Navy, Marist, Lehigh and Hofstra faced off in four scrimmages on Saturday at James M. Schuart Stadium at Hofstra University for the Nick Colleluori Classic.
Nick may no longer be with us but his presence was as strong at Hofstra Saturday as it was when he laced up and donned the blue and yellow years ago.
The lacrosse classic was a way to honor Nick’s life and remember his collegiate lacrosse career that was unfortunately cut short due to a terminal cancer diagnosis in 2005, but his legacy has been engraved in the Hofstra University Lacrosse program.
The first phone call Seth Tierney, Hofstra’s coach made when he took over the head coaching gig was to Nick Colleluori. Coach Tierney and the team rallied around Nick and supported him up every step of the way until the very end of his battle with cancer. The team was with Nick during the final hours of his life and was his life line, which is a moment Tierney will never forget. “For us to continue this and Nick’s legacy, it is very easy to do when it’s real. Everything about HEADstrong and the Colleluori family is real. Nick is engraved in this program” remarked Tierney.
During intermission between games HEADstrong honored a senior from each of the four squads presenting them with the Nick Colleluori Tribute Award. HEADstrong also honored a local family who’s son Olliver is battling Sarcoma. Olliver is a lacrosse player himself and has been sidelined this season because of his cancer. Olliver had originally refused treatment but after meeting the Colleluori family he has decided to start treatment and fight his cancer head on.
The award winners were selected based on their character on and off the lacrosse field and who embodied best what Nick was all about. Each student athlete will wear #27 this upcoming season. Hofstra’s award winner was Ryan Kinnard, Christian McHugh took home the award for Lehigh, Dan Jordan was Navy’s award winner and Marist chose Chris Schlappich.
Hofstra’s Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief Revenue Officer, Jay Artinian said, “Nick’s legacy is stronger now than it’s ever been. The guys who are picked to wear #27 know what it means. It’s something so special to this program.”
After the presentation, Hofstra Head Coach Seth Tierney and the Pride team took Cheryl and the HEADstrong team into the locker room. Unbeknownst to Cheryl and the Colleluori family, Ryan Tierney presented them with a yellow Hofstra jersey, #27. A moment that brought Cheryl to tears and the entire room speechless.
Nick’s jersey had been found while moving some boxes around the locker room earlier in the week. Surrounded by those who meant the most to Nick, his family, his lacrosse team, Navy Head Coach Joe Amplo who recruited Nick and Navy Assistant Coach, Joe Orsen who was Captain of Nick’s team were all there to witness the emotional moment.
“That jersey was worn by Nicholas Colleluori,” Tierney said. “We thought, here in the blue chairs, with Coach Orsen and Coach Amplo, we wanted an intimate moment with this. This is where it started.”
HEADstrong’s mission and Nick’s legacy lives on through Hofstra lacrosse. HEADstrong’s font is the same as Hofstra’s, HEADstrong’s blue is the same as Hofstra blue. Nick’s words are on the walls in the lacrosse office, there is a #27 patch on the players t-shirts, #27 hung up in the locker room. When you walk into that locker room it’s like Nick never left.
Coach Tierney had thought about retiring the #27 in honor of Nick, but he, along with his assistant coaches came up with a better idea. “I have concerns when you retire a jersey, it gets forgotten” stated Tierney. Each year the coaches select a player to wear #27, someone who embodies what Nick was all about both on and off the lacrosse field. “We retell our story every year and it’s become a great tradition here at Hofstra. Nick is just as strong in our locker room now as he once was when he was with us.”
To help the HEADstrong Foundation improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer, go to www.HEADstrong.org.