Super Bowl Skipper
By Sean Ryan
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A cold rain soaked Fairfield, Conn., Friday.
That couldn't dampen the
spirit of Nick Giaquinto, whose Sacred Heart Pioneers welcomed
the promise of another college baseball season with an indoor
Come Sunday, the Sacred Heart skipper will relive a memory.
Twenty-six years ago, Giaquinto was a part of Washington's 27-17
win over Miami in Super Bowl XVII. A running back who started
his career with the Dolphins, Giaquinto didn't show up in the
box score in the win. But there he was, leveled in the middle of
the field on a 30-yard pass interference call on Lyle Blackwood
shortly before the half. And there he was, making a key block on
a blitzing Bob Brudzinski, enabling Joe Theismann to drop back
and roll out in time to find Charlie Brown for the final margin.
"These are my highlights, things nobody saw," said Giaquinto,
whose No. 30 Pioneers jersey matches his No. 30 Redskins jersey.
That he even played in a Super Bowl, let alone a second one the
next year in Washington's loss to the Los Angeles Raiders, was a
After a year at the University of Bridgeport, the school dropped
football. Giaquinto enrolled at Connecticut, where he starred
for three years and capped his career with a school-record
277-yard performance in a loss to Holy Cross. He also holds a
school record with a 100-yard kickoff return.
Giaquinto was cut by the New York Giants in 1977 and cut again
by the New York Jets in 1978. He was playing semi-pro ball with
the Eastern Connecticut Sea Raiders before getting cut by the
Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian Football League in 1979.
"Originally, I thought I'd give it three tries," Giaquinto said.
But, he got a chance. Dan Henning, a future head coach, had seen
Giaquinto when he was working out with the Jets and liked what
he saw and pushed Don Shula to bring the running back to Miami.
"If it wasn't for Dan Henning, I probably never would have set
foot on a NFL field," said Giaquinto.
Two years later, Henning helped bring Giaquinto to Joe Gibbs,
the Redskins and a Super Bowl matchup with the Dolphins.
"It was special for me because we were playing the Dolphins," he
said. "Don Shula was the first guy to give me an opportunity. It
was exciting because it was my former team."
He watched as former buddies David Woodley (76-yard TD pass to
Jimmy Cefalo) and Fulton Walker (a record 98-yard kickoff
return) helped Miami take a 17-13 lead. Then, on a fourth-and-1
with about 10 minutes left, John Riggins broke through for a
43-yard touchdown that fueled Washington's first Super Bowl
"That was the highlight, that's for sure," Giaquinto said. "That
was our short-yardage offense. I think we called it heavy jumbo:
three tight ends, all the big guys. It was a gorgeous play.
Every time I see the highlights, I still get chills."
After the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders, Giaquinto called it a
"I loved every minute that I played from Pop Warner on to my
last game," he said. "I understood that there is a risk and
reward. It's a risky business. I just wanted to get out in one
He spent a year as a travel agent in Reston, Va., then moved to
Rhode Island for a year.
Giaquinto always thought he might coach football, but he landed
on Billy Brown's staff at George Mason, where he attained his
master's degree in education.
"It was a good transition," said Giaquinto, who played a year of
college ball at Bridgeport. "I learned so much in my first two
years there. It was a tremendous place to get my first
When the Sacred Heart job opened up, George Mason Athletic
Director Jack Kavancz, who was from Bridgeport and knew of the
Super Bowl champ, contacted Sacred Heart Athletic Director Dave
Nineteen seasons, more than 360 wins and a shift from Division
II to D-I later, Giaquinto is still leading the Pioneers,
including a Northeast Conference crown in 2006 and a trip to the
NCAA Tournament. Yet,
the baseball coach hasn't entirely lost his football roots.
"Having played under Don Shula and Joe Gibbs, that's had a huge
effect on me," Giaquinto said. "Just in the way that I try to
handle players. They were different in a lot of ways, but the
thing that made them similar was their clear communication.
"I think that's what players want. Good news or bad news, they
don't want to be jerked around."
His early teams “responded
well” to the football player turned baseball coach. His recent
teams have to believe the memories.
“With the early guys, I
rarely talked about it,” Giaquinto said of his football career.
“I rarely talked about it. I talk about it more now than I did
with the early teams. It was never really a topic. They knew
what I had done, but I didn’t want it to be distracting.
“I’m having a little more
fun with it. These guys weren’t even born when I was playing.
They wonder if we had facemasks back then.”
(photo courtesy of Sacred Heart
Media Relations Office)