on to do great things at the next level. I aspire to do the same, and I hope I'm setting an example for those coming behind me. The team aspect of football is so unique. It's the best part of the game.

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    Ibrahim Kamara

    Linebacker
    Cheshire Academy
    Cheshire, CT

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    Ibrahim Kamara

    Linebacker
    Cheshire Academy
    Cheshire, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, my teammates and I would spend numerous hours outside training. We would do ladders, cones, pull-ups on trees, 1-on-1s, and 7-on-7s. We spend six days a week in the weight room, sometimes at our high school weight room and sometimes at Test Sports Club in New Jersey where several NFL stars have worked out. I squat 405 lbs. and bench 265 lbs. On game days, I like to be by myself before the game. My game day ritual consists of me relaxing, staying calm by listening to music, and usually eating a sub and skittles.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Dedication. A group of older cousins and friends introduced me to football when I was in 7th grade. I was usually the youngest. They taught me to never let the next man beat me out. I’ve always used that. Growing up in tough conditions in Sierra Leone and then Somerset, N.J., I used that at as motivation to outwork the next guy. I think about my mom and my family and all they have done for me. That helps me push through that last rep or last sprint.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Growing up in Sierra Leone, I didn’t always have meals or clothes. Then we came to Somerset, NJ, an area with a high crime rate. I immediately fell in love with football and it has helped me from going down the wrong path. People have always told me that I can be someone who makes it out of our bad neighborhood and I have used that motivation constantly. Football kept me away from the streets. It motivates me to keep my grades up. I’ve had someone murdered behind my house and close friends get involved in drugs or end up in jail. Football has helped steer me away from that lifestyle.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Football is my escape. I love the physical side as well as the emotional aspect of the game. I also love the bond it creates with teammates and the overall “family” it provides. It builds lifelong relationships. The sweat, blood, sacrifice, and physical aspects are different from any other sport.

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    Danny Sanchez

    Quarterback
    Lehman H.S.
    Bronx, NY

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    Danny Sanchez

    Quarterback
    Lehman H.S.
    Bronx, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: The offseason for me is basically where you either win the next season or you lose every game, so I take the weight room and conditioning during the offseason very seriously. I take every rep extremely seriously because I don't like being outworked by anyone, but being strong is not the only important thing. Being conditioned is just as important because if you can't stay on the field, then there is no point in my eyes. Plus, practice isn't always good enough. Going out on my own is what separates me as an athlete, so the offseason plays a huge part in my eyes. How I prepare myself for a game is very different and unique from everyone else. I'm mostly a quiet, chill, and laid-back type of guy. I don't like a lot of attention on myself or like being around all of the attention, so when I prepare for a game, I stay up late at night to watch film to make sure I am always prepared for anything. On game days, I always sit in the front of the bus away from all the noise. I just like to have time to listen to music, relax, and just clear my mind and get into my zone. I also warm up with headphones on just so no one bothers me while I'm getting loose. That's just how I am as a person and player. It has always worked, and now it's a routine.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: My commitment and dedication are things that define me as a person and an athlete because it always shows. I am always working my tail off to try to get better as a person, athlete, leader and teammate. I take pride in being the first guy in and the last guy to leave. I take pride in knowing everything that everyone has to do on every play so if they forget, I can always have the right answer for them. My dedication is unmatchable. In my four years playing high school football, I have never missed a practice. I wear that accomplishment with pride because a lot of people can’t say they achieved that goal in high school or at any level. Always being doubted and told I can't do something is what I thrive on. That's what fuels my fire everyday and gets me out of bed in the morning. Honestly, doubting me is the best thing you can do to me, because I will prove you wrong.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I am no stranger to adversity. I've faced it while growing up as a young boy and still now as a high school senior. The point where adversity struck at a high dosage is when I blew out my ACL & MCL in the homecoming game of my sophomore season. I carried my team to a 5-4 record (we were 3-7 the year before). This game was the final game before the playoffs and if we won, we would earn a home playoff game for the first time in ten years. This was the first time we also made the playoffs in 8 years as well. Midway through the third quarter, I was taken out on a low hit, and I immediately knew something was wrong because I got up and went back down. It felt like my world had crumbled in the blink of an eye. Many doubted if I could come back in time for my junior season, even my own doctor, and many doubted if I would even be the same player that I was before. With all the doubters, I just shut everything down. I started being very quiet and distant from a lot of people because a lot of "friends" disappeared once I got hurt. I was extremely depressed during this time. I barely spoke or interacted with anyone during this time. I couldn't let this destroy me as a person and player, so I just entered a mode where I said I will be better then I ever was before this happened. So with that in mind, I went to work. The grueling process of rehabbing an ACL & MCL tear is no joke, but I attacked it. It takes a lot of hard work. I never took a second off, and I was able to come back in 7 months from ACL surgery and start in my season opener. This all led to being the first team to ever win a football championship in my school’s history. This life lesson gave me the quietness and humility that I have now. I'm glad that I went through it, even though it was a tough and dark point in my life.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The main thing that I love about football is that it is the ultimate team game. One guy cannot beat another team with the other 10 players by his side assisting him. Everyone has to put in their maximum effort in order to win. If one person slacks off, you could end up losing as a team. It's not like every other sport where one guy can lead your team to the promise land. Football is 11 vs. 11, and each and every player must give everything they've got in order to win. Plus, football creates family and bonds that other sports don't have. It's a special connection that can never be recreated, and it is something that you will always remember. Last note, I love the game more than what it brings me. Yeah sure, the medals, awards, rings and fame are nice to have, but it's extra. I truly love and appreciate the game of football because when I didn't have it, it almost brought my world crumbling down. I'm thankful for everyday that I am blessed to play it with the talent level that I possess because you never know when it can all be taken away from you.

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    Malkelm Morrison

    Defensive back
    Iona Prep H.S.
    Stamford, CT

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    Malkelm Morrison

    Defensive back
    Iona Prep H.S.
    Stamford, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: In the offseason, I participate in numerous activities to prepare me for the upcoming season. In the winter (after football season), I run track. I do this to improve my speed and stamina for games, so I do not get tired in the 4th quarter or even overtime. This helps me get strong quads and hamstrings. During this time, I also lift after track practice, so I am not losing weight. I drink protein shakes and eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. In the spring, I continue to run track and lift. In addition, I also have a personal speed trainer who helps me loosen up my hips and other parts of the body. We work on running form and stretching quite a bit. In the summer with the season around the corner, we continue to have summer workouts and lifts to keep us in shape for the season. To get ready for games, I watch the film of whatever team I am playing against that week as well as look at the opposing players’ tendencies. As far as hydration goes, I start hydrating 4 days before the game so I am not dehydrated come game day.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: To me, commitment represents having the "Heart of a Giant" because commitment is a true reflection of "unparalleled work ethic and passion for the game." When one is truly committed to an activity, they eagerly embrace working hard to get better. They are never satisfied with the status quo, even when the status quo is already excellent. They also demonstrate a passion that is reflected in how they train and prepare for that activity. I love football. I am truly committed to the game and to improving my performance. I am constantly studying the game to increase my knowledge and understanding of it because it is important to me that I have an excellent football IQ. This helps to minimize errors and maximize performance. I work hard both on and off the field. My performance on the field is obvious based on my statistics, but during the offseason, I am also working extensively to prepare for the season. I run indoor and outdoor track to increase my speed for football. I also have a personal trainer that I go to several times a week to run, strength train, and practice agility drills. While I may get physically tired, I never get emotionally tired because I love football and I am committed to being the absolute best I can be as a player. My diet also shows my unshakable commitment to the game and reflects my work ethic. While I would love to eat like a typical teenager, I spend a lot of time making sure I put the right things in my body. My goal is to build a strong powerful physical frame for football that will create endurance and allow me to perform in an outstanding manner. Sometimes, this means having a protein shake instead of French fries, a sacrifice I am happy to make. For all these reasons, I believe I demonstrate the commitment that embodies the "Heart of a Giant."

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: When I was in 8th grade, my parents told my brother and I that we were going to be leaving Pennsylvania and moving to Connecticut because my mother got a really good job that she couldn't pass up. To make matters worse, my parents had also decided that my brother and I would stay in Pennsylvania with my father until the school year ended in June, while my mother moved without us in October. My mother commuted back to Pennsylvania on the weekends, but it was still hard not to see her every day.  Football had always been important to me, but it became even more important during this time of adversity. First, despite this uncertainty, football was the one thing I could count on. It became the link between my old life in Pennsylvania and my new life in Connecticut. It helped me to make early and easy friendships in a new environment, which made my transition seamless. Second, one of the things I discovered while living with my dad as the sole parent was how important it is for young boys to have male role models in their lives. This experience caused me to use football to be that role model for younger kids. I coach them and help teach them the game of football. I also use football to teach them important life lessons. In these ways, football was instrumental in helping me to overcome the adversity of relocating to a new environment.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy many things about playing football, but the things I enjoy most are the bonds you make with your teammates. No other sports team is this closely bonded together or connected either on or off the field. I moved from PA to NY going into my freshman year and I did not know anyone. By the time school started and after summer workouts, I knew a good 20% of my grade. When playing football or joining a football team, you get a feeling that you are part of a family that cannon be broken. After my sophomore year of football, I was going to quit football because I kept getting injured and I did not have the two seasons that I wanted to have. My teammates and new coaching staff indirectly influenced my decision to stay. Coach Spagnolo brought a positive attitude to the table that we could be something special. Also, looking at my 2018 class, we have never led a team together before and had never all been together on one stage. Our senior year is the year to do it.

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    Pete Fitzgerald

    Linebacker
    Choate Rosemary Hall
    Wallingford, CT

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    Pete Fitzgerald

    Linebacker
    Choate Rosemary Hall
    Wallingford, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: It is important for all football players to understand that their whole football team is counting on them to come prepared for the season. It is extremely obvious, and disappointing, when one of your teammates shows up to preseason out of shape. In the offseason, it is crucial to prepare yourself to be the best player you can be, so when the season comes you are ready to focus and give your team everything you have to offer. In the offseason, I follow 4 important steps to allow me to be more prepared for the upcoming season; getting faster, lifting weights, eating right, and watching film. In 2016, my high school football team won the New England Prep School Class A Championship, improving our win streak to 30-0. The summer before the season, I started having pain in my right shoulder, so my doctor told me to get an MRI. When I got the results back, I had found out that I had torn my labrum and would need surgery. He said that I could easily play the upcoming season, but would have to get the surgery in the winter. After hearing the news that I could still play, I knew I had to work hard in the weight room so that my shoulder could be ready for the football season. One day after an upper-body workout, my left shoulder started to hurt, so I went back to my doctor, who later sent me to get another MRI. When the results came back, it was the same news. I had torn my left labrum as well as my right. The doctor was hesitant on letting me play the upcoming season, but I convinced him that I could do it. Three days after the championship game, I got my right shoulder operated on, and a month later, my left shoulder. The beginning of 2017 was a struggle because I was in a sling for my left shoulder, while my right shoulder was aching from physical therapy. I was nominated as a captain of my football team in February of 2017, so I knew I had to do everything possible to prepared for the upcoming season, so I could be the best leader possible. Because I couldn’t lift, or work on my speed, I knew that the best way to prepare myself for the upcoming season was to eat healthy and watch as much film as possible. I studied my opponents’ film and created a meal plan throughout the week for myself. I had to adjust my meals because of my lack of exercise. Four months later, I was cleared to lift and run. When I heard the words clearing me to lift and run, I was the happiest I had been in four months. Immediately following this news, I signed up for my schools varsity TAC (Total Athlete Conditioning) Program. It is a program run by the leading trainer at our school, and he helped me get back on track with my strength and speed. The program lasted for 3 months and made me feel confident going into the summer of 2017. When I got home from school, I knew I needed a plan for when I would lift and when I would run. I talked to my mother, and she was generous to pay for me to work out with a local trainer. My local trainer pushed me to all my limits. I worked out with him three times a week, and he gave me off-day workouts, in which I would go to a turf and run on my own for 2 of the 4 days I did not see him. Throughout every workout, I think of my teammates and want them to be able to count on me. I hold myself accountable because that is what I expect from my teammates, and I want to help put my team in the best position to succeed.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I will always think teamwork is the number one key to a team’s success. Everyone on the team plays a role in their success, whether it’s the person making the game winning tackle or the freshman cheering on the sideline for his teammate making the game winning tackle. It is a simple fact that 11 players will start (or should) for a football team. While some teams have the obvious superstar, it angers me when I hear someone talk about a football team and say “Oh they’re not good. They have one good player so they’re a one-man team.” No disrespect to other sports, because I am a big fan of all sports, but football is not a one-man sport, and that’s why I believe it is so special. It takes the full 11 players on the field to achieve a team’s goal. All 11 players must be committed and on the same page for their desire of success. Throughout my 10 years of playing football, I have played 18 of the 22 possible positions on the football field (for offense and defense combined). This experience has allowed me to see the responsibilities each position has and how much each position means to the success of the team. It has also shown me that no football position is easy when you are giving 100% effort. While I was growing up, I mostly played RB on the offensive side of the ball and DE on the defensive side. One day after a successful upset against out rival, I remember my dad telling me how proud he was of me. At first, I thought he was proud because I had 4 rushing touchdowns and over 200 yards. He quickly corrected me and told me he was proud because after each touchdown, he saw me hand the ball to the referee respectfully, and immediately run to thank all my lineman who had blocked for me. He noticed my respect and love I had for all my teammates and knew how much I appreciated every single one of them. Every football team wants to be successful, but it is those who are willing to give all their effort and work together who will achieve successful results.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: While I was at preseason for football during my second year at boarding school, I got a text from my mom saying, "Pete you need to call me." At first, I didn't think much of it, and just replied with "I'm in the car. Can I call you in 15 minutes?" Before she could reply, I noticed I hadn't checked my Twitter in a while, so I clicked on the app to pass time in the car until I could call my mom. When the Twitter feed popped up, the first tweet I read was "Rest in Peace A.J. Robbins". The next tweet: "I can't believe this is real #RIPAJ." I quickly shut off my phone and stared out the window. My friend, who was sitting right next to me, said something, but I couldn't make out what they had said. In that moment, a feeling took over me that I could never put into words. One of my friends from back home had passed away, and there was nothing I could do about it. It made me feel small, and it wasn't easy to overcome especially being away from home. AJ was a teammate I played football with for a few years during American Youth Football. He was a year older than me, so I always looked up to him and admired his love for teammates and dedication to the game of football. Because of football, AJ was a brother to me. After crying for about an hour, I came to the conclusion that I would not tell my coach or any of my teammates about what happened. I knew I would be emotional at times, but I wanted my team to have the least amount of distractions while we worked hard throughout preseason. I didn’t want people to feel bad for me. I did what I knew A.J. would want me to do. I stayed focused and was more determined for our team’s success. This tragic accident taught me that football gives brotherhood to those who commit to the game and play for their teammates. For the rest of the season, I played for A.J because I knew how much he loved the game of football and how he would do anything to be able to put his pads on again and play one last game with his brothers. I taped my wrists every game, and with Sharpe, I wrote “RIP AJ” on both wrists, so that before each play I could look down and remember how fortunate I am every second I am on a football field. I know A.J. smiles when he looks down from heaven and sees me playing football because I play every snap as if it’s my last. Football helped me through this accident because while I play, I know A.J is there watching over me. ~RIP A.J. I'll Miss You Brother~

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The most enjoyable part about football is the brotherhood it has given me for the rest of my life. Since I was eight years old I have been playing football, and all of teammates from my first year on have influenced the person I am today in some way. When teammates hit the practice field together, and push themselves and each other through tough drills, or conditioning practice, it forms bonds between players that cannot be broken. One of my coaches used to tell my teammates and I “Be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.” This made me understand how sometimes football practices may cause me to struggle but accepting the struggle with my teammates and pushing through with each other will only make us closer as a team. Obviously winning is fun, but there is much more to the game than just scoring more points than the opposing team. There is so much to be thankful for about football, but something that lasts forever are the bonds formed when working with your teammates on the field. Whenever I work out, or hit the field for our game days, I will always give 100% effort and play for my teammates. While it is always nice to make a nice play yourself, it is also amazing when one of your teammates succeeds next to you. Football takes dedication and heart. I believe that when everyone on the team is locked in to achieve a group goal, it can be accomplished by working together. When you work hard in the offseason, and see one of your teammates struggling to get through a workout because they are pushing themselves to their limits, it makes you appreciate and trust the people you are playing with. I also believe football teaches athlete life lessons, like how to overcome adversity when faced with it, and how to work with other people as one unit to get the job done. I have sold my heart to the game of football, and that is what some student-athletes lack. Teams will have insane athletes and kids who have great numbers on papers at combines, but what a successful team needs in addition to those stats is heart and genuine love for the game of football. I have always thought about how much football has done for me and how it has made me the person I am today. I think about how I could payback football, but I think the answer to that question that hovers in my mind is that I simply can’t. Football has shown me that having heart will bring success not only in the game but also in my future with anything in life.

  • Nominee Photo

    Ryan Cudahy

    Linebacker
    Kings Park H.S.
    Kings Park, NY

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    Ryan Cudahy

    Linebacker
    Kings Park H.S.
    Kings Park, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: My offseason is constantly full of activities. As a multi-sport athlete, I rarely have down time. Winters consist of weightlifting right after school 4 days a week with my football team. As spring starts to roll around, I spend my weekends preparing for the baseball season to make sure I'm in shape. Once summer begins, so does the summer football schedule. Mornings begin with 7 a.m. lifting sessions followed by speed training and practice 4 days a week. Afternoons and evenings are filled with baseball games and practices. Finally, as the season begins and we practice 5 days a week, and that's where all the preparation from every activity since the winter helps me succeed in the season.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: A quality I strive for everyday would have to be "will." There is nothing better than being able to succeed in life due to the hard work you put in. On the field, I give everything I have to not just make sure I succeed, but for the others around me to also get better. Off the field, I work just as hard. Every night after a practice, I get home around 6 p.m., and I make sure I study and complete all my work to the best of my abilities to make sure I maintain a 4.0 average. I pride myself being well rounded as I don't want to successful in just one category, I want to be the best football player, student, class officer, and classmate I can be.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: For as long as I can remember, I was always the guy with low stamina. I'd get teased for always finishing as one of the last whenever we ran. I never knew why. I was a standard sized kid with no abnormalities. I ran as hard as I possibly could and was as winded as everyone else by the end, if not more. Because of this I would push myself everyday harder and harder to try and keep up but still was never able to get to the point I wanted. Last year, I was feeling off. I was extremely tired and was always just not feeling great, and after about a week or two and being diagnosed with strep throat twice and nothing seemed to work, so I got a blood test. The test came back and the results kicked me in the stomach. I was diagnosed with Mono as well as Anemia. Anemia is a disease that decreases the amount of oxygen the red blood cells carry, making me fatigued much quicker than most people. Right there, I could've just accepted that I’ll never be as fast and as good in shape as everyone else. Instead, I wanted to show them up. Football allowed me to show off my improvement since the diagnosis as becoming a two-way starter, something I never thought my body could handle. After finally being prove to myself and others that nothing can stand in my way, I thank football for giving me the opportunity to get into the right shape and mindset to beat Anemia.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Football has been a part of my life since I was 9 years old. It has given me strength, confidence, and many other attributes that have benefited my life in numerous ways. The best part about football in my opinion was giving me a second family. As a kid, I was very shy and not the best at making friends. After joining KPY football, I would practice multiple times a week and play games with them for almost a decade. The older we got, the closer we got and football became a second home. We have shared so many ups and downs and stuck together through it all. No other sport but football could create such a bond between a group. I am proud to call this group of kids my second brothers, and it's all thanks to football.

  • Nominee Photo

    Chad Musilli

    Running back
    High Point Regional H.S.
    Sussex, NJ

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    Chad Musilli

    Running back
    High Point Regional H.S.
    Sussex, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Throughout the offseason, I dedicate a lot of my time towards my schoolwork. While football is and always will be a huge part of my life, I have always believed that school comes first. Throughout high school, I have taken numerous honors and AP level classes, and they can be very demanding. Although I must dedicate a lot of my time towards my schoolwork, I always find time to train to better myself for the upcoming season. Beginning in December, my team lifts four days a week throughout the entire year as well as the summer. I pride myself in never missing a lift as well as giving my best effort to every set and rep. In addition to that, I would often lift on Fridays to get an extra workout in. Aside from mandatory lifts, I attended a handful of speed training sessions with a gym teacher from my school.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: While I believe I exhibit all of the criteria listed below, the one that I feel applies to me the most is character. Character is one thing that will stick with you for the entire duration of your life, and it is the legacy that you will ultimately leave behind when your time comes to an end. While it takes a very long time to build reputable character, it only takes one decision, in a matter of seconds, to tear that reputation to the ground. For this reason, I always choose to make the right decision rather than what may be the most popular decision. In addition to that, I try to lead by example in all facets of life. This includes the classroom, the football field, and the community. In school, I am number one in my class and spend countless hours working to achieve greatness in the classroom. On the football field, I have been a captain for the past two years and work each day to motivate my teammates. Lastly, since entering high school, I have completed almost 140 hours of community service.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: One time I faced adversity in life was in middle school when one of my coaches passed away. He had coached me from fifth to seventh grade, and I cannot think of a time when he was not there for every single person on the team. He always put the team first and truly cared about everyone regardless of their role on the team. When I heard the news that he passed away, I was immediately overcome with grief. Anyone would have guessed that he had many years ahead of him still, but his life was taken very suddenly. His death made it difficult to continue playing and to move on knowing that he would no longer be there to guide us and watch us as we became men. While this was difficult to overcome, ultimately, being a part of the team helped me as well as the rest of my teammates, move past it. Having the support system of your teammates as well as your coaches is invaluable when you are forced to face adversity. Although the passing of Coach Carr was sudden and upsetting, playing football ultimately helped me move past this huge obstacle, and I know he is watching down on all of his previous players.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The one thing I enjoy most about playing football is the inseparable bond that I have been able to mold with so many of teammates. While I was friends with many of my teammates or played with them prior to high school football, we have only grown closer due to the countless hours of work and preparation we have put in together. I know I will cherish many of the friendships I have made through football for the rest of my life. In addition to becoming closer with people I was already friends with, football has made me become friends with people I may have never talked to if they had not joined the team. I can think of numerous people who have had a great impact on my life after meeting them through high school football, and I will forever be grateful for that.

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    Jason Modak

    Defensive line
    Wayne Hills H.S.
    Wayne, NJ

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    Jason Modak

    Defensive line
    Wayne Hills H.S.
    Wayne, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Throughout the offseason, we train as a team three days a week in our weight room. Then, the other two days we go to Parisi in Fair Lawn for speed training. Training together builds team chemistry and leadership, which is something that every team needs to win games. During the season, to get ready for games, I watch a lot of film. I like to know what plays the opposing offense is going to run in certain formations, so I have an edge on my opponents. Another thing we do as a team is really go hard in practice, so when the game comes it's easy for us.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The criteria I would pick that defines myself is character. Leadership is one of the most important things in becoming a successful football team. Every day I challenge my teammates to get better and better every rep they take. Football is a team sport, so you cannot win by yourself. You need every single guy out there to do the job they are given. When things go wrong, I always make sure to pick my teammates up and tell them to move onto the next play. The games not over until it’s over, and playing until the very end could be hard, but I push my teammates as hard as I can throughout the game to just keep playing.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: A time I faced adversity in life is when we were kicked out of the playoffs last year. Everything we worked for was taken away from us, and I basically felt hopeless. There was nothing our team or I could do about it. Instead of going in the tank, as a team we came together as one. This created an inseparable bond between all of us that can never be broken. We eventually got back in the playoffs and won the State Championship, but without that adversity that brought us together we would have never come together as one.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The part about football I enjoy most is going out every day and playing with my teammates. These bonds I've made playing high school football will never break. I love putting in the work with my teammates day in and day out. I spend so much time with them that they're basically my brothers. Going out and playing for one another on Friday nights is the greatest feeling in the world. That's what football is all about in my opinion. Playing for the guy next to you every play as hard as you can, and that's why I love the game so much.

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    Drew Benfatti

    Wide receiver
    Jefferson Twp. H.S.
    Oak Ridge, NJ

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    Drew Benfatti

    Wide receiver
    Jefferson Twp. H.S.
    Oak Ridge, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I train by working my hardest in the weight room and spending time on the field to get faster. In the winter, I play basketball and this helps with my speed and agility. In the spring, I lift Monday-Friday with my coach and teammates. My coach has a lifting program that he has us follow throughout the spring and summer. I also like to focus on getting quicker and so I will go to the field and run routes and condition. After, I like to kick field goals and punt because I am also a kicker.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I think character defines the "Heart of a Giant" best. I believe this because having a great character has so many different leadership qualities. Someone who has good character will be a good example in everything they do, not only on the field but off the field too. Good character remains consistent even when no one is looking. This applies to me because I will lead by example to show the younger kids what it takes to perform on the highest level as a team. I will always strive to be the best I can be whether it's performing in games, practices, or in the classroom.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: In my life, I have had times where I've been stressed about school and friends. Football has helped me overcome these problems by putting me in an environment where I can forget about those issues. Football is awesome for that reason.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about playing football is having fun playing the game with my team. There is a bond that is created with your teammates throughout the season that makes the game 10 times better. After going through camp and all the summer practices with your teammates, there is nothing like going to war and winning a football game. All the hard work pays off and the feeling of winning is something special. The football field also provides an environment where you can forget everything that's going on in the world and just have fun playing the game.  There are so many life lessons and memories that are learned in the sport of football that will stick with you forever.

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    Kareem Smith

    Wide receiver
    Colonia H.S.
    Colonia, NJ

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    Kareem Smith

    Wide receiver
    Colonia H.S.
    Colonia, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I train myself in the offseason in a really good way. I just work very hard by doing everything that my coach tells me to do. I work very hard in the weight room. I never really joke around when it comes to training because it is the most important time of the football season. How I prepare for the season is just by keeping a steady weight to stay fit and be ready as games come up on the schedule. I'm always ready for a great season thanks to my offseason prep.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I would describe myself as being a high-character individual. The reason why is that I think in the offseason, I just lead by example. Since this is my senior year, I push all the lower classmen to be better, work hard, and to never give up. Also, this is the way I act when it comes to game time. Never have I ever put a player or teammate down. I always tell them to keep their head up and that their time will come, just wait. I have always maintained a positive attitude in my life.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: A time where I had to face difficulties is when I had to play football after I had gone blind in my right eye and lots of people told me that I will never get to play football at my full potential. I proved them wrong just by working hard and never really listening to the people who put me down. How I overcame it was by my coach giving me an opportunity to play at a higher level. Not many people know I am blind in one eye because of the way I act as a person on and off the field.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about playing football is that it is a really great experience. It makes you a better person in life, meaning the way we are coached is different than you would expect our coaches from Colonia to coach us. We are already grown men, and they keep motivating us to be a better person and role model. That is what I enjoy most about playing football. Also, it's just an exciting sport.

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    Sebastian Quinn

    Offensive line
    West Morris Mendham H.S.
    Mendham, NJ

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    Sebastian Quinn

    Offensive line
    West Morris Mendham H.S.
    Mendham, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Over the last three years, having any set routines has been difficult. I would work out anyway I could. For much of the time, I had to be isolated from everyone. It was difficult to find ways to get prepared. If I was having a bad "chemo" day and only strong enough for sit-ups and pushups in my room, that is what I did. This past year I have been well enough to get in the weight room nearly every day after school. I attend offseason practices and wrestled as much as possible in order to stay in shape. It has been a challenge to keep my stamina and strength up. Knowing I had to "catch up" has helped me stay focused and stay motivated.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I believe that "Will" fits my character the best. I feel this fit my personality before my diagnoses and helped me during my 3 years of treatments. After I was diagnosed, I continued to play football, even though no one thought I should have. My doctors were great and helped convince my parents and coaches that if I felt up to it that they should let me play. They even let me adjust my chemotherapy to coincide with my game schedule. During my treatments, when I was not able to get on the field, I continued to workout off the field as much as possible in order to stay in shape. I never once thought that this event should hold me back but rather give me a good story in the future. Looking forward to playing again kept me motivated to stay in shape mentally and physically. It gave me a goal to work towards health-wise. I just had to believe that I would need to be ready to get back out there after I was done with treatments.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: The greatest adversity I was ever forced to face was when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the 8th grade. I was diagnosed just as football season was kicking off and was devastated that I wasn't going to be able to play my last year of rec football. However, it was my teammates and going to all of the games, even when I had to where a mask just to be outside, that kept me strong. Football reminded me that there were people doing things that I wished to do, and I was not done doing them. I always felt that I would be back, and at that point I looked to my teammates and they helped me through this struggle.  That following spring I went into remission, only to later be diagnosed with cancer again freshman year. This time, I would receive chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant. This was all happening just as football season was starting, and again I was devastated. I convinced the doctors that after the season would be the best time for the transplant, and that I should play football. They agreed to let me play until then.  It was tough playing that season on chemotherapy, but I could always count on the positivity of my teammates to carry me through. The support and outreach form my team was overwhelming. I will never forget how much their support meant to me. It was a scary thought, not being able to compete in any sports for 2 plus years and then suddenly having to jump back in. I felt I had to do it. Football has given me something to remember. When I think of that year, I think of the memories of the season and my team before I think of the pain and the days of treatments. It has given me more that just the enjoyment of playing but the ability to overcome anything.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The most pleasurable thing about football, to me, is that it's a sport where you rely on your team and your team relies on you. I see it as both an individual sport and a team sport. You are almost always lined up on one man and that man is your responsibility, no one else's, but you can't win the game by yourself. It takes everyone not wanting to let down their team to be successful. I also enjoy football for being both complex and simple at the same time. Everyone knows the stereotype of the dumb jock playing football. however, a good football player knows that you must have wits during the game. There have been times during my challenges that I knew I was not at my physical best, but if I studied harder and was smarter on the field than the others I could outthink and make up for what I was lacking. This "chess match" that takes place on the field is something that I have come to enjoy. My favorite part about football is knowing that no matter how irrelevant I might seem, the team's outcome can still benefit from my efforts. It can be the "big tackle" to end an opponent’s drive or just me cheering them on when I couldn't play. I have gotten more out of life from football than just a sport, but the sense of family and how it takes everyone giving 100% effort for us to be successful. There is no greater feeling than when you have helped your teammates succeed!

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    Alex Acevedo

    Defensive line
    Union H.S.
    Union, NJ

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    Alex Acevedo

    Defensive line
    Union H.S.
    Union, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: The team and I have been lifting and running since January. I have been eating right and healing my body. The way I prepare for games is that I just simply chill out. I don't get too excited. I just wait until the game happens. That's when I do my job.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I feel like character defines me having the "Heart of a Giant." If you give effort on every single play you're on the field, then your teammates start to notice and they give the same effort.  It applies to me because I'm a nice guy to my teammates, and I constantly remind them to give 100% effort during every single play.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: The time that I faced adversity was when I was playing baseball. I tried out for the 8th grade baseball team and I didn't make it. I didn't feel like playing baseball anymore. When I came into high school, my friends kept telling me to join the freshman football team. It turned out that I was way better at the game of football than baseball.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy the friendships in football. I look forward to playing with my friends and coaches. We all have a deep relationship with each other that it's almost like family. That motivates us to play better and never let your family lose.

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    Isaiah Ortiz

    Offensive line
    Curtis H.S.
    Staten Island, NY

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    Isaiah Ortiz

    Offensive line
    Curtis H.S.
    Staten Island, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I mentally prepare myself by watching film on past games and seasons. I analyze the good plays and the bad plays and make sure I focus on what I need to fix to help ensure that I perfect it as soon as I possibly can. Also, my teammates and I work out at the beach and our local gym. We make sure we motivate each other and train tirelessly so that we can work our crafts to perfection. Before games, I make sure I have the right music on and I focus on the goals which are to win and be great.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I have the “Heart of a Giant” because I have a lot of will. For example, I never settle for anything other than greatness on the field and in the classroom. On the field, I try to make everyone around me better than they used to be. I try to make sure that everyone knows what their assignments are. I also try to make sure that everyone is playing smart and safe on the field. In the classroom, I always try to finish top in my class. I also let the teachers know that I mean business when it comes to my grades and that I'm going to give 110 percent in the classroom like I do on the field.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: A time I faced adversity was my sophomore year in high school. I was diagnosed with multiple herniated discs and a pinched nerve. I missed 8 weeks of football but I was by my “brothers” (teammates) side everyday making sure they worked harder without me. The injury taught me to be patient and trust the process. I thought I wasn't going to play football again that season but after a long, hard journey, I was able to come back and start the final game of the season and the 3 playoff games that we played in that year.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Football has helped me cope with a lot of problems that have happened in my life. It allows me to take out my anger and put it towards something productive. Also, it helps keep me in shape. Football has always been my first love since I was about 8 years old, so to still be playing football at the age of 18, possibly at the collegiate level, and hopefully one day at the professional level, is a great feeling for me and my family who have been there for me since day one.

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    Michael Giancaspro

    Defensive back
    Wood-Ridge H.S.
    Wood-Ridge, NJ

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    Michael Giancaspro

    Defensive back
    Wood-Ridge H.S.
    Wood-Ridge, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Getting prepared in the offseason is one of the most important things an athlete can do. During the offseason, I devote a lot of time to lifting weights to build strength for the upcoming season. In addition to lifting, conditioning is another key element in the preparation process. I run my own conditioning drills, pushing myself to attain peak condition. This past offseason, I attended several college football camps. Not only did I compete there, but I also took away valuable pieces of information that has helped my teammates and I become better football players. In regard to preparing for game day, watching film is another huge component. It not only helps me perfect my craft even more, it also helps me mentally prepare for every game. The coaching staff also does a remarkable job at preparing us mentally and physically for the season.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: CHARACTER. If a leader of a team does not display character, there is no direction or identity for the team. For me, character is about how you represent yourself both on and off the field. I believe that all the criteria for the Heart of a Giant award play a part in building character. Having character shows that you are willing to lead by example. It impresses upon teammates that you have to have the will to compete, the dedication to work hard at perfecting your skills, and the mental toughness to persevere. I feel that if you lead by example, you are not only making yourself better, but also your team.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Throughout my life I've faced different kinds of adversity. However, some of the hardest points in my life were losing both of my grandmothers. I was a just a young boy when I lost both within a two year period. With the little time I was able to spend with the both of them, they had some of the greatest impacts on my life. Those two years were one of the toughest periods my family has gone through and it still upsets us to think that they are gone. Football has helped me overcome this adversity by making me push myself harder and harder than the last time. Every game that I have played since my sophomore year has been dedicated to them. Knowing they are watching down on me smiling is the reason I can play the game I love so much without any fear.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: There is not one thing that I do not love about football. From the dog days of training camp, to the never-ending lifts and conditioning drills, to running out on that field. Inky Johnson once said, "It is not about the product, it's about the process.” The process is what makes you the athlete that you are, and that is one thing that I love the most about football. The fact that you are able to find out who you are, and what kind of person you are throughout the course of the process is what makes football so appealing to me. What I truthfully love most about football, though, is my teammates. People that, for as long as I live, I will never forget because football has brought us together to become a family of brothers. There are so many memories that you share with your teammates that they become forever cemented in your life. I love being able to have people that no matter the situation, no matter the task, will fight together as a unit to complete that task. That is what I love most about football, creating memories and friends that will last a lifetime.

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    Ryan Cox

    Linebacker
    Clarkstown North H.S.
    New City, NY

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    Ryan Cox

    Linebacker
    Clarkstown North H.S.
    New City, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I try to stay physically fit the entire year.  In the spring, I attended spring clinics. I worked on weight lifting, formations, plays, and speed.  I practiced diligently during the summer months, and I attended a week’s football camp in the Poconos. I always attend functions that encourage team building, including our weekly football dinners. Each Saturday morning, I review the tapes from our previous game.  This is an opportunity to strengthen our weaknesses. During the winter, I am a wrestler and serve as the captain of our wrestling team. I have been the captain for the last season, and I will be the captain for the upcoming season. Wrestling requires a lot of strength and speed, both which are useful for me when football begins. As someone who loves sports, I also volunteer for Kids Club, which is a chance for young kids to learn and enjoy the sport of wrestling. All these things keep me well prepared for the football season.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I believe the quality which best exemplifies me having the “Heart of a Giant” is “Dedication”. I love sports because I enjoy the adversity and the process of overcoming it. One of my coaches always said, “be a baguba,” which stands for Brutally Aggressive Guy Uninhibited By Adversity. I am a child who was born from adversity; a boy, who after being removed by the courts and the police from my mother’s home, was placed to live with my father and my stepmother. As a child, I was surrounded by issues of drug addiction. Out of my three brothers, I am the only one who did not succumb to drugs and who did not follow my mother’s path of addiction. I used football to channel my energy and pain in a positive light.  I lived with my father until I was 5 years old, and I was ripped away from him by the courts and forced to live with my mother, a woman who I barely knew.  My life was filled with chaos and controversy. As her addiction got worse, so did our living situation. Thankfully, my father never stopped fighting for custody.  Finally, at 8 years old, the courts finally saw fit to return me to my father. Throughout these challenges, I have always been able to rely on football (since the Pop Warner stage) and my love for the game to help see me through difficult periods.  Despite adversity, I have always remained committed and dedicated to the sport.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: As stated above, I faced tremendous adversity because of family issues. My mother is an addict and has been an addict for many years. My brothers are also addicts as a result of my mother’s personal choices. Until I was reunited my father, I used football to keep me on a positive path. It was a good way to manage and control my emotions.  It was a great way to feel as if I was part of a family. I am so glad football has always remained a constant in my life.  During the time that I played football, I sustained a serious injury to my wrist my freshman year which required surgery and prohibited me from actively playing during my sophomore year.  I should have been placed on varsity that year, but due to my injury, I was forced to remain on JV.  I did not allow this setback to discourage me.  I participated in all practices and games. Even though I was unable to play the sport, I could still cheer and support my fellow team members.  I was concerned that being out for one season might affect my ability to play on varsity the following year but once I was cleared by the doctor, I worked very hard to build back my strength.  By the following summer, I was ready to play again and was brought up to varsity, having ultimately earned a starting role. Two weeks ago, I broke my big toe but I have continued to practice and play hard during our games.  I will not allow weaknesses to define me.  Football has taught me to persevere and to remain positive while overcoming challenges whether they are in the sport or in life.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy the family and unity aspects of football the most. The game is great and I love the sport, but it is the camaraderie with my teammates that really makes it most enjoyable. Off the field, I enjoy spending time with my teammates as a family unit. Our team is focused on bonding. Weekly we have family dinners and attend a Moe’s Monday.  As a family, there is no better way to bond than around a dinner table.  On the field, I enjoy being there to help support my brothers when they feel discouraged.  I want to push them and to motivate them to be the best players I know that they can be, not only for our team, but for themselves. On the field, I feel the free. I can express myself through the game, and I have an ability to test my strengths and weaknesses with the goal of always trying to improve my skill level. It is the one thing in life that always motivates me to be the best that I can be.

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    Matthew Mai

    Offensive line
    Hackensack H.S.
    Hackensack, NJ

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    Heart of a Giant

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    Matthew Mai

    Offensive line
    Hackensack H.S.
    Hackensack, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I am a multi-sport athlete so after football season, I jump into indoor/outdoor track. I am a shot put, discus, and javelin thrower, which helps me develop and train different muscles. After our throwing sessions, we hit the weight room. This is usually six days a week for roughly an hour. I never miss practice, which helps me maximize my offseason as much as possible. In the spring, before football starts, I usually attend some clinics and a camp at Rutgers University. This helps me "warm up" for the season and get the football juices flowing. Then, in June our team starts summer workouts. In July, we have two sessions a day. One session is weight room followed by practice. Towards the end of July, I take a trip up to West Point and do the camp up there for one day. My offseason is constantly focused on preparing my body and mind for football. I understand how important the offseason is and why it could make the difference between playing or sitting on the bench.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Commitment. Ever since I was a freshman, I dreamed of playing varsity. I knew the only way to get there was hard work. Virtually, every day since then has been spent working to reach that goal. From optional track workouts in the winter to extra sessions with a coach on a non-practice day in July, I have always attended them. Even on the weekends when I have no practice, I would get up early in the morning and run two miles and then do footwork drills with the skills ladder. One of my greatest abilities is to recognize and think in terms of the ‘long term.’ What motivated me to get up early and attend extra sessions was my goal of playing varsity football. I was committed to my vision and saw it through to its execution. Not only am I committed as an individual football player, but I try to bring that same work ethic to instill it in my teammates. After practice, I bring the lineman over to the sled and we put in extra work. It makes us all feel good knowing that we are getting better and that extra work pays off when a game comes. There is a difference between us and other teams. When late in the game, we are still in no huddle, firing off the ball, and creating running lanes for our running backs without being tired or lazy.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: One of my most adverse moments in life too place on the football field. As a junior, I had about the worst August camp one could have. For a week, I had bad practices and sunk on the rotation as a result. I moved down the depth chart and was viewed only as a JV player. However, I never threw in the towel. I finished August better than I had started it and earned a spot on special teams. As the season progressed, a door opened for me and I became the primary backup offensive lineman. In the last game of the season, I secured my starting spot, and all the hard work I put in ultimately paid off. Though many around me gave up on playing varsity, I refused to. The reason I moved back up the depth chart was because I was committed and understood my number could be called any minute, which it was, and I never ever quit.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about playing football is being able to give the next guy in line some wise words. When I was a freshman and sophomore, I had people who provided that to me and I can still hear their words today. I always remembered how it made me feel to be viewed as worthy enough to receive their guidance so I knew that when it was my turn, I would do the same. It makes me happy to guide to the underclassmen in the program and show them where hard work, humility, toughness, and effort can take you. We have a saying at my school, "Tradition never graduates.” For great traditions to continue, it's important that the younger players know how to act and carry themselves in a way that embodies Hackensack Football and Comet Pride.

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    Peter Leandre

    Offensive line
    Westhill H.S.
    Stamford, CT

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    Peter Leandre

    Offensive line
    Westhill H.S.
    Stamford, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I attend offseason weight lifting sessions regularly with my team. Every week, my fellow linemen and I would meet up at the field and to work on our footwork and master our ball get-off so we can become better players and get our chemistry down pat.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Will applies to me because I believe that I lead the team, both on and off the field. I say this because I excel in the classroom and assist teammates that tend to struggle with school.  I enjoy setting an example for the underclassmen because, as my lineman coach Owen Sandoval always says, “we all go as you go,” meaning if you lead, your teammates will follow.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: The transition between middle school football and high school football was extremely difficult for me.  Every time I conditioned I felt dizzy and found it very difficult to breathe, so for a couple days I had to go to the hospital to get checked and see if I could continue to play and thankfully I was able to. However, I eventually ended up at Yale Hospital and then had to email Coach Frank and tell him that I was diagnosed with sickle-cell disease. Coach and I sat down and talked about a way I could stay in shape and be with the team without feeling left out because football, to me, wouldn't be the same if I was getting treated differently. Ultimately, for my teammates to respect me after learning about what I was dealing with made me truly grateful.  I had also had a high MCL sprain during my sophomore year and was out for majority of the season.  Not being able to play with the team hurt me badly, but I worked very hard to not baby the injury and sooner than later I was able to get back on the field.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I love playing next to my brothers every week. All of us are extremely close, whether it is on or off the field. Even our coaches join at times and that’s how you know the whole team has chemistry. The coaches are part of the family as well, and their presence is something I enjoy. We joke a lot, but when it's time to get serious we flip a switch and go to work – I love it!

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    Nyjon Freeman

    Running back
    Hoboken H.S.
    Hoboken, NJ

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    Nyjon Freeman

    Running back
    Hoboken H.S.
    Hoboken, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I try to stay conditioned which is essentially done by playing a different sport such as basketball and just by being active. Over the years, I’ve attended several football camps which kept me prepared for the upcoming season. During the summer time, I work out with my team 5 days a week.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I would say dedication best describes me as having the Heart of a Giant. I have the heart to do anything when I put my mind to it. As a result, the outcome is usually a successful one. I want to be the fastest and the strongest player on the field, so to achieve that I have to be dedicated to working out every day while pushing myself to the limit. Having the “Heart of a Giant” also applies to my schoolwork. I realize how much dedication is needed to maintain above average grades, so after practice every day I jump right into my books.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: The first time I faced adversity is when I got to high school. I had played running back all my life, however once my high school career began, I was switched to wide receiver. It was a hard transition, especially playing varsity for the first time as a freshman. All the coaches had high expectations so I went on and had a pretty good season playing my new position, in which I ultimately earned ‘Second Team’ Honors. After my success with switching positions, I realized I could do anything life threw my way and my confidence level had gone up. For example, moving up to sophomore year I probably would've been a little nervous, but that experience with being changed to wide receiver helped me to realize I can do anything I put my mind to.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy everything about the game of football. It’s a passion, it’s something I’m good at, and it can make me successful later in life. I’ve played football since I was 7 and until this day I know I don’t want to step off the field to do anything else. Football isn’t for everyone, so if you are fortunate to play it, you must enjoy it to the max.

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    Mitchell Delfini

    Defensive line
    Hopkins School
    Branford, CT

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    Mitchell Delfini

    Defensive line
    Hopkins School
    Branford, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: For me, the most important part about football is the mental aspect. Football is a game that needs to be played without fear. When a team fears their opponent, they are distracting themselves from the overall goal, winning the game. The way that I get rid of my fear is offseason training. If I can become the biggest, strongest, and fastest athlete that I can possibly be, then what is there for me to be afraid of? Starting in November, my offseason consists of high intensity workouts and built in cardio days. My team participates in an offseason workout program that is sent out in a packet. The packet includes a schedule of what lifts to do and what days to do them on. From November until August, I am in the gym 5 days a week, preparing myself for the season to come. The core lifts include flat bench press, deadlifts, back squats, and power cleans. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday a core lift is implemented into a workout, followed by free weight auxiliary lifts. Cardio is included in the program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Cardio days always have a variation of sprints, a timed distance run, and agility drills. Finally, I have the weekend to study old film and watch professional football. The last phase of offseason training is our team’s passing league. Once a week, from July to August, my team plays against other schools to perfect our playbook. Being with the team throughout the offseason is an important aspect of football, and it is necessary in order to have a successful season.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I believe that teamwork is the most important characteristic of having the “Heart of a Giant.” There are 22 players on the football field at a time. An individual cannot win or lose the game, it must be a collective effort. My favorite phrase is, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” This phrase could not be truer on the football field. Whether it is the offensive line, skilled position group, or special teams, everybody must do their jobs correctly and to the best of their ability. I have been on many teams that had a weak link and the end results were never in our favor. I am fortunate enough to play on a team that has strong chemistry. When I say this, I am referring to our ability to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When I am playing on the offensive line, I am able to compare my center to his head up opponent and determine whether or not he will need me to combo block with him. Being able to understand how my teammates play helps us take on bigger and stronger athletes that we would not be able to block alone. Our team communication on the line makes the running backs job easier as well as the other skilled positions. Because my team has an unusually small offensive line, we rely on our teamwork to carry us through tough opponents that we would not otherwise be able to beat. As a team, we always find one more way to win.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: This summer, I was informed by my head coach that our 24-year old defensive coordinator and running backs coach was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. My defensive coordinator is the most respected, relentless, and passionate man I’ve seen on a football field and hearing this news was devastating. I immediately started thinking about our team and their ability to cope with this news. Fortunately, it only made our team stronger. Because he is the strongest, toughest, and most resilient fighter I know, my team and I are not worried about him winning this long battle. Instead, we play for him and his relentlessness. Our athletic director created t-shirts with the word RELENTLESS across the front, and every time an athlete can prove his relentlessness, he is awarded a shirt. At this point in the season, Coach is the only person who has earned this shirt. Playing up to my Coach’s strength is something that I strive to do. If he can fight a battle, so can we.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Football is a sport that focuses on teamwork. When out on the field, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst player because success only occurs when the team works collectively towards a common goal. The part of football that I enjoy the most is the camaraderie that the sport builds. Because teamwork is such an important aspect when playing, football has created friendships, for me, that will last a lifetime. Nothing brings a group of young men closer than conquering the brutality of preseason practices together, sitting through endless film sessions, and bonding at team dinners. Having played many different sports and on a variety of teams, I can say that football is a sport like no other. My best friends are on my football team, and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

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    Sebastian Rawls

    Linebacker
    West Orange H.S.
    West Orange, NJ

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    Sebastian Rawls

    Linebacker
    West Orange H.S.
    West Orange, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I will never forget the day after the end of my freshman season of football at West Orange High School.  It was the day we return our football equipment. That football season was the last for our entire starting lineup, as they all would be graduating in spring. This meant we had a lot of young talent stepping up for the next season. As I was handing in my football gear, one of the coaches called me aside - Coach Wrobo, our running backs coach. Coach Wrobo is one of the most inspiring and motivating people I know. He told me, "Sebastian, always remember, there is no offseason. Next year starts when you walk out this room, and unlike the equipment, you don't pack away the grind. You pursue the grind by getting faster, stronger, and smarter from here on out!" From that day forward, almost 3 years ago, I always remembered what he told me. I learned to embrace the grind because there is no real “offseason,” not only in football but in all aspects of life. These words echoed what I had always felt and tried to do without even being conscious of it.  You see, I am also a wrestler. Wrestling is a grueling sport with a season that begins in November and with tournaments that can run throughout the summer. It takes a lot of discipline, dedication, commitment, and will to make it through such a long season. Throughout the years, I’ve found that wrestling helped me prepare mentally and physically for football. Although it helped to get me ready, these words from Coach pushed me to go further. These past few years when we pack everything away the day after our last game, I go right to work. Goals are not achieved without a plan, and a plan is not a plan unless you write it down. Therefore, I put together a precise schedule on how I can make myself better and train aggressively in the offseason. For example, I create a set of lifts that I will perform at the gym, at specific times, for at least 5 days a week. Saturdays are strictly for conditioning or footwork, whether it is running hills or agility training at the field. Since football is the ultimate team sport, I always try and bring teammates who will not only push me, but also grind themselves to get ready to dominate the next season. I see that working hard together in the offseason has helped to build the strong chemistry we have as a team this year. In addition, football is a very mental game. Training in the offseason means I must push myself past my limits, limits to failure. That’s strictly why I create specific goals. For example, I’ll state I will bench press 225 for 5 reps on April 30, 2017. By doing this, I can create the positive mindset I need for tough, “slug-it-out” games during the season, which gives me the confidence that I can push past wanting to stop. I don’t want to stop during a game and I look forward to doing more because I’ve done more in the offseason. I keep football alive year-round by attending camps, clinics, or 7on7s to learn new techniques and to perfect my craft. Lastly, before the season begins, a majority of my teammates like to come together to attend a college football game, which would be the next level of play for us. This brings us all a unique perspective of how the game is played and what it takes to reach such level of play.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I have great role models in my life. These role models have molded me into the person I am today by showing me the right paths and encouraging me to always work hard. To have the “Heart of a Giant,” one must demonstrate this in their character. Character stretches beyond its relative definition of leading by example. When someone has great character, they have embedded qualities that distinguish them from others. They not only work hard but become leaders by pushing others to work just as hard. My father always stresses to me that others are working hard when you are not, and it’s not what you do in front of others, but what you do behind closed doors. To me, I think this means that anyone can do the right thing when someone is looking, but it takes a real degree of character to do the right thing when not in the spotlight, when “the doors are closed” and no one is looking. Both my parents tell me to be great every day. On the door to my bedroom, I have posted the words, “Get Better Today,” and every morning and night I write a message or goal to myself to be better. As a captain, I accept the role as a leader on the football field. When we are down in a game, I know the battle is not over and that we must overcome adversity as a team to be victorious. My heart becomes big, big enough to pump for the entire team. My blood rushes during a game because no matter what occurs, I must always stay up to help motivate the whole team. As much as I personally want to be successful, I want our team to be more successful.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: In 8th grade I suffered what I thought was a minor knee injury while playing the game that I love, football. It took a little over a month to recover. I went on to wrestle that winter despite the nagging swelling, pain, and feelings that things were just not right.  For the next year, I battled through the swelling, pain, and “knowing” something was wrong with my knee.  I was mostly silent about it because I wanted so bad to compete and knew I was strong inside. My sophomore year I missed the entire football season due to my knee injury and subsequent surgeries. It would've been easy to throw in the towel and just forget about coming back. However, from football I knew that I needed to stay focused on my goals even through the huge setback that was keeping me from competing. Also, from football I was reminded to get support from my team and my family (both families).  On crutches and leg braces, I went to practices when not in physical therapy. I was on the sidelines at the games. Being around the game and the team helped push me forward. I started to multi-task. I worked physically to make my knee stronger, and I referred to my goals and plans to make my mind stronger.  I mentally and emotionally worked hard to push myself physically to come back. I realized this is what mind over matter truly meant.  I wanted to play football again – I wanted to compete and have fun.  The love of the game and the lessons I learned playing football helped push me past adversity.  Ironically, this past spring, while wrestling, I suffered yet another injury to the same knee. The odds were truly against me. I was heading into my senior year and wondering, “Could I possibly come back” and at what cost? “Would I regain everything I had worked so hard to achieve?” I had surgery in June, and the first game was 3 months away.  Doctors told me recovery time could take up to 6 months. I knew in the back of my head that I had been down this path before. Nonetheless, this injury fueled my hunger to get right back in the game. The whole summer I balanced double sessions, physical therapy, and lifting at whatever cost to get my knee healthy again. I kept to my plan. Three months later I was playing in the season opener.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Football is much more than a game. With football comes lessons and experiences one will learn from and use in the rest of their lives. I first began playing football mainly because I love to compete. Competition is like fun-fuel to me. I like to win. I also like being a part of something bigger than myself, a team called by some, but it’s family to me. I like the feeling of winning and being on a team. Unfortunately, with competition sometimes comes defeat. Luckily, the thrill of competition, winning with my team, “my family” is so thrilling, that I recoup and try again. Like I said, being on a football team is like being in a family, in which you have lots in common with. You are only going to do as well as your brother next to you. That brotherhood is something I haven’t experienced in another sport.  This love of competition is true for me on and off the field as well. I’ve learned to compete in school and other aspects of life. I’m hoping this prepares me to work hard to compete and win in life with the support of others and to learn to deal with the inevitable losses with the support of others.

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    Patrick Theobald

    Defensive back
    James Caldwell H.S.
    Caldwell, NJ

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    Patrick Theobald

    Defensive back
    James Caldwell H.S.
    Caldwell, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Training in the offseason is an essential part of developing as a football player. This begins with the school weight room where the team gets bigger and stronger together while building unbreakable camaraderie. While my teammates and I are in there, we push each other to do our best, even though some may not want to be there at the time. After my sophomore year, one of our coaches pulled me aside and told me that I was the guy that would be the role model for the younger kids. He said they would come to me with questions on how to do certain exercises, as well as learn a good work ethic from me. Another key part of the off-season is conditioning and field workouts. I gathered my teammates whenever they were not on vacation and we did sprints and footwork drills together, competing to be the best one there. After the hard work was over, we had some fun and ran routes. Not only did this make us better, but after the workouts, we would sometimes go to get lunch together, which made that bond even tighter.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The word commitment applies to me as a player and as a person. If there is something standing in my way of being the best I can be, I will find a way to overcome it, never giving up and staying committed. Being committed to the game of football is how I have lived my life for the longest time. If my non-football friends ever go out the night before a practice or game, I always stay home for the night to ensure that I have rested enough and will perform at my best.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: An adversity I have faced in my life is being "too small" to many people. I have always been considered one of the shortest kids, whether it was compared to my teammates or my classmates. In order to overcome this adversity, I had to work extra hard in the weight room and on the field to get stronger and faster to compensate for my lack of height. I made it my goal to beat the bigger kids with speed, strength, quickness, and perfected technique. One of my favorite quotes is, "It's not about the size of the dog in the fight, it's about the size of the fight in the dog". I live by this quote because even though I may be on the smaller side, I will always give my 100% when you put an opponent in front of me.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The most enjoyable part about football is being able to strap on the pads with my friends and go out onto the field on Friday nights knowing that all of our hard work is about to pay off. Playing alongside one another, knowing that they have my backs and I have theirs, is a special feeling. Practicing with my teammates everyday has given us all the opportunity to decipher how each one plays so that our chemistry can be at its peak for game nights. Practice is where the brotherhood is built, but showing it to the community after a win is a great feeling to have experienced.

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    Jevon Buckmire-Davis

    Linebacker
    Piscataway H.S.
    Piscataway, NJ

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    Jevon Buckmire-Davis

    Linebacker
    Piscataway H.S.
    Piscataway, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I trained with my uncle during my free time, but for the most part I trained after school hours with my strength and conditioning coach. I prepare myself and my team by being a leader, by pushing my teammates to always do better and by helping myself, my team, and my coaches be a better unit.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Teamwork best relates to me. Having the Heart of a Giant doesn’t just relate to me, it’s a collaboration between myself and my “bro,” Michael Petite. We're the heart and soul of our defense, the Piscataway Chiefs defense, and that's a big role. Our coaches gave us that defense to lead because they have the ultimate trust in us and our teammates trust us to lead it as well. They have our backs and we have theirs. Teamwork… that's Piscataway football!

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I had suffered a concussion during my freshman year and was out for two weeks, having to miss practicing with my brothers and battling in games. It was even worse than missing practice at the end of my sophomore year when I tweaked my hamstrings. My hamstring issue has affected me a little into this year now too, but I continue to battle through!

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I’ve enjoyed playing with my brothers that I grew up with during my childhood. We all became one big family, it's our brotherhood, we bleed black and gold, and that's a fact!

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    Christopher Vidal

    Linebacker
    Newfield H.S.
    Selden, NY

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    Christopher Vidal

    Linebacker
    Newfield H.S.
    Selden, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason I am working out in the gym every day.  I bench 315 lbs., squat 455lbs., deadlift 575 lbs., and hang clean 225 lbs. Before a game, I read prayer cards from my family members who have passed away. I also listen to music to get me motivated and pumped. As a captain, after my coach gives the team his pregame speech, I also give a pep talk as well to get my teammates motivated. We play music in the locker room to get everyone hyped.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Dedication. I have been playing football since I was 5 years old. As I got older, I have persevered through many obstacles and injuries (some that required surgery) but I pushed myself through any pain I may have had because I wanted to be out on that field. I love being a part of a team. My coaches say that I play “possessed.” I try to lead by example as a captain. The friendships I have made with my teammates as well as my coaches will always remain with me. I have so much respect for the game of football because my coaches have instilled that in me. I work just as hard in the classroom. I want to succeed both on and off the field.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: As I stated earlier, I have been playing since I was 5 years old. My dad was my first coach. He taught me everything about the game. He was always my biggest supporter, the one who always encouraged me the most and was one of my biggest fans. I loved playing for him and he taught me the skills I needed to play. He passed away suddenly when I started my freshman year in high school. To this day, it has been the hardest thing I have ever dealt with. I miss him every day and every game I play. I play for him. Each game I dedicate to him and my mom because she has always been my biggest cheerleader and she continues to support me and my love of football. His prayer card is the first one I read before a game. He is the one who inspires me to play and give it my all.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I love the excitement before, during and after games. I give my all every game. The bond between me and my teammates is very strong, and is the same my coaches. They’re all family. They were all there for me through the loss of my dad. We get together the night before games and have a team dinner. Win or lose, I play with my heart and I try to always give it everything I have.

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    Thomas Diaz

    Linebacker
    New Hyde Park H.S.
    New Hyde Park, NY

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    Thomas Diaz

    Linebacker
    New Hyde Park H.S.
    New Hyde Park, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I prepare my body to be the most athletic it can be. I work on a lot of explosive movements including hang cleans, box jumps, hang snatches, and more so that I can build my strength for the season. On most of my lifting days, I also have conditioning days where I utilize my time to work on my footwork, agility and stamina. I use my offseason to get my body in the best condition for football season.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I have learned many things during my time playing and learning the game of football. For one, teamwork is the most important part of the game because football is the ultimate TEAM sport. One person does not define a team. Without teammates, football could not be football. Everyone working as one cohesive unit can make you unstoppable.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: When I changed schools from elementary to the high school ranks, I hardly knew anyone. Joining football was the best decision I ever made. I went from knowing no one to knowing majority of the school just by being on the football team. Now I help others that are in the situation I was once in to make the same decision I made. It doesn't even have to be football, it could be another sport or a club or even some other organization that will help ease the transition for students from elementary to high school.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing that I enjoy most about football is the connection you make with your teammates. The bonds that you make will last a lifetime. The experiences you have with them is priceless. The fact that a group of people can be so close to each other is fascinating to me, and I have football to thank for this.

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    AJ Hall

    Wide receiver
    Norwalk H.S.
    Norwalk, CT

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    AJ Hall

    Wide receiver
    Norwalk H.S.
    Norwalk, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Offseason training for me truly never stops. Starting in the summer, my school has the traditional weight lifting program which includes 8 weeks of intense lifting, speed training, and heavy conditioning, along with lots of 7v7s. That is a long, hard process and grind that proves to be worth it when the season comes around. Also, over the summer, I go to a personal trainer, in which I do extra lifting and conditioning twice a week to make sure my performance stands out when the season rolls around. After the season, I hop right into indoor track, which helps me improve my flexibility, straight away speed, quick starts, and strength. We do plenty of stretching and running and have practice in the weight room 2-3 times a week to lift. After track season, I hop right into lacrosse, in which I am a captain entering my senior season. Lacrosse helps me train for football by helping with my quick cuts, conditioning, and avoiding hits by defenders. All these sports help me stay in shape and stay connected with everyone throughout the league. When I graduate in June, I will have been a four-sport high school athlete. I played football all 4 years, lacrosse all 4 years, basketball for 3 years, and indoor track for 1 year. My schedule was always filled, but the grind was always for football.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Dedication is the one criteria that most relates to me. Standing at a whopping 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing in at 160 pounds, it’s obvious that I am not the biggest player on the field. It has been that way since I started playing football in 4th grade. In my opinion, a player is not defined by physical appearance and physical traits. A player is defined by one thing, and that one thing is heart. My lack of physical stature is made up for in heart. Since 4th grade, I’ve always had the biggest heart on my team. I would always give 110% effort on everything - drills, sprints, you name it. I was always in the front. My heart and dedication for the game has not changed all the way up to my senior year of high school. Now the captain of my football team, I’ve spent weeks in the weight room and endless hours on the field and in the film room, all for the sport I love. If I could go back, the only thing I would change is being able to push myself even more.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: February 9, 2016 will forever be the worst day of my life. My grandfather, my biggest fan, passed away. He was battling cancer that spread so fast, and the doctors couldn’t do anything to slow it down. I wasn’t even able to see him before he passed. My grandpa was the kind of guy who wouldn’t say much unless he was truly interested enough to put his two cents in. Whenever it came to me playing football, he couldn’t stop talking. He truly was my biggest fan. We lived about 2 hours away from each other, so I wouldn’t see him very often and he wouldn’t see me play very often. However, he would use his handy iPad to ALWAYS send me a text before my games to wish me good luck and another text that night or the following morning asking me about my game. At the games he could make, he would always be there to greet me after the game and tell me how amazing I played and how proud of me he was. When he passed, it was like I lost a part of the love I had for football. The man who had always been cheering for me, whether in the stands or at home in his reclining chair, was no longer cheering. I was no longer receiving his texts wishing me luck or asking me about the game. I was no longer being greeted after a victory or a tough loss. Luckily, I could finally convince myself that he was in a better place now and that he would still always be looking down upon me. With his passing, I decided to dedicate my junior football season to him, even customizing my cleats with his name. Last season was arguably the best season of football I have ever had as a player. I was named All-State, 1st Team All-League, and broke the school record for most receiving yards in a season, with 1,042 yards. Grampie had looked down on me and protected me the whole season and I know he will continue to do that for the rest of my life.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy most about playing football is the relationships it creates with anyone and everyone. There’s no better feeling than going to breakfast the day after a game and being able to be complimented by complete strangers on the performance of my game the previous night. The relationship I have with my teammates is something I’ve never experienced in any other sport I’ve played. With all the hours spent together and all the fights and arguments we get into, we’re always able to say we love each other in the end because brothers fight. That is truly what we are to each other, brothers. Football creates life long memories and opportunities for new beginnings in life. I can truly say that I am blessed to be a part of the game of football, and I plan to stay connected with football for the rest of my life.

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    Frank McGuire

    Defensive line
    Immaculata H.S.
    Somerville, NJ

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    Frank McGuire

    Defensive line
    Immaculata H.S.
    Somerville, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, our football coaches expect all of the football players to come to the weight room to complete a two-hour workout. I attended every workout during the offseason. Workouts were composed of lifting, running, and competitive challenges. As a rising senior, I make sure to set an example for the other players by working hard and giving it my all every day. During the offseason, I would watch film of games from the previous season to study what we did right and wrong. Watching film on players at both the collegiate and professional levels is also important because it helps me learn new skills to make myself a better player.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: To have the "Heart of a Giant" I believe that the most important criteria is Character. Your character defines what kind of person you are and how people will treat you. Being a great football player is important but if you have a bad attitude or you are a selfish player, then you are almost useless. My coach stresses how important your character is and I have truly bought into his message. My character starts in the classroom, as I am always prepared for class and ready to learn. On the field, I am the same way. As a captain, it is important for me to always have a positive attitude and be ready to work that day. By doing this, I am leading by example and motivating my fellow teammates to do the same.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: My high school experience has been quite successful. I am truly blessed and appreciative for that. However, I truly did not have the best start to school during my freshman year. In the beginning, I was struggling with my schoolwork. My grades were decreasing, and I felt that I could not do better. With the experience of football, I realized that I can overcome any challenge, but I would ultimately have to work for it. Since then, I have not stopped. My grades have increased significantly and I am continuing to do very well academically.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The game of football has so much to offer that people do not realize how great it is. Ever since I first strapped on the shoulders pads and clicked up my helmet, I knew that this sport was for me. Most people think of football as being a dangerous sport with players running after a ball trying to score and defend. Instead, football is so enjoyable because it is the ultimate team sport. Every player and coach must work hard and work together in order to win. I cannot be a one-man show because, in football, you must depend and trust the man beside you. I enjoy the constant grind throughout the year, the hot summer practices, and the excitement of playing under the lights. Football is so great because it teaches you lessons that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

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    Mbaba Sow

    Linebacker
    Woodlands H.S.
    White Plains, NY

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    Mbaba Sow

    Linebacker
    Woodlands H.S.
    White Plains, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I use various resources to help prepare for my season. I go to my mandatory team workouts 3 times a week. When the weather is nice, we go outside after we hit the weight room. I always worked out on one of the off days to get extra work in. This past offseason, I knew that I had to work on my speed. I started going to The Zone Strength and Fitness three times a week on top of my team workouts for speed training. I attended four college camps this past summer to learn techniques from college coaches and players. I participate in winter and summer league basketball to keep in shape. In the spring, I am part of the track team. I participate in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 1 races. In the summer, one of my football coaches leads pool workouts at 6 a.m. Everything I do in the offseason is fueled by my desire for my team to be successful.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: "Dedication" defines me having the Heart of a Giant in a major way. Being able to excel on the field and in the classroom shows how much a person cares about succeeding and is committed to a goal. I feel that this applies to me in many ways. Currently, I am ranked #1 in my senior class and plan on keeping that ranking. I am also the president of the National Honor Society and the captain of the football team. To excel in the classroom, there are many late nights after a 3-hour football practice. When I thought about going to sleep, I thought about what I am trying to do in life and that helped me stay up and finish all my assignments. When I had a long day and thought about going home instead of working out, I thought about what I am trying to achieve in life and I persevered. When people always ask me how I play all these sports and are still able to keep my grades up, I always ask them, “What is motivating them to succeed in life?”

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: A time that I faced adversity in my life is when my father passed away last March. His death left my family and I devastated. Football helped me get through the hard time because it gave me something to focus on. When I am in the weight room preparing myself for the season, everything about the outside world goes out the window. It is just me and the weights for the hours that I work out. When I go out on the field for a game, that sensation is taken to a whole new level. When I am on the field with my team, I feel a sense of pride knowing that I am a part of a brotherhood. Football also helped me through the hard times due to the brotherhood I have built with my teammates that I have been playing with at the most for 9 years now. They came to my house to show support to my mom and that truly showed me how close we were. It was a good feeling to know that there were people my age who genuinely cared about me and my family.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The part of football that I enjoy most is the preparation that goes into playing one game. Football is the only sport where there is one game played a week. In most other sports, there can be a game played in back to back days. In football, there are many aspects that go into a game. A team can play a completely different defense from one week to the next. Adapting and learning the opposing teams' offensive and defensive scheme is something that I enjoy. I love to watch film during my free periods in school and before I go to sleep. Weeding out the good players from the less than average helps me enhance my performance on game day. The process leading to game day is what I enjoy the most about football.

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    Tarrin Earle

    Quarterback
    Montclair H.S.
    Montclair, NJ

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    Tarrin Earle

    Quarterback
    Montclair H.S.
    Montclair, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: My offseason starts while basketball season is still going on for me.. To stay up to speed with weight training, I wake up at 5 a.m. before school to lift, then go to school and basketball practice after. In the spring, I lift four to five times a week and throw with my dad, who is also my trainer, 3 times a week. My dad played in the NFL and has years of experience in the game, so he keeps me motivated and working every step of the way because every day in the offseason is one more day to get a leg up on someone. To prepare for games, I usually go to sleep 9 hours before I plan to wake up to get a full night’s sleep. I run through all my checks and different scenarios in my head to make sure I am fully prepared for when I step out on the field.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I would say WILL applies to me the most. I am constantly working on my craft when no one is looking and never skip any reps because I know that any rep I skip is a rep someone gains on me. I push myself to be the best ME I can be and not worry about what other players from different schools are doing. I constantly push to be great. In the classroom is where I probably work the hardest. My dad is the principal of my school so academics are drilled into my everyday life. I have a 4.53 GPA, 1350 SAT score, and 28 ACT score. I try to apply the same work ethic that I employ on the field to my studies, but double it.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: The summer going into high school my family decided to move to the town where I live in now, Montclair. I had to leave my friends, everything and everybody I grew up with, and start from scratch. I had to learn to adapt to a new environment and make new friends in the place I didn’t want to be. Joining the football team helped me integrate into the town very quickly and made me feel at home, even if at first I didn’t consider this my home. Playing football brought joy to my life when I didn’t think I would be happy again for the next 4 years. The family that my teammates and coaches brought me into is something that I will never forget and was vital in propelling my high school career to what it is now, and helped me overcome a tough time in my life.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing I love most about playing football is the unbreakable bond that I have built with my teammates. My best friends in my life are my best friends because of football. I see football as the ultimate team sport. You need to rely on every player on the field and on the sideline to win a game. You must be one cohesive unit. These factors make a team a team because it teaches you to sacrifice for your brother and work together in the face of adversity. It has taught me how to do these things in real life situations so I don’t fold when the going gets tough. Off the field, I know I have my teammates to fall back on. I will never forget the men I’ve gone to battle with each and every week and have had my back throughout my life. This is the main reason why I love playing football.

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    Willy Kaiser

    Fullback
    Blair Academy
    Blairstown, NJ

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    Willy Kaiser

    Fullback
    Blair Academy
    Blairstown, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: My preparation for the season all starts with my mindset. Knowing that up to my senior year, the most I have ever weighed is 156 pounds. I knew that strength and conditioning training was going to be a major variable in my performance on the field. I have always told myself that I cannot control my height and, to an extent, I cannot control my weight. However, I can absolutely control both my strength and speed. So during the offseason, I am on a 6-day training program with one active rest day. Monday-Thursday I go up to my school and workout with a few local guys on our team. I lead the lift and after we’re done we then move over to the field to work on footwork and agility. On Friday and Saturday, I would test my max rep for the two main lifts, which I work vigorously at, deadlift and bench press. Like I mentioned before, knowing that one of the elements I can control on the football field is my strength and speed, I take my weight training very seriously. This past summer I maxed out at 285 pounds on the bench press as well as deadlift 475 pounds. This was with my body weight around 162 pounds. The other preparation I did for this past upcoming season was watch YouTube videos on running back techniques. I have never really played the position, but when my coach told me I was going to be taking a solid amount of carries for our team, I tried to learn as much as possible in preparation for our first game. All in all, my offseason training is all focused around the most important element to me, which is doing as much as I can to put my team in the best position possible.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The criteria that I believe best defines having a “Heart of a Giant,” is character. Character is the criteria that I best associate with and believe that it defines exactly what having a Heart of a Giant is. I believe the most important element in a football player is his character. What I try to preach to my teammates is that football is about dedicating yourself to something much bigger than your own goals and ambitions. It is about doing everything in your will power to help your team be successful, and playing the game for your teammate to the left and to the right. I believe that having a Heart of a Giant is being able to do the right thing in a football environment, even when it might not be the most enticing opportunity. My coach tells me that I play with so much heart and so much passion for the game. When he says heart, he means the ability to not give up on a play, or stepping up to the challenge and meeting a 4-star recruit head on in the A Gap. This heart that my coach recognizes in me all stems from the fact that I am willing to do anything for me team. Having the Heart of a Giant is not something that is represented through an undersized player who excels in skill, but rather a player who is willing to take a supporting role, and throw himself into any play, play any position, and play to the whistle every down, all in the effort to help his team accomplish their goal. So when we talk about character, we mean to identify the morals and the principles one lives by, or in this case, the morals and principles for which one plays the game. I believe that my character best represents the fact that I have a Heart of a Giant because it embodies the values, which makes football the best sport in the world. Those values are the ability to dedicate yourself to something bigger than just one person and do everything in your power on every play to try and ensure that the goal of your team gets accomplished.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: A time which I faced adversity in my life and used football as my outlet to overcome this adversity was last year. At the time, I had planned on hopefully getting recruited for wrestling and to eventually go to college for it. These goals coincide with my schoolwork as well, for my goal was to wrestle at the most prestigious institutions in the country. So going into the school year, I was facing enormous amounts of pressure to get my best GPA yet and to do well on my standardized tests. Along with that, due to my dislike for the sport to begin with and, on top of it, the added pressure of my individual goals in order to achieve my dream of going to an Ivy League School began to wear on me. I began to dig myself into a hole where I was just constantly worrying about what the future would bring and let every little thing affect my happiness. So with that being said, thankfully I had football as my outlet. Like mentioned in the question before, my love for the game comes from the aspect of dedicating yourself to something bigger than just one person. With this nagging pressure of expectations in my life, I was able to indulge myself in football, which allowed me to check all of my adversity at the door and just focus on helping my teammates and coaches be successful. It was such an amazing outlet for me to have, for I was able to really realize the true beauty of the game and what makes it so special. That would be the fact that outside of the football field everyone has their issues, but once you step onto the turf it is just you and your brothers facing your opponents. All that matters is executing the task at hand. So the fact that I was able to have football bail me out of these difficult times, helped me appreciate the game even more than I already did.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: What I enjoy about football is that every player, regardless of skill, can make just as much impact as the guy next to him all because of effort. Ten plays of just diving into piles and pushing your teammate forward for the first down easily equals one 30-yard run. I enjoy the fact that regardless of how many offers someone has or how much potential people see in them, the game comes down to who is willing to give more effort to help their team. Yes there is a lot of technique in football and a lot of skill that is involved, however, there are so many things you can do on each play to help your team be as successful as possible on each and every down. I also enjoy the “hype” aspect of football. I love when someone tries to tell you that they have “x” amount of offers. Like I said before about everyone checking their issues at the door, the same goes for recruiting. Whether you are a 5 star recruit or have no stars, when you step onto that field all that matters is who is willing to give more to win the game. All that matters is that you are willing to dedicate yourself to help your team be as successful as possible, and whether you are going against an FBS commit or not, all that matters is who is willing to do more for their team. That right there is why I absolutely love the game of football with all of my heart.

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    Benny Storms

    Quarterback
    Albertus Magnus H.S.
    Bardonia, NY

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    Benny Storms

    Quarterback
    Albertus Magnus H.S.
    Bardonia, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I use the offseason to try to gain the competitive edge on my opponents. My offseason regiment consists of a proper diet with additional protein supplements, weight lifting, and speed and conditioning workouts. I also schedule numerous sessions with my QB coach to work on my weaknesses and to improve my throwing technique, speed, and accuracy. During these sessions, we spend time on how to analyze a defense and how to break it down with possible choices for the offense. It is this combination of physical and mental preparation that I use to try to be at my peak performance when the season starts.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The criteria that I think best defines having the Heart of a Giant is character. You can have or possess a big presence on the football field without being loud or showy. Your actions at times can speak louder than words. If the team sees that you are giving 100% at all times, it will be motivation for them to do the same. Possessing the drive to be the best that you can be, to push that little extra to go the extra distance, will allow you to reap the benefits by having the competitive edge. Leading by example also flows over to the relationships you have with your teammates. It is important to have respect for others, to be supportive, and most importantly, be humble. These are important qualities to have to be a good leader and example for your team.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: One of the most difficult times in my life was when my family's home was destroyed by a fire. It was a total loss. This event has shaped my life in many ways. My mother and father explained to my brother and I that the loss of the house and our things were just that, things! The most important thing was that we still had each other. It was their mental toughness, love, and willingness to work so very hard to rebuild our lives that stuck with me. The example that my parents set for me helped to shape me as an individual. It provided me with the strength, determination, and drive needed to be a competitive football player.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing that I enjoy the most about playing football is the competition. To me, it is a rush to be able to go out onto the field and try to execute a game plan. I also enjoy the challenge of making adjustments when coming against a difficult opponent that maybe we had not been properly prepared for. In playing football, it offers the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and to fine-tune the things that do work. You must always look for a way to improve your game!

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    Joseph Castellano

    Defensive line
    Brick Memorial H.S.
    Brick, NJ

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    Joseph Castellano

    Defensive line
    Brick Memorial H.S.
    Brick, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Training in the offseason is more important than the actual football season. Throughout this past offseason, I trained very hard, working on my footwork, agilities, and weight room conditioning to perform and be the best I can be this football season.  I also worked my speed and hand movement to prepare for my role on the defensive line this year.  I knew this offseason that I had to be my best because I wasn't the strongest or the biggest last year. My goal was to get bigger, stronger and faster to help me overcome any adversity and perform the best I could for my teammates every week. Preparing for a football season, you must be more than physically prepared, you also must be mentally prepared.  You must be mentally prepared before the games on Friday nights. I must focus on my job during each play and if the whole team does that you will have a successful football team.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: The words listed below all have a significant meaning to a football team and me personally which makes it impossible for me to choose just one. Commitment, dedication, will, character, and teamwork all apply to me.  Commitment is one of the main things you need as a football player.  I am always watching film on opposing teams we go against to see how I can make myself better along with the rest of my team. Dedication - I always stay later after our regular practice to train and teach the rest of the line on how to be successful. On Friday nights, when we get on the field, staying that extra hour helps the team to gel and build to get the win. Will - our Coach, Walt Currie, always tells us before the season starts that grades equal options.  My mentality is go to school each day and study hard and o your classwork and homework when assigned, even though you know you will be up late to get it all done since you have football practice after school.  That's what great will is. Character - even when the rest of the team is down, or if we are losing in a game, I am the person who takes that energy and makes big plays on the field to help change the team’s attitude. Once my teammates see that energy, that gets them rolling.  Teamwork – this is a major key to a football team because without that, everyone would be going in their own direction.  My mentality is that the team goes in one direction. That is why staying after the regular practice to work helps the team get better at what we do.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: When I broke my wrist in the offseason before football season, I thought my football season was lost. With the help of Brielle Orthopedics and Ms. Penrod (our athletic trainer), I got back on track and began preparing for the football season. Throughout this journey, the football team had my back. I refer to the football team as my family because I've become close with them. The football team is more than just a team, like I said previously it is "family." Playing football really teaches you great life lessons by having all the coaches and players around you.  This helped me overcome this and any other adversity I’ve faced.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Now what is there not to love about football?  The best thing about football is the grind and hard work that you put in every day with your football brothers.  It is great to see how the team comes together and goes to war on Friday nights.  Running out of the gauntlet of people on to the field gives you the best feeling in the world. The football games really mean a lot once you are out on that football field fighting to get that win. You don't stop fighting till the clock hits zero. That is the best thing about football. Football really means a lot to me and is why I cherish every moment of practice and the games played.  Running out on those Friday nights – the feeling is indescribable.

  • Nominee Photo

    William Brady

    Defensive line
    Valley Stream North H.S.
    Valley Stream, NY

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    William Brady

    Defensive line
    Valley Stream North H.S.
    Valley Stream, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Leading up to the season each year, my regimen includes weightlifting, cardio, and on the field workouts. My offseason starts from the day we play our last game, whether that be at the end of October or the middle of November. Not only am I a football player, but I also play baseball in the spring. I am active year-round and I firmly believe athletes should not be limited to one sport.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Commitment. Everyday practice starts, I end up being the first one dressed and ready as well as the last one to leave the field and the locker room. Football has taught me that commitment is one of the most important qualities that someone can demonstrate in life. Being at practice every day, ready 15 minutes before everyone, and waking up at 6 in the morning to lift prior to school has made me a better person. It has taught me to care for others and help others before I care for my needs, my wants, and myself.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Growing up during school, I was bullied for my small 5’8, 140-pound stature during my freshman year. Also at that time, I learned that football was an enjoyable sport that could possibly entertain me. Unfortunately, I did not take a single snap that year. I was a slow, weak, and horrible player who was told by all that I was horrible and should give up. Football taught me to give my everything to improve myself, and it paid off. The people who would mock and mimic me now respect and praise me. After more hard work and dedication, I stand at 6’2 and 220 pounds, anchoring my team as a captain.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: To me, football isn’t a sport, it’s a privilege that allows you to be introduced into a family of 40+ people that can’t be separated. The ability to make memories with people you bleed, sweat, and cry with is more than enough of a blessing for me. It is not only this. To me, football is also enjoyable because it is a sport that involves physical toughness, mental toughness, and teamwork, traits that are necessary to be successful in life.

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    James Regateiro

    Defensive line
    Half Hollow Hills West
    Dix Hills, NY

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    James Regateiro

    Defensive line
    Half Hollow Hills West
    Dix Hills, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: To prepare ourselves for what we hope will be a long and successful season, my teammates and I train with a sports training company. Four days a week, professional trainers come to our school weight room and train us in circuits as a group.  In addition, we have team practices where we install plays and concepts.  Furthermore, we have weekly workouts with our position coaches to hone our position-specific skills.  My teammates and I are so thankful for the time that each one of our coaches dedicates to our football program.  They not only preach commitment and selflessness, but practice it in their daily lives. Our offseason performance is the foundation upon which a successful season is built.  The importance of this process is twofold, as it improves us as individuals but also helps us grow stronger together as a team and family unit. These relationships will endure as lifelong connections…long after the season finishes.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Teamwork. Playing on the line requires a sense of selflessness.  We are part of a unit; a group; a corps. Everything we do is for the success of other teammates.  If our corps is successful, the whole team will be successful. Offensively, the five of us must function as one.  We must have a symbiotic relationship that involves trust in the man next to us. Defensively, the three of us must compete every play to put our linebackers in a position to make the correct reads and be right.  Our coaches instruct us to “Do Your Job,” with the goal being obvious…If everybody does their job individually, it is impossible for us to fail collectively.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Since I was five years old, my family has decided to take less fortunate individuals into our home. It is through these diverse individuals that I learned about adversity.  They all come from different backgrounds and had to leave different situations, whether they chose to or not. For example, my brother and sister were adopted from Guatemala. Being five years old I remember it being a total world shift.  But now, years later, it is as if we are truly family by blood.  This experience helped me appreciate how fortunate I am to have two loving parents and a strong family unit.  Those we supported were not as fortunate as ourselves.  It was the wish of my family to assist others in their time of need. Learning to share my home with others and basically open everything I had to them was a valuable and life changing experience. By opening our home to others, my parents were not only helping the less fortunate, but they were helping me grow emotionally.  Having virtues such as generosity and philanthropy instilled in me at such a young age will serve me well as I further mature.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The unforgeable and unbreakable bonds formed with teammates are my favorite part of football.  The people that you compete with daily become your family…your brothers.  Games have four quarters…season's end, and even the best teams complete their seasons.  But the friendships endure forever.  The memories will last our entire lives and will bring me back to a fond place when I look back on them later in life. I don't believe there is any other sport that better reinforces such valuable character traits as commitment, dedication, and will.  Successful football players go through a unique process that could break lesser individuals.  Those that can complete it, the way it is supposed to be done, come out on the other side as better leaders and better contributors to society.  If I were starting a company or corporation, I would undoubtedly seek out people who experienced successful football careers to staff it.

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    Johnny Buchanan

    Linebacker
    St. John Vianney H.S.
    Holmdel, NJ

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    Johnny Buchanan

    Linebacker
    St. John Vianney H.S.
    Holmdel, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the offseason, I use the same mentality every single day. I tell myself that no one will out work me today. I am not okay with being good, I want to be great so I push myself to give everything I have every day to prepare for my season. I push myself so hard because I know that when it’s crunch time and 4th and 1 on the goal line, my opponent is not as prepared as I am. My offseason training consists of weight training and sprint/agility work to make sure that I am getting faster while I gain muscle mass.  My dreams are what keeps me motivated through the difficult workouts. My dream of ending my high school career as a state champion, my dream of going on to play Division-I college football, and my dream of one day being able to suit up in an NFL uniform and play the sport that I love as a career all drive me. With dreams this big I cannot afford to miss a workout, or even a single rep of a workout.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I believe that having the "Heart of a Giant" means having great character. I think that it is very important to be kind to others and give back to the community. In school I am a very involved member of the Catholic Athletes for Christ and I go on many trips to help others. It feels so great to be able to help people. Every year I go to the veterans’ home and visit some great people who served our country. Many of the people in there have outlived their families so they don't get many visitors. It is great to be able to just spend a few hours sharing stories with them and delivering gift bags. I truly consider many of the people there as my friends.  I am also a member of the Heroes and Cool Kids program where I get to go to the local elementary school and teach the young students about making healthy choices and answer any questions they may have about high school. I have three younger brothers and I try to be a positive role model for them and their friends so I spend a lot of time around the youth football leagues helping coach some of the young players and give them good advice. Having great character is just as important on the field. This is my second year as a captain for SJV. I work hard to motivate my teammates and always try to lead by example.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: At the very end of my 8th grade year, my Grandmother, who I was very close with, was killed. It is a very difficult subject for me to talk about and losing her was extremely hard to overcome, but football was the only thing that took my mind off the tragedy. My grandma loved football and she loved coming to my games. It really hurt looking into the stands and seeing an empty seat. After she passed, the only time I could clear my mind was the few hours I spent on the field or in the weight room. I told myself that I was going to work harder than I have ever imagined possible and from that moment on I was not only playing for myself and my teammates, I was playing for her. To this day every time I score a touchdown I point up to her and I know that she is looking down and smiling. I don't know how I would have made it through that tragedy in my life without the game of football.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: This is a very difficult question for me to answer because there is so much that I love about playing football. I love scoring touchdowns, making big hits on defense, the energy of the crowd and the whole atmosphere on Friday nights… however, what I love the most about playing football goes much deeper. Playing football gives me hope to do big things in my life and puts me into a position to where I can be someone that younger kids look up to. I can be that positive role model that helps inspire them make good choices. Football gives me hope because it is my ticket to college. Playing football gives me the hope to achieve my lifetime dream of playing in the NFL one day. For me, football goes much more beyond just scoring touchdowns and making tackles.

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    Patrick and Tyler Giesler

    Brick Township H.S.
    Brick, NJ

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    Patrick and Tyler Giesler

    Brick Township H.S.
    Brick, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: We play sports in the winter and spring seasons, which to most people would distract them from their offseason football training. We both lift for about an hour and a half after our respective practices. We both pride ourselves in being the first ones in and the last ones out every day. Most people think training is horrible and dread it while we love working out and getting better. We love the atmosphere and the feeling of a packed gym with the music playing loud and the sound of the weights hitting the floor. We love being on the field and grinding out a tough practice in the summer. We might both sound a little crazy but that's just who we are. We were never given anything in life and we had to grind for everything. That's probably where our attitudes toward football comes from.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Like everything in life, if you're not committed mentally and physically to something then you're never going to excel at it. When we finally convinced my mom to agree to let us sign up for AYF football in 7th grade, we fell in love with the game the second we strapped on the helmets. My brother (Patrick) instantly was a good player because of his size and aggression. It took me (Tyler) a little while to get the hang of it. I had a burning desire to get better along with my brother. We never missed practice and always worked our butts off. We haven't looked back since. We both have perfect attendance in our high school careers for all workouts and practices, and this is consistent across all the sports we play. We both embody commitment and are a prime example of what committing your body and mind to something can do for you.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Being homeless is something that has haunted us (and my mom) since May 1, 2017. That was the day we had to leave our winter rental and officially became homeless. It disgusted us to think that we were in this position. It felt like there was no hope. We were desperately looking for housing and didn’t care where it was. Our football coach, Len Zdanowicz, heard about this and immediately contacted us. Once he became aware of our situation, he immediately jumped into action and tried his very best to help. I am forever grateful for what being a Brick football player has done for us and the family aspect of this town. Everyone tried their very best to help us. A teacher in our school, Mr. Lindenbaum, and his family paid almost a month for us to stay in this motel. Not only has the community been great in supporting us, but being able to get in the weight room and work some frustration out was critical for both of us. Sports create opportunities for people to turn tragedy into triumph and while we still aren't out of this displacement mess, it’s nice to know that you have an entire town who has your backs, and to be able to focus on something else for a few hours a day during practices and games.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing we enjoy most about playing football is the pure adrenaline and passion that playing this game gives you. Working your butt off all week long just to play 48 minutes and showcase to the world what kind of work you and your football brothers have done to prepare is truly a special thing. There is nothing like Brick football. We have a bond that can't be broken. We play together. We play tough and we do our very best to be able to say that we did everything we could to win. The success and tradition of Brick football with all the championships keeps the bar set incredibly high. We all try to be the next championship team at Brick. I think the thing we love most about playing football is winning a big game against a tough team behind a total team effort - that really brings a group of high school kids together. We are Brick and we are expected to win, but winning isn't everything. Being able to say you gave your all out there is truly a special thing.

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    Wil Parisi

    Linebacker
    Ludlowe H.S.
    Fairfield, CT

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    Wil Parisi

    Linebacker
    Ludlowe H.S.
    Fairfield, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: I prepare various ways in the offseason to get ready for the upcoming games. One way I prepare is through team workouts. During the summer, I wake up early in the morning for an hour workout with my teammates at a local gym. A trainer is there to work out the team with different methods of strength and conditioning. Also as a team, we attend many passing leagues ranging from in-state tournaments to tournaments at the New York Jets facility in New Jersey. These workouts do not stop when the season begins. Before or after practice seven days a week, we will condition and lift as a team. Individually, I attend a 1-on-1 workout with my positional coach every week in the offseason.  Physically, my footwork, speed, and technique are constantly critiqued and pushed for perfection. This has allowed me to become a more explosive, powerful player. Mentally, my positional coach breaks down game film with me from the prior season to evaluate my performance as well as study film for the upcoming season to better understand tendencies and the strengths and weaknesses of opponents. In addition, my positional coach has helped me improve my interview skills with college coaches and how to get on their radar.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Character is the best trait that describes me as having the "Heart of a Giant." I have worked hard every day at practice since my freshman year on both the rugby and football fields to earn a starting position on both varsity teams. I was chosen because of my hard work, will to succeed, and never quit mentality. What has stuck with me the most was being called by both of my coaches "the most coachable kid on the team." I know I am not perfect and always strive to become better every practice of the season.  Also, I earned this statement by having respect for my coaches, teammates, and the game. As a result of this trait, I was chosen by my peers to be the junior and senior captain on the varsity rugby team and senior captain on the varsity football team. I am very grateful for this privilege and always strive to be a leader both on and off the field.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: I have faced adversity in the town I live in. Fairfield, Connecticut has five high schools. Once youth football ended for me, all the friendships I made and teammates I enjoyed playing with are dispersed to all the different schools. Because of this, a winning high school program at one of the public high schools is difficult to achieve. Since my freshman year, the varsity football team at my high school has not won more than 10 games. Many athletes would quit or not give 100% at practice or during games, but my love for the school, sport, and teammates keeps me believing that it can be my graduating class to change the mentality of athletes in the program. I go into every game believing that we are not the "underdogs," but rather the favorite to win. My competitiveness and leadership helps the team to keep believing it is only a matter of time before we win multiple games in a season. From this adversity, I continue to work hard and stay positive.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I love the camaraderie amongst my teammates and the emphasis of brotherhood and playing for the guy next to you.  I have made many friends that I will continue to keep in touch with throughout college and beyond. Also, I love the loud stadium environment where I block everything out between snaps and it is just me against the ball carrier. Between plays, my friends chanting and the band playing creates an amazing, memorable atmosphere that is like no other.  For the eleven years that I have played football, I have always had butterflies in my stomach before each game, however, once I run through the banner and onto the field and hear the crowd, it all seems to fade. Finally, I love the adrenaline rush I get after the first play I am in on – as it helps all the nerves go away!

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    Jacob Rossi

    Defensive line
    Sayville H.S.
    Sayville, NY

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    Jacob Rossi

    Defensive line
    Sayville H.S.
    Sayville, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: Football season does not feel like it ends. Last year, we had a very hard loss at the end of the season and I knew I had to get right back up and start getting ready. Weight training began for the team in January and there was not much time to spare. I decided to join winter track in preparation for the offseason and the upcoming football season. During this period, I would run on the track and work out in the weight room daily to stay in shape. Discus and shot put also helped me tremendously. When weight training for the team began in January, I started that too. After winter and spring track had ended, my schedule opened to allow me to work out even more. I prepare for games by studying my playbook and participating in a multitude of different traditions. Concentrating and having faith in my teammates helps me every game.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Desire and drive are what motivate me. I strive both on the field and in the classroom. Doing my homework and getting good grades are normal occurrences for me. As for football, I am usually among the first people out for practice. During games, I use my knowledge to make good calls. When I am not in, I am cheering and screaming as loudly as possible for my teammates. I try to support them as much as I can. Doing well in both areas is very important to me. Seeking to be better in both aspects of my life helps illustrate how much I am trying to improve myself as an individual. There will always be room for improvement, and I know that there is no limit or bounds to how much I can increase my skills.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Football helped me in a variety of different ways. Before football, I was extremely unhealthy and ate junk food daily. I had no reason to pursue a healthier lifestyle, so I made no changes until football. To succeed in football, I felt that I had to make better decisions involving my health. I started with simply changing from drinking soda and other drinks to exclusively water. I could feel the difference in my performance on the field so I continued this trend. Also, I no longer eat fast food. Because of football, I know that I will have a brighter and healthier future.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The thing I enjoy most about playing football is that knowing no matter what you do, you know your brothers have your back. We carry each other on the field and through the pain. The support of my teammates is all I ever need during a game. As I charge onto the battlefield, blood and adrenaline rush throughout my body. The feeling I get on a field doesn’t compare to anything else I have ever felt. The coarse dirt that covers me constantly, the sweat dripping off my face, and a longing for victory are all necessary for every game. I can almost guarantee that I will look back on these moments playing football as one of greatest times in my life.

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    Griffin Honthy

    Wide receiver
    North Hunterdon H.S.
    Annandale, NJ

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    Griffin Honthy

    Wide receiver
    North Hunterdon H.S.
    Annandale, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: My head coach, Jared Mazzetta, takes offseason training very seriously.  He has us in the weight room 4-5 days a week throughout the winter and spring.  Additionally, because I am not the biggest kid on the team, I must put it in extra time in the weight room.  On off days, I walk to the gym about a half mile away from my home.  I am always preparing for the upcoming season.  During the summer, I put 100% effort into attending the optional workouts.  If I skip a day, it is only hurting my team.  To me, football season is year-round.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Dedication defines having the "Heart of a Giant."  A team will not succeed if they are not dedicated to the sport and their team.  Whenever I have doubts in myself or my team, that means that I am not working hard enough.  No matter what obstacles are in front of me, I know that I need to get past them.  I have the drive inside of me to persevere.  If I, or a teammate, make a mistake, we need to forget about it and move on to the next play.  That mindset has helped me throughout my athletic career.  I am so dedicated to the sport, and enjoy everything about it.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: A time that I had to face adversity in my life was when my parents went through their divorce.  For any kid, this situation is obviously challenging, but how you handle that situation is what makes you special.  The only way I could forget about the negative events going on in my life was to play football.  When I was on the field, succeeding was the only thing on my mind.  I did not think about anything else.  My coaches and teammates helped me get through these hardships and those relationships that I made had me coming back to football every year. It helped that North has a "hardhat" mentality, where we keep the focus on us and work through it as a team. Football was the only thing that kept me going and I love it for those reasons.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: Every kid dreams of playing in the NFL, or even making it to the collegiate level.  To get to that point, you need commitment.  Commitment is putting the sport of football and your team first.  After seeing so many of my friends fall out of love with football, you can definitely see the ones who really are committed.  That is something I love about the sport.  I put my heart and soul into football and that is because I am committed.  I want to be on the field and not many kids have this characteristic within them.  When my coaches see how committed I am, they make sure it doesn't go unnoticed.  I love being committed to my team to see how much everyone appreciates it.

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    Chris Higgins

    Offensive lineman
    Seaford H.S.
    Seaford, NY

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    Chris Higgins

    Offensive lineman
    Seaford H.S.
    Seaford, NY

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: This offseason I worked every day at a kids’ summer camp, but I always found time to prepare for the season. While working camp (Monday through Friday; 8am-6pm), the kids would help me get ready for the season by climbing on my arms and letting me curl them like weights. Also at my job, I was very active teaching the kids new sports and playing these games with them. During the season, I prepare way differently than I do in the offseason. During football season, I’m all in. I give it my all and nothing less. I work hard all week at practice and when the game comes I know I’ll be prepared because my coach worked us hard enough.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I am a very dedicated person when it comes to football. Throughout my life, I have faced many struggles and never have I stopped doing what I love. When I was eleven years old I was diagnosed with Type-one Diabetes and it was a very hard thing for me to wrap my head around. Nobody ever understood what it was really like to have high and low blood sugars and it was hard for me to adjust to this new way of living. It was not an easy thing for me, but football helped me get through it. Football helped me show that diabetes wasn’t going to take over me. I believe having the Heart of a Giant applies to me because when life became hard I didn’t give up. I’ve given everything I have in my fight against diabetes and continue to do so. Sometimes the pain would be so bad I wouldn’t know what to do, but I stayed strong and continue to fight through my adversity regularly.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: When I was first diagnosed with Type-one Diabetes, I lost almost every single one of my friends. No one understood what I was going through and was too ignorant to even ask. People started telling everyone lies about me having Type-two Diabetes because I was overweight and it lead to me hating this disease and the new life it carved out for me, but the one thing that really kept me going when things were tough was football. The coach of our team saw everything I was going through and to this day, I will never forget him for helping me out the way he did. Without football in that time of my life, I don’t know what I would have done.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: The most enjoyable thing about football for me are late night games against the schools who are as good, if not better then you. Football games are the best thing about playing football because that’s when you can really showcase how hard your team has worked to be able to do what they are doing. I love my team and my coaching staff and we work very hard all week to be able to win.

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    Tyrique Bruce

    Linebacker
    Barringer H.S.
    Newark, NJ

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    Tyrique Bruce

    Linebacker
    Barringer H.S.
    Newark, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: In the offseason I do a variety of things, but most importantly I frequent the weight room and run track. Whenever I have free time, I go to my local park and train, I bring my foot ladder, parachute, and weight vest and run around the parking lot. I am a student of the game. When I get ready for the season, I learn the plays to see if there is anything new I need to pick up on. I also participate in 7on7. Lastly, to get ready for a game, I, as a team captain get my team under control and focused on our opponent. I then crank up my music and get into game mode.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Character applies to me because I lead my team by example and motivate my team whether I'm on or off the field. I never bring one of my teammates down because as much as I depend on them, they depend on me as well. If a mistake is made, I remind them, "Short memory…we'll get the next one." I also lead by example in the classroom. I am a ‘A-B’ student and never leave a teammate behind in the classroom, offering help when needed.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: One time I faced adversity I'm my life was when I lost my cousin to gun violence. He was a football player himself, and this brought me down often because he was more like a brother to me…same age, same grade, and same goals. When I lost him it was like I lost a piece of myself. Playing football helped me overcome that adversity by keeping me pushing as hard as I would if he was still on the field with me. When I play, I write his name on my taped wrist and wear a headband with his face on it under my helmet. This helps me feel as though he is watching over me on the field.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I mostly enjoy playing football because just like people have hobbies and things they like to do, football is more than that to me. It's a huge part of my life. Not only can I play the game I love, but I have the chance to go to college for free by playing what I love. Long-term, I’ll hopefully make it to the professional ranks and have a career in something that I would love doing every day. Football has united me with people that share the same love for the game as I do. I call them my brothers because we all share the same things. Coming from Newark, it is hard to bond with a lot of people, but football has allowed us to do so.

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    Reese Martinelli

    Wide receiver
    Montville H.S.
    Montville, NJ

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    Reese Martinelli

    Wide receiver
    Montville H.S.
    Montville, NJ

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: First off, I'd like to thank my mom and my dad because without them I wouldn't be able to do any of this. In the offseason, I train six days a week. I run hills four days a week and run sprints the other two, paired with weight training in the gym. My football coaches put a lot of work in by getting our team mentally and physically prepared for the season. My work ethic not only applies to football, but also academics as I have a 3.8 GPA.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: I'd like to talk about DEDICATION. When I dedicate myself to something it means that I am giving 100%. I enjoy feeling pain, but the pain is a “work pain.” It's a good feeling and I know it's going to be better once I get home. Recently I tore my MCL, an injury that I thought might have set me back quite a bit, but it hasn't stopped me. Despite my injury, I'm in the weight room every day working my upper body and down on the field encouraging my teammates. In my mind that is what a good teammate should do…be there for his team.

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: About three years ago my grandma passed away and it was a tough time in my life. My grandma played a huge role in my life and next thing you know, she was gone. My grandma showed me the true meaning of perseverance by battling stage four lung cancer for as long as she did. The doctors said she had a month left to live, but because she fought her illness as hard as she could, she persevered three more years. Hard work, dedication and perseverance are all traits I learned from my grandma, and I use these traits in football.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: My favorite thing about football is coming out with a win on Friday night. The energy our school brings to the stadium is unreal. I love how making a big play or big hit changes the flow game. I love all my teammates and coaches and will do anything for them. Coming out with the win just shows me how all the hard work in the offseason pays off tremendously. I love winning and hate losing. I'm looking forward to one day going to MetLife Stadium and bringing home a state championship.

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    Mark Montano

    Running back
    North Haven H.S.
    North Haven, CT

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    Mark Montano

    Running back
    North Haven H.S.
    North Haven, CT

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    Q: Tell us about how you train in the off-season and how you prepare to get ready for your season and games.

    A: During the winter and spring, I train with my team after school for four days a week. On our day off, I train at Breakout Athlete in North Branford, CT and on the weekends I go to the gym.  In the summer, our team trains 5 days a week starting at 6 a.m. This includes weight lifting and running/agilities. I also prepare myself for the season by eating right and making sure I’m getting my daily carbs, fats, and proteins.

    Q: Choose one of the criteria listed below this field that defines having the “Heart of a Giant” and explain how it applies to you.

    A: Commitment defines having the “Heart of a Giant” because it is something that cannot be taught. Commitment defines who you are. Having the ability to be the first one in and last one out shows that you are willing to put in the extra effort to succeed in whatever you do. You may not be the most talented athlete, but because you are the most committed individual, you will end up the most successful. “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

    Q: Tell us about a time you faced adversity in your life and how playing football helped you overcome such adversity.

    A: Years ago, my grandmother tragically passed away from lung cancer. She never got to see me play high school football. This was a very difficult time in my life. My academics started to fall and I had a hard time figuring myself out. I wasn’t myself during the spring and summer but once August came around I found myself back at football practice. Football helped me find who I was again. Without football, I would have never been at ease with my grandmother’s death. Football helped me escape from the real world and allowed me to live my dream every day at practice. I will truly never be able to give this game what it gave me. Every game I play is now dedicated to my beloved grandmother.

    Q: What do you enjoy most about playing football?

    A: I enjoy playing football because it is unlike any sport there is.  Football is the ultimate team sport. It requires all eleven players every play. Everyone has a job. Football requires intelligence and awareness but also requires toughness and strength. There aren’t many sports that fit into a category like football. Lessons that can be learned in football can be utilized within your daily lifestyle as well. Football truly is the best game on earth and I love playing every Friday night with my brothers.