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Nick Mancini enjoyed a stellar four-year career as a three-sport athlete at North Branford High School. Nick received the Steven Lenzi Award as the Thunderbirds’ top male athlete for the 2018-’19 school year. (Photo courtesy of Nick Mancini )
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Nick Mancini recently graduated from North Branford High School, where he excelled as a three-sport star for the Thunderbirds. Nick was a four-year athlete who competed for North Branford’s football, ice hockey, and baseball teams. At the end of the spring season, Nick was presented with the Steven Lenzi Award as the best male athlete in his senior class.
“It felt great to be recognized in front of all my classmates for such a great award,” says Nick. “It’s an honor and, without my teammates and my coaches, I wouldn’t be the athlete I was throughout high school.”
Nick made an immense impact on the gridiron, the ice, and the diamond at North Branford. Nick served as a captain in each sport as a senior and even held that title with the football and baseball teams during his junior year.
“It felt great to be a leader and speak my voice to all three teams. I never took it for granted. I always wanted to be able to speak up and share my knowledge, especially to the underclassmen, about how to progress and get better in each sport,” Nick says. “I was more of a leader on the field, but my senior year, I worked on using my voice more during practice and in games.”
North Branford baseball Head Coach Billy Mitchell believes that Nick spoke even louder with his actions. Mitchell says that Nick set an excellent example with how he battled his way back to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury during the T-Birds’ fourth game of the season.
“He led by example, and the kids really respected him a lot,” says Mitchell. “He went through a lot of stuff with his share of injuries in all three sports, but it never bothered him. He didn’t show it. He just led our team and was a big inspiration to our guys this year.”
It was tough for Nick to miss those eight games, especially since North Branford got out to such a strong start at 4-0. However, Nick made sure that he remained a key part of the squad when he was sidelined.
“While I was out, I would always try to make every practice. Even if I was taking one-handed swings off the tee, I just wanted to show them I’d be back. I wanted to show them that I’m not giving up, and I’m there to support the team,” Nick says. “While I was out, my teammates were always there to support me and there to encourage me.”
Nick wound up posting a .400 batting average with 19 runs scored and seven RBI in his 15 games this spring. He was an All-Shoreline Conference First Team selection and also received the baseball team’s Desire and Dedication Award. While the individual accolades are nice, Nick feels happier that North Branford won 14 games and earned a berth in the postseason.
“It felt good ending on a high note during baseball. It was our best record throughout baseball, hockey, and football,” says Nick. “Baseball was our best record, so it felt good going out with a bang. It was also our best record for baseball in my four years, so it just felt good to go out with a winning record.”
On the football field, rushed for 1,471 yards, had 478 receiving yards, and scored 17 touchdowns for North Branford. Defensively, he served as the heart of the T-Birds’ defense while playing the middle linebacker position. Nick finished his career with 433 tackles, which is the most in program history.
“As middle linebacker, you have a lot of responsibility. You’re the leader,” Nick says. “Your approach to the game is much different than a cornerback or a safety. You’re playing downhill all game and looking to stop the run first.”
Nick played defense for the ice hockey team as a senior, finishing the campaign with two goals and six assists. Nick prided himself on being a shutdown defender for Head Coach Ralph Shaw’s club, which qualified for the Division II State Tournament this winter.
“From a defensive standpoint, our coach always stressed being physical and aggressive. If you’re passive, it’s going to lead to space and a lot of room for shooters to shoot,” Nick says. “[Coach Shaw] stresses to be physical, and that’s what we try to accomplish every shift.”
Nick recently had shoulder surgery and is undergoing the recovery process before he heads off to American International College [AIC] in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he is going to play baseball. Nick is excited for his chance to compete in college and feels that his experience at North Branford gave him the necessary tools to get there.
“I’m very excited to be playing baseball at the next level. I’m going to be rehabbing at AIC, and it’s a six-month recovery, so I’ll miss the fall season, but I will be ready to go for the spring season,” says Nick. “North Branford sports are different. Everyone gets along, and I wouldn’t trade these last four years for anything.”
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