STAMFORD, Conn. – For the first time since they started playing football, Stamford brothers Nick and Vin Cortese are making an impact at the same time for the same team. The Trinity Catholic grads are even lined up side-by-side on kickoff return and short yardage situations for the Catholic University of America football squad in Washington, D.C.
“The best way to describe it is just fun,’’ said Vinny, a senior defensive tackle. “We’ll be looking at each other, and we’re laughing. We definitely feed off the energy each other brings.”
Vinny starts on the defensive line for the Cardinals (1-2), who meet Hampden-Sydney College on Saturday. Nick, a junior, shares time at running back, where he leads the team in attempts (42) and has rushed for 161 yards. He scored his second career touchdown earlier this season in a 35-17 loss to Carnegie Mellon University.
When the brothers played at Trinity, they were rarely on the field together. Vinny, who is two years older, attended Milford Academy and Stony Brook University before landing at Catholic. He started 10 games last year and had five sacks en route to earning a berth on the conference All-Academic team. Nick played in five games last year due to injury and rushed for 134 yards and one touchdown.
“I think this year has been a combination of everything,’’ Nick said. “I have more experience, but I’m also a little lighter and quicker. ... I also worked a lot this summer as a receiver. I wasn’t that good at catching the ball as I needed to be in this offense. It’s a lot different than the system we used at Trinity.”
Both players saw time in the Trinity Catholic backfield. As a senior, Nick rushed for 1,849 yards and 24 touchdowns. Vin saw time at running back as a senior but was known more for his defense. He led the Crusaders in tackles and sacks as a senior in 2006. Both players were members of the last teams at Trinity to post winning records, 7-4 in 2008 with Nick and 7-3 in 2006 with Vin.
Vin’s experience has been helpful for Nick, who has learned what it takes to succeed at the college level.
“Last year I got hurt, and the one thing that made me want to go out there was him,’’ Nick said. “He just told me I have to fight through it.”
“A lot of things didn’t go my way early on in college,’’ said Vin, who plans to graduate in December. “But now I’m working toward a degree, and it’s all working good right now. At times at Stony Brook and Milford Academy, I realized I wasn’t a big fish in a small pond. I was swimming with a bunch of other sharks. Coming from a small school, that was tough. I’ve tried to let Nick know what he can expect in college.”
The career is winding down for Vin, who is majoring in history with a minor in economics. Nick still has next year, but the focus this year is helping the Cardinals win a conference championship. They are coached by Dave Dunn, a former Stamford Catholic player who helped the Crusaders reach the state championship game in 1983. The Cardinals went 5-5 last year and 4-6 in 2010, but Nick believes the team can make a push toward the conference title.
“We started a little bit slow, but we’d like to win the next seven games and play on a championship team together,’’ he said. “I think the defense worked out its kinks in these first few games. We’re running the ball a lot better and putting up a lot of points. I think we’ll really start to click from here on out.”