Men's Sports Sports

Nick Giorgio recalls his journey from the wrestling mat to the defensive line

By Mateo Aycardi

Nick Giorgio stands straight, eyes locked at his opponent on the other side of the line.

As he lifts his head and angles his frame forward, the weight of his body locks and he prepares himself for the takedown. With a plethora of moves, Giorgio takes down his man and prepares himself for the next sequence of events. The problem, of course, being that the contest is over.

Giorgio had just won the Rhode Island 195 pound State Championship for wrestling.

“Damn,” he thought. “I guess it’s onto football now.”

One of Springfield College’s most remarkable defensive linemen in recent memory knew he had the tools to succeed. He was awarded the honor of captain for both the wrestling and football programs at Cumberland High School in Rhode Island. His athletic record spoke for itself. He was All-State in two sports as a senior in high school and a State Champion in wrestling.

Everything screamed potential.

It was a long and rocky road, however, that eventually landed him in what many people would call “the perfect fit.”

“There was a point in my life coming out of high school when I was considering not playing football at all,” Giorgio recalled as he shook his head. “When I started playing football we weren’t that competitive. We didn’t have that huge town that could come in with kids of different areas. We didn’t win that many games and it was a little discouraging at first.”

But his senior year had earned him much praise for his athletic escapades. Giorgio had explored a variety of sports in his life. Football, though, was the clear-cut favorite as his high school career was concluding. The problem, of course, was that he wasn’t heavily advertised, which hurt his chances at getting looked at by big time programs.

And then things began to click.

“I remember late in the spring Coach Holik, the defensive coordinator who I owe so much to for this program, made me feel like somebody,” Nick said with a smile on his face.  “He made me feel like I could be a great player. So, late in the spring of my senior year I made that decision like ‘alright, I want to play football. I love the sport and I don’t want to be done playing it.’”

Giorgio’s confident attitude resonated with those he surrounded himself with, and there was a man enamored with the chance to fit player to program.

That was coach John Holick.

“He obviously had some ability,” Holick chuckled as he reminisced. “He was a first-team ‘Mike’ linebacker his senior year in Rhode Island. An All-State caliber player. I mean, his high school coach raved about his work ethic and knew he would be this would be the perfect match for him because he was going to fit with the type of kid that’s here. But it wasn’t just because he was a good football player. ”

Signing day came, and no official offers had been presented to the big man from Cumberland. Frustration began to pile up, and it seemed like time was ticking away.

With his back against the wall and facing a tough decision of where he would spend the next four years of his life, Giorgio was approached once more by Holik.

“I told him ‘Why don’t you come visit?’,” recalled Holik. “And when he came up here. Like most of the kids, the lightbulb either goes off or it doesn’t. And thankfully it did.”

Holik knew that Giorgio had the talent to exceed expectations if given the proper opportunity. He was a sensational athlete with the personality to match. But nobody seemed to be interested in giving him the time of day aside from a couple of Division III programs. The question was now whether or not Giorgio could coexist with the brotherhood.

Any doubts were quickly erased as the visit took place. His mother, Kerri Giorgio, quickly saw the chemistry between her son and the ideology of the brotherhood. She also saw an opportunity for her son to grow academically and prepare himself for life after school.

“When I visited the campus with him and we did a tour with the program, I absolutely loved the coaches,” she said. “But the facilities and just seeing the brotherhood that they had when we were on the tour and the comradery that they showed. I mean, it sold me. And then I was nudging him, like ‘This is looking pretty good Nick — I think it might be a good fit for you.’ The problem was that Western New England was heavily recruiting him as well.”

It was Springfield’s principles of togetherness and personal connections that ultimately won Giorgio over.

I saw the weight-room, I saw the incredible AT [athletic training] facilities, and I knew the coaches seemed like they really cared,” Giorgio exclaimed. “My mom kept saying that if I was in trouble the ATs would take care of me and the coaches clearly cared for you as a person. Some of these big-time schools they just looked at you for the physical aspect of the game. But you’re more than just a number on a team here, you’re a part of the brotherhood and people know your name.”

A kid with tremendous aspirations and a soft spot for helping others had found an organization founded on loyalty, cohesiveness and commitment. Giorgio began his career with the Pride. But with a new experience came new challenges. And this situation was no exception.

“I came in thinking I was going to get to play here or there, but I guess I wasn’t good enough for that,” said Giorgio. “I ended up being the fifth-string ‘Mike’ linebacker, which was my position at the time. They sent me to go play defense versus the defensive starters. Everyone is a starter or captain in highschool when they come play college football. And then the next thing I know I’m the fifth-string linebacker. So, at the time I was really caught up in my head, asking myself ‘Do I really want to do this? Do I think I’m bigger than the program and maybe go play somewhere else but actually play though? But I embraced getting cut blocked and getting back up every time.

“And then I was noticed.”

Giorgio soon found out that, while the Pride were considered a Division III program, there was nothing easy about the team’s work ethic. The program’s  expectations and requirements to see field time were through the roof. Adversity once again found its way into Giorgio’s life.

He continued to take part in the team’s scout defense. Getting knocked down and getting up every time was a clear indication of his determination. He was going to be somebody on this team. And he knew that his time was coming.

About halfway through his freshman season, the Pride suffered a number of hits to their defensive line. Injuries continued to pile up and size was becoming a rare commodity the team could no longer afford.

“And then, all of a sudden, he’s the next biggest guy,” Holik said. “And we said ‘Hey, would you be willing to move to play [defensive] end? And yeah you’d be a little undersized, but you’re also pretty athletic. And you’d get the chance to get on the field right away. And you know what he said to me? He said: ‘I’ll go anywhere coach.’ And the rest is history.”

Giorgio hung on for dear life, starting at a position he knew little to nothing about when it came to technique. Giving up 70 pounds on any given day, he did his best to help his team out. In the ensuing offseason, he worked tirelessly to prepare his body for the challenges ahead.

And once again, it clicked.

During his sophomore and junior campaigns, Giorgio excelled in every sense of the word. He racked up 125 tackles and 14.5 sacks, and was presented with numerous honors along the way, including NEWMAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. His senior year has provided new obstacles. Giorgio has no longer been surrounded with the weapons he could have grown accustomed to. But he continues to grind, and continues to lead the team both vocally and physically.

“Before I came to Springfield College, I was the captain of both my football and wrestling teams in high school. But coming in and experiencing all  I’ve had for these past four years has been incredible. Guys like Max Nacewicz, Christian Zotti, Cody Brown, they all set the program at a high standard and we started doing well because they were vocal leaders.”

“For me it’s all about combining all aspects of these guys that I want to resemble, and I just try to put it all together and become the best leader I can be.”

Photo courtesy of Sam Leventhal 

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