NORTH ANDOVER — Brooks School has turned out some amazing athletes in countless sports.
Providence hoops star Harold Starks, crew Olympian Peter Sharis, BYU footballer Jordan Johnson and Charlie Davies and Jaime Gilbert in soccer all leap to memory.
You probably wouldn’t figure that the quiet, little prep school on the shores of Lake Cochichewick has produced its share of “cage fighters,” though.
“Yes, I am thinking about it, but you can’t fight in the cage until you’re 18,” said Brooks junior Chris Cervizzi. “You have to be a little crazy, but sure it might happen. We’ll have to see.”
Before Cervizzi, a second-degree black belt in Kempo Ju Jitsu, hits the cage, he’ll continue the pursuit of greatness in yet another of his passions, football.
“Football is kind of my thing, here on campus,” said the three-year starter from North Reading. “Before I got here, they had one of those special teams, going 7-1 and making a bowl game. Since then, we’ve really struggled. I think it’s kind of my responsibility to help rebuild it and bring it back. My thing is to bring the excitement about football back to campus. I’m looking to win games and get people talking about us again.”
For the 5-foot-6, 165-pound ball of muscle and his teammates, there are small steps at first. Brooks took its opener against Thayer, and Cervizzi’s 224-yard, 5-TD performance in the loss to St. George’s have been early jolts to help energize the club.
But there’s still work to do.
“We’re looking to go .500 this year, and next year hopefully go back to a bowl,” said Cervizzi, unafraid to challenge himself and his teammates.
The little, big man
At some point the defenders stop with the cracks and the “Woodhead” remarks.
By that time, they’re already toast, victimized by Brooks School junior halfback Cervizzi.
“You hear the things they’re saying and yeah, there is my height,” said Cervizzi. “I try to use it as an inspiration, and on the field, I think it’s to my advantage. I can hide behind the bigger guys in the hole, and a lot of times, the defenders can’t find me.”
Cervizzi found a fan right away in first-year coach Pat Foley.
“He’s not big, but you won’t find a kid anywhere who works harder,” said Foley.
That work ethic is based in Cervizzi’s loyalty to the martial arts, where his dad, Paul, is one of a couple dozen 10th degree black belts on the planet.
“So much of the balance and leverage in the martial arts translates right to the football field and not going down when you get hit,” said Cervizzi, whose favorite NFL player is of course a guy who he could see eye-to-eye with — ex-Patriot and current Chargers’ halfback Woodhead.
“But there’s also the strength, the fitness and the discipline from it, too.”
Cervizzi prides himself on being a hybrid as a runner.
“I don’t like to go down on the first hit,” he said. “And I spent a lot of time this summer, trying to get better with my breakaway speed.”
Cervizzi, who chose Brooks after looking hard at Pingree, Governor’s, Phillips Andover and St. John’s Prep, is on pace to break the 1,000-yard barrier in the eight-game Brooks season, an accomplishment that’s not easy.
All the reps, the summer workouts and the dedication to the gridiron come with one goal in mind after graduation.
“I really want to play Ivy League football,” said Cervizzi, who has a 90 average and is taking the SAT for the first time this winter. “I got a prospect letter from Princeton already, and I visited there, and I liked what I saw.”
Until then, though, he’ll continue here on campus, working the ambassador to football role at Brooks, striving for those goals and fighting himself for respect and for every inch he earns.
DID YOU KNOW?
Brooks School junior running back Chris Cervizzi is a man of many talents. Did you know that Cervizzi:
— Is a second-degree black belt and is has already been named to the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
— Won three different gold medals last year at the International Martial Arts Grand Nationals in Cancun, Mexico.
— Once scored 5 TDs in a youth football game vs. Pentucket and accomplished the same feat for Brooks School last weekend vs. St. George’s.
— Packs a real wallop in his 5-foot-6, 165-pound frame. He has put up 280 pounds on the bench press and has squatted 415 pounds.
— Plays piano in his free time and owns a 90 average in the classroom. He has set the goal to someday play Ivy League football.