Chris Perry Column: That's A Lot Of Man...

Chris Perry •

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Height: 6 feet - 6 inches.

Weight: 335 pounds.

Shoe size: 16.

Helmet size: Extra large.

Bicep: Enormous.

Squats: 600 pounds plus.

Bench press: 350 pounds plus.

That’s a lot of man. That’s Nantucket’s Nicky Correia.

Most of you know “The Correia Boys.” Frankly, it is hard to miss them. The oldest, Terrel, was followed by Mathew, then Nicky, and all played football and basketball at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club and then Nantucket High School where they physically dominated their opponents. After graduating from NHS, Terrel and Mathew went on to UMass. But, it is “Little Nicky” who has caught more than just the eyes of NFL scouts. In fact, with one more year left at the University of Rhode Island, don’t be surprised if Nicky Correia’s childhood dream comes true 12 months from today when he becomes Nantucket’s first native ever drafted into the National Football League.

Tomorrow, Commissioner Roger Goodell will kick off the 2023 NFL draft from Kansas City. Early on, you will hear the names of offensive linemen such as Peter Skoronski (6’4”- 313 lbs. Northwestern), Paris Johnson (6’6”- 315 lbs. Ohio St.), Broderick Jones (6’5” - 312 lbs. GA) and Broderick Wright (6’5” - 333 lbs. Tenn.) called to the podium to accept a jersey from their new team. Clearly, these are elite athletes from Power One conferences, but does Nicky measure up?

According to Hero Sports, “Correia is a 6’ 6” - 335-pound monster who plays right guard and is ready for the next level - that next level is the NFL.”

“Honestly, a guy with that size and quickness just needs to fine tune a few things. I know he trains like a beast; and with one more year at URI, he’s going to get looks from NFL teams - no doubt about it,” says former Rhode Island offensive line coach Stefan Wheeler.

But where did this all start?

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“He was my smallest baby at 8 lbs. 4 oz. born on Oct. 4, 1999. Terrel was 9 lbs. 4 oz. and Mathew was 8 lbs. 6 oz. all born at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Who knew he would outgrow them all?” said his mother Karen Correia who was high school sweethearts with her husband, Mark.

“Growing up, the boys would go at it all the time. They were close in age and so big that I knew they would have to figure out the pecking order for themselves. I would just open up the back door and let them fight it out in the backyard,” added Mark.

“Terrell did not mix it up too much since we was older but Nicky and Matt would always go at it. When Nicky was about 12, he started coming back in the door first so I knew things were pretty much settled,” said Mark with a grin.

“To this day, Nicky has always been freakishly strong” added Nicky’s proud dad. “Quickly realizing he was too big to play at the Boys & Girls Club, Nicky was moved up to the middle school team, then the JV, then the varsity where he started as a freshman as nose tackle then quickly playing both ways,” Mark continued.

“Karen and I would have to carry the boys’ birth certificates with us because no one believed their age. One time, the Mashpee coach seriously asked me if Nicky ‘drove the team bus’?”

“I had some great coaches at Nantucket such as Jay Cabral, Vaughn Machado, Bob Kesler who was also the school’s behavioral specialist and weight room chief plus head coach, Brian Ryder,” Nicky fondly recalled. “My favorite game was my junior year in 2016. We pounded Martha’s Vineyard 42-0 on their home field and brought the Island Cup back to Nantucket!”

Nicky added: “We had a dominating regular season. Our team ran the ball almost every play. Jack Holdgate was QB, Chris Allen and Alex Small were running backs. Along the line, it was me, Mark Hamilton, Ampherney Garcia and Owen West. I had an interception in the M.V. game playing defense too and almost ran it back for a TD.”

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After Nicky’s junior year, interest in “his services” at the collegiate level gained momentum. He attended a few summer football camps and told interested parties that he preferred to play defense. “URI started recruiting me and I started zeroing in on them. There were a few other schools but they weren’t a good fit. URI must have seen something because they offered me a full ride as an O lineman and I took it”.

Since then, it has been a meteoric rise for Nick Correia. Outside of an unfortunate COVID-19 interruption, the 6’ 6”, 335-pound offensive lineman has been a commanding force over his opponents in the CAA. “It was tough my freshman season. I only played four games because I wanted to retain my red shirt season. It was intense training - very specialized with focus on offense and truly a full-time job day and night. It was an eye opener for me”.

Entering his sophomore season, it was obvious URI was committing to Nicky on the offensive line. “Coach Wheeler made me the player I am today,” Correia said. “I started all 12 games that year. I struggled a little bit early; but by the 5th game, I was hitting my stride,” the right guard added.

Correia continued: “I felt I was starting to dominate. All the extra work was paying off. Even with Covid interrupting everyone’s schedule during my 3rd season, I was determined to continue on this path and improve”.

Fellow URI teammate and starting quarterback Kasim Hill describes Nicky as “a beast on the field where his actions speak louder than words.” Coaches routinely sum up Nicky’s work ethic as “consistently stronger than anyone’s and who flat-out plays hard. He does not talk much - more of a great listener who is a gentle giant off the field and a monster on the field.”

Leading up to what is anticipated as being Correia’s final season as a Ram, Nicky has secured several awards including All-CAA First Team Honors last season, all New England Team selection, an impressive Third Team All American Selection, and Hero Sports’ 2022 FCS’ Best Player to Wear #75 Nationwide Award. But what stands out to many football experts is Correia’s durability. He has started 37 consecutive games for the Rams, and assuming he finishes strongly with a playoff run, that number is expected to top 48 consecutive games - the most ever in the URI football program.

“I am really looking forward to this season. We have some unfinished work to do,” added Correia. “As far as all the NFL stuff goes, I just try and let my work on the field do the talking. I am a big guy. Once I started to perform, scouts started showing up. Now, they are in and out all the time. I have not secured the services of an agent and retaining my amateur status at this point is paramount. But, I know what is potentially ahead of me,” Correia said with confidence.

“I have been doing a lot of specialized training such as spending time in Tampa, Florida at Pride Strength Training. There are other elite football players who attend from programs such as Alabama. They are drawing pro attention too; but again, there’s some unfinished business to do,” he said.

That unfinished business is URI’s 2023 season. The Rams open up with Georgia St. in Atlanta on Aug. 31 and have some tough games like Villanova on the road and Richmond at home. Suddenly, Correia interrupted with a sense of purpose: “I have a home game on Oct. 28 vs. UNH circled on my calendar.”

“We got screwed last year,” Nicky’s dad summed up. “On the last play of the game, UNH scored a touchdown where the receiver clearly bobbled the ball. After review, the refs refused to change the call and UNH won thanks to some home cooking by the refs.”

After the game which ended URI’s season at 7-4 and a chance to move into the playoffs, video replay surfaced showing the receiver bobbling the ball and not making the catch. To Mark and Karen Correia who attend every game and to Nicky and his URI teammates, that only provided more incentive for this season’s rematch on home turf at Meade Stadium on Oct. 28.

Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be Finnick or Ruiz or Silver or Donnelly or Politano or Kapongo or any of UNH’s defensive lineman tasked to stop Nicky Correia and the URI offense. Correia will be on a mission. He’ll be one angry man - a lot of man - highly motivated to settle the score and it won’t be pretty.

It’s going to be an exciting year for Nicky Correia. It’s going to be an exciting year for the Correia family. And, for those who will be following along, it is going to be an exciting year for this Nantucket village that supported Nicky along the way. Hard work and a no-nonsense approach at home from Mark and Karen says a lot about fulfilling one’s potential.

And yet, I want to believe there’s something special still to come…

In Norton, Mass., Nicky attended a football camp hosted by the former 2nd round pick of the New England Patriots, Matt Light. Light, a Purdue product, spent his entire 11-year career in Foxborough and was one of only a handful of players to start in five different Super Bowls. His tough, grizzly, no-nonsense approach to football is legendary to this day. As a 9-year-old, Nicky was awarded the camp’s Most Outstanding Lineman Award.

One year from today, could Matt Light and the New England Patriots go full circle with Commissioner Goodell announcing:

“The New England Patriots select Nick Correia, offensive lineman from the University of Rhode Island and Nantucket, Massachusetts”?

I hope so, because dreams do come true.

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