Published September 12. 2013 4:00AM
New London - It was the afternoon of Sept. 11 at the United States Coast Guard Academy, as good a time as any for football players Victor and Joe Rizzardi to talk about their grandfather, Charles, a World War II veteran and an influence on their careers.
"He's the toughest guy I've ever met and you wouldn't know unless you asked him for some stories," Joe Rizzardi, a sophomore strong safety said Wednesday afternoon. "He has so many stories and just the kind of person he is. He's been my role model forever."
Headed toward Saturday's Coast Guard-Merchant Marine rivalry game for the Secretaries' Cup, it was also a good time to speak with the Rizzardi brothers in general.
Joe finished with 14 tackles in his first career start last week against St. Lawrence, a 21-17 loss, and earned a spot on the defensive honor roll for the New England Football Conference.
Victor, a junior linebacker, had five tackles as the Bears' defense forced St. Lawrence into going 2-for-7 from the red zone. Coast Guard trailed 14-0 four and a half minutes into the game before coming back to take a 17-14 lead late.
"They're very aggressive, intense football players," Coast Guard coach Bill George said of the Rizzardis, who are from Ashburn, Va. "That's one thing you can't teach, being aggressive. They both fly around the field 100 mph. They're intense guys. It's like harnessing a wild race horse."
The Rizzardis, who lived in Australia for 11 years due to their father's job as an electrical engineer and have dual citizenship there and in the United States, moved back to the U.S. in 2004. They were teammates at Briar Woods High School, both playing on the Falcons' first state championship team in program history in 2010, with Joe sticking around for another title in 2011.
They grew up playing for the same teams in football and baseball, but that doesn't mean they're not competitive with one another.
"We watched film (of the St. Lawrence game) and I missed a lot (of tackles), as well," said Joe Rizzardi, who is 6-feet, 185 pounds. "Victor was the first one to tell me, 'Nice job missing all those tackles.' And I said, 'Nice job not catching that interception.'"
"I always liked it. Playing on the same team makes it easier for our parents and family to have to only go to one game," said Victor, listed at 5-7, 190. "We always get on each other. It kind of fuels the fire."
Victor said he tried to help his younger brother know what to expect at Swab Summer, the indoctrination period for a Coast Guard cadet the summer before his or her freshman year. Joe admits thinking if his brother could do it, so could he. He didn't fare well.
"I had a bad attitude. People still remember what a bad swab I was," said Joe Rizzardi, who added he was sent to the Performance Enhancement Platoon for swabs not performing to standard. "Like, one of the things we had to do was write a journal with our thoughts of the day. I didn't know the cadre read our journal. I hated it. I wrote stupid things. I wish I could go back and never say it. It was my own fault.
"We're both pretty good cadets now."
This week's challenge for the Bears' defense will be an added one, defending Merchant Marine's triple-option. It's assignment-oriented football, meaning the Rizzardis need to not necessarily go for the big tackle as much as contain their respective players.
In any case, the Rizzardis' grandfather, in his late 80s, will be in attendance at Kings Point. He and the boys' grandmother, Eve, live in Pennsylvania. The Rizzardis' parents, Charles and Josephine, often stop and pick him on their way to games.
"You know Band of Brothers? They made a South Pacific version of that," Joe Rizzardi was saying. "I was watching it with my grandfather and he would say, 'I knew that guy.'"
"He's tough as an ox ... and well-spoken, too," Victor said. "He definitely had an influence on us wanting to be in the military."