By Tim Morris
Howell High School’s Nic Rossi has made the case that you can still be a standout in more than one sport. While we are moving toward an era of specialization, Rossi defied the notion that athletes should concentrate on one sport. He excelled in football and lacrosse at Howell.
The Rebels’ senior was selected to play in both the Shore Coaches Lacrosse North-South All-Star Game and the U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic — a very rare feat and something Rossi took as an honor.
“It’s awesome getting to play with the best players in the Shore in both lacrosse and football,” Rossi said.
Rossi had a goal and an assist to help the North all-stars beat the South, 14-10, in the lacrosse game June 15 at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.
He will play wide receiver for the Monmouth County all-stars at the Gridiron Classic June 30.
While football is Rossi’s favorite sport and the one he will play in college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts, that didn’t stop the midfielder from having an All-Shore season on the lacrosse field. He scored 31 goals and had 32 assists in leading Howell back to the state playoffs.
Although he noted that football and lacrosse are two different spots — hand-eye coordination is one thing they have in common — playing midfield for the lacrosse team has helped him become a better wide receiver.
“When I’m playing wide receiver, I have to understand what the quarterback is thinking,” he said. “It’s the same thing when I’m playing midfield. I’m the quarterback, and I have to make the connection with the forwards.”
The all-star game was the final lacrosse game of Rossi’s career, and he went out a winner. More importantly, the sport provided him with the high point at Howell: the 2015 Shore Conference A North Division co-championship made possible by the program’s first win over Christian Brothers Academy (CBA).
“[The championship] was the highlight of my career,” he said. “Beating CBA was the biggest moment. It was awesome.”
While the selection to the lacrosse all-star game was a surprise, Rossi admitted making the All-Shore Classic was something he was striving for.
“It was the goal I set in football,” he said. “I thought if I played well I’d have a pretty good chance.”
Rossi fulfilled his end as a big-play wide receiver, catching 29 passes for 465 yards and six touchdowns. He added a seventh touchdown during a kick return.
“I don’t have a lot of time to train,” Rossi said of making the turnaround from lacrosse to football.
He was in lacrosse shape since that season ended less than a month ago.
Rossi started his training for the Gridiron Classic right after be put down his lacrosse stick.
One player that Rossi is looking forward to being a teammate of is fellow wide receiver Nick Galanti of Freehold Township High School.
“We’ve known each other from [our] Pop Warner days,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having him as a teammate.”
Rossi and Galanti aren’t the only Freehold Regional High School District players participating in the Gridiron Classic being played at Central Regional High School in Bayville. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
On the offensive side of the ball for Monmouth is Freehold High School’s Jake Curry, who led the Colonials back to the NJSIAA Central Jersey playoffs last fall and another winning season. As good as Curry was as the quarterback, he was every bit as good playing safety. He could be used on either side of the ball.
Colts Neck High School linebacker Nick Garguilo was one of the leading tacklers in the Shore. Playing for a struggling Cougars team, his play was overlooked.
The head coach of the Monmouth all-stars is Raritan High School’s Anthony Petruzzi, who led the Rockets to the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group II championship in December, beating Lincoln High School, 28-26.
Toms Rover High School North’s Dave Oizerowitz is coaching the Ocean all-stars. He led the Mariners to the South Jersey, Group V title in the fall.
Monmouth leads the series, 20-17-1, but the Ocean all-stars won last year’s edition, 27-7.