W&J Football Feature: Zach DeCicco
Zach DeCicco has dealt with teasing throughout his football career.
His older brother, Dom, is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker who spent last season with the Chicago Bears. Brock, the younger brother, is a 6-foot-6, 246-pound tight end for the Wisconsin Badgers and projects as a future NFL talent.
Zach is not diminutive by any means at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, except when he is standing next to his hulking brothers.
“Everyone messes with me about it,” said DeCicco, another talent in the noted pipeline coming from Thomas Jefferson High School to W&J College. “My brothers would probably say I am the hardest worker though. I’ve had to work hard my entire football career to be able to compete.”
Zach describes Dom as a fierce competitor and Brock as a player who has a chance to reach the highest ceiling among the trio. They remain very close and attempt to see each other play as much as possible.
“Dom is the most competitive person I’ve ever met,” added Zach, who also has an older sister, Brittany. “It doesn’t matter if he is playing the Packers or a board game, he does everything it takes to win. I think Brock has all of the tools. He is very athletic and works really hard.”
Dom played strong safety at the University of Pittsburgh and is currently a NFL free agent after bring waived by the Bears following an injury suffered in the preseason. He had 17 tackles as a rookie and was a special teams standout. Brock also played for the Panthers before transferring to Wisconsin. He has played in each of the Badgers’ first three games this year. Brock was able to take some advice from Zach during his decision to transfer. Zach originally attended Division II Slippery Rock, but decided to enroll at W&J a year later.
“The main reason I went to Slippery Rock was for the scholarship, but the program there is Division I in a lot of ways and that wasn’t what I was looking for,” noted DeCicco, who did not use a season of eligibility during his year at SRU. “My decision to transfer here wasn’t about playing time. I know I can play at that level. I just felt that W&J gave me a better chance to set myself for a great job after I was done playing football. I talked to my brothers and ultimately it came down to feeling like W&J was the right place for me. I am glad I made the right choice.”
Slippery Rock utilized DeCicco on defense, but W&J Head Coach Mike Sirianni thought his talents would be best revealed as a wide receiver. He made an immediate impact in 2009, finishing third on the team with 27 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns.
Expectations were high for his sophomore season. W&J opened the season north of Philadelphia at nationally-ranked Delaware Valley. DeCicco was set to be featured in the Presidents’ usual high-powered passing attack. However, his first reception of the season turned into his only one after he tore his Posterior Cruciate Ligament planting his left knee following the catch.
“I was in the best shape of my life and I felt like I let my teammates down because I couldn’t be there for them,” said DeCicco, whose Presidents ended up losing 27-0 to the Aggies.
DeCicco had reconstructive surgery by Dr. Derrick Fluhme at South Hills Orthopedic Associates and the rehab was long and arduous. DeCicco ended up sitting out his junior season as well, but that gave him time to be able to watch Dom play out the entire family’s dream.
“Everyone is usually pretty nervous in the stadium, but even more so for those Bears’ games,” added DeCicco, whose father, Dom played collegiately at Waynesburg and earned a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “He played his first NFL game on his birthday (Sept. 11) which was pretty neat.”
Zach credits his father’s critical view of the games as one reason why the trio has been able to accomplish so much.
“Our dad has always critiqued games differently than most and likes to point out where we made mistakes. That’s what has always motivated us and honestly makes us better. We don’t want to let the team down...or dad.”
Dom, Sr., the head boys' basketball coach at Thomas Jefferson, was probably thrilled to find out in February that Zach decided to give football one final shot in 2012. “I talked with Coach Sirianni after intercession and I felt my knee was to a point where I had some confidence once again. I really missed playing.”
Zach admits he was nervous during that first spring practice and was second guessing whether he made the right choice. He was also relearning how to play defense as the coaching staff felt the team would benefit the most with DeCicco at safety.
“After being away for two years, you realize how much you actually miss something. Being out on the field and competing has been awesome. The knee feels fine. Playing defense is like second nature too.”
DeCicco is off to a fast start as he third on the team with 18 tackles. He has also broken up a pair of pass plays.
The sociology major is still pondering what his future holds. He is a perfect example of how life can change so much in four years.
“My brothers and I started playing football when we were six years old. I knew we were all pretty good athletes, but never thought we would all still be playing this many years later.”