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After UConn, Nick Giaquinto (Two Super Bowls) Made Most Of His Short NFL Career

Bridgeport native Nick Giaquinto, who played at UConn, was in two Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins

Nick Giaquinto's NFL career spanned only four seasons, but it was filled with enough impressions and memories to last a lifetime.

One that comes to mind for the Bridgeport native and Stratford High standout includes his final shot to make it in pro football. After unsuccessful opportunities with the Giants, Jets and in the CFL, he moved to Miami in 1980 and lived with a cousin in a trailer.

He would not give up. Giaquinto, the baseball coach at Sacred Heart since 1989, went to work bussing tables and substitute teaching while trying out for the Dolphins.

Still, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back who graduated from UConn in 1979 and would ultimately play in two Super Bowls, decided that Miami was going to be his last shot.

He made it to the final exhibition game without being cut. But he fumbled twice.

"The next day I'm in the whirlpool and [coach] Don Shula comes over and says, 'We decided we're going to keep you' and it was like, "Whoa, what an unbelievable feeling,'" Giaquinto recalled during a phone interview. "And then [Shula] goes, 'But we're going to keep on evaluating you every week.' Just making it was probably one of the most exciting experiences and was one of the most memorable times of my life."

For Giaquinto, 60, playing in Super Bowls XVII and XVIII in 1982 and 1983, certainly rank up, there, too.

Giaquinto has actually been down memory lane for a while recently. The NFL is sending golden footballs to every high school in the country that had a Super Bowl participant.

Stratford had two, and the school celebrated Giaquinto and linebacker Ed Bradley, a fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972, who also was from Bridgeport.

Bradley has two rings (Super Bowls IX and X in 1974 and '75). Bradley was Giaquinto's idol coming up.

In 1½ seasons in Miami, 1980 and part of 1981, Giaquinto rushed eight times for 47 yards and caught 31 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

He finished the 1981 season with the Washington Redskins, where he rushed for 73 yards on 17 carries while catching five passes for 55 yards and a TD. The Redskins made Super Bowl XVII with the "Hogs" up front blocking for John Riggins. And there was Nick Giaquinto, too.

"My most memorable moment from that game was the block I threw on our final touchdown," Giaquinto said. "It was a rollout, we called it 'Dash,' so [QB Joe] Theismann would roll out, then he would sprint out around the outside and my job was to secure the corner, so if the tackle is blocking the defensive end, I would just secure that, help block the defensive end. If the linebacker blitzes, I have to pick up the linebacker.

"What happened was, the linebacker blitzes ... and I kind of cut him, and he went over the top of me, kind of one of those over the top and landed on his back. Theismann rolls around the corner and throws a touchdown pass to Charlie Brown [six yards] to ice it. That was my big moment in that game. It's a great memory, but there are a lot of individual memories and team memories. Just being in the locker room after the game and the feeling of 'Wow, we did it, we're champs.'"

The Redskins were in the big game the following year, too, Super Bowl XVIII. They entered with a 14-2 record but the Los Angeles Raiders routed Washington 38-9 in Tampa on Jan. 22, 1984.

Memory from that one?

"Jack Squirek picking off a screen play with less than a minute to go in the half and scoring a touchdown, that's what I remember the most," Giaquinto said.

That touchdown led to a 21-3 halftime deficit for Washington, and the game got no better for Redskins in the second half.

"I remember walking off the field and knowing that it was my last time," Giaquinto said.

A versatile player who also returned punts and kickoffs in the NFL, he had struggled to realize a dream, reached it, made two Super Bowls, but he was shutting off the faucet after four seasons?

"It was really a decision based on health," Giaquinto said. "I was in pretty good shape still. You looked at the older guys and you were just like ... you always heard when you're growing up, you never know when your last game is going to be. Just knowing the wear and tear and accumulation, and everybody thought I was nuts [for leaving the game], but right about now they think I'm pretty smart with all the stuff going on. It's just that I wanted to get out in one piece."

Giaquinto holds UConn's single-game rushing record of 277 yards against Holy Cross in 1976. While he got out of the game early, the game will always mean a lot to him, even with all the concussion news swirling about.

"Concussions is the biggest thing, but then you look at a lot of guys who have trouble walking or trouble functioning, even if they don't have the brain stuff, there's other stuff," Giaquinto said. "My foresight was I wanted to be in decent enough to shape, but as far as concussions go, it's an issue and it's tough to talk about being a football player because I love the game.

"It was a big part of my life and to say I shouldn't have played? I don't know. I think I had to play. There is risk, and I think the good thing is if these risk factors come out, then everybody can make a more conscious decision because there's risk factors in skateboarding and ultimate skiing, race-car driving. There are risks factors you know about and still do it. I think as long as you know the risk factors, then that's good."

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