Nicolas “Nick” Tardanico of Weymouth, a freshman and both a junior varsity and varsity football player at Archbishop Williams High School, was one of only four Massachusetts athletes to wear the red, white, and blue uniform of Team USA Select Under-16 in the International Bowl VIII, January 16-17, at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX.
The event, a series of eight games played in the home stadium of the Dallas Cowboys, included 500 high school and junior high school players from the United States, Canada, and Japan.
“It was such a great experience playing in that stadium,” Tardanico said. “Just knowing that some of the best football players have stepped onto that field is amazing. I was so humbled and honored to play there.”
The long journey to Texas began for Tardanico in fifth grade playing for the Wildcats, a team in the Weymouth Division of the Bay State League, which is part of the American Youth Football League. Tardanico played with the team through eighth grade, often coached by his father, Derek Tardanico ‘92, a four year football player for the Bishops, and later, a college player.
“The good thing about Nick is that he believes that you earn it, especially the playing time, that your dad doesn’t give you the edge,” the elder Tardanico said.
To improve his performance, Tardanico worked out at Edge Performance Systems, Foxborough, a renowned and respected strength and conditioning training facility that serves Division 1 and professional athletes, including many New England Patriots. The facility is owned by trainer Brian McDonough ‘92, who is a former classmate and long-time friend of both of Tardanico’s parents, Linda (DellaPenna) Tardanico, ‘92, and Derek, who was also McDonough’s teammate for fours years on the Bishops football team.
“Nick is a real, rare find,” McDonough said. “I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of athletes, and it’s rare to see one with his level of grit. He’s a real gentleman who is dedicated to the process, who does what we ask him to do, whether it’s working out, or learning about nutrition or making sure to take good care of himself. He’s a real work horse who puts in 100%. We’re so happy to have him here.”
To play on Team USA, Tardanico first had to tryout last June in Southborough.
“It was a lot of hard work preparing for the tryouts,” Tardanico said. “I practiced and practiced and practiced.”
While preparing to play for Team USA, Tardanico was also preparing for the Bishops, which he joined last fall, bringing his work ethic and talent with him.
“He came to us as a freshman and had a major impact on the coaches right away with his hard work,” said Head Football Coach William Kinsherf. “He was put on special teams after only four weeks, playing on varsity and even scoring a touchdown, which is pretty good for a freshman.”
Tardanico’s decision to attend Archbishop Williams brought joy to his parents.
“I loved my experience at Archbishop Williams and was hoping Nick would attend there also, but I wanted it to be his decision so we tried to stay out of it,” said the elder Tardanico. “When Nick decided to attend, it made me smile!”
Chosen as a defensive back for Team USA, Tardanico was off to Texas in January for four days of intensive four hour sessions which included six pre-game practices and one scrimmage. When it came time to play, Team USA started with an early 7-0 lead against Team Alberta, but the Canadian team came back to win the day, 37-19.
Despite the loss, Tardanico sees the experience only in a positive light.
“It makes you a better athlete playing alongside some of the best football players in the U.S.,” he said.
It was also an experience Tardanico was able to share with his family at home, since the game was broadcast on ESPN3. He was especially happy to to share the experience with his father who joined him in Texas.
“It was great having my dad there with me,” Tardanico said. “He is the reason I’ve made it this far and he is my role model, a true inspiration to me.”
Although this was Tardanico’s first experience on a national team, he hopes it won’t be his last. He’s already preparing for the U-16 tryouts May 22 in Needham, when as a 15 year old player, he can compete once more. Meanwhile, he’s hoping to play varsity for the Bishops next fall.
Beyond that? “I would love to play college football!”