By Chris Rotolo |
MIDDLETOWN — For the third consecutive season, members of the Middletown High School South football program will have one of their own to root for on Super Bowl Sunday.
Earlier this week a framed Philadelphia Eagles jersey was placed prominently in the school’s trophy case, recognizing the monumental achievement of MHSS alumnus Rick Lovato.
A 2011 graduate, Lovato will serve as the Eagles’ long snapper in Sunday’s title bout against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, making it three straight Super Bowls that South coach Steve Antonucci will watch a former standout from his program compete for the Lombardi Trophy. Lovato joins Knowshon Moreno, who played with the Denver Broncos in 2016, and Scott Simonsen, a member of the Carolina Panthers in last year’s game.
“I just saw Rick’s father this past week and we spoke about how proud we are of him. It’s sort of a ‘proud father moment’ for both of us,” said Antonucci, who completed his 20th season at the helm of the Middletown South program this past fall.
“Over the years, our coaching staff has spent so much time with Rick and Knowshon and Scott, as well as their families, so when they get to this level and they’re playing in the biggest game of the year where the entire country is watching, you feel that sense of pride, because you feel like you were a small part of their journey,” he said.
Lovato, who was an All-Conference lineman for the MHSS Eagles as a senior, will be the fourth Middletown South alum to appear in a Super Bowl, joining Moreno, Simonsen and Christian Peter, who was part of a New York Giants team that fell to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.
“The Middletown South football program is a family and Rick is one of my brothers. I couldn’t be more proud of him and everything he’s accomplished,” said Peter.
“We’re all pulling for Rick, especially because he needs to end the losing streak for us,” said Peter, referencing the Super Bowl losses suffered by all three previous MHSS players and their respective NFL organizations. “With all the adversity Rick has faced in his career, he’s never given up, and now he’s one of the most revered long snappers in the NFL playing in a Super Bowl. It’s a great story, and I think it’s going to end with him and the Eagles on top,” Peters predicted.
When Lovato takes the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it will be a scene that resonates with Antonucci’s current players and a moment the longtime Eagles head man will use to teach his student-athletes about more than just the game of football.
“Every kid that comes into our program, we talk to them about playing at the next level, but also using their experience over these four years to better themselves as people,” Antonucci said. “And when you have a player and a person of Rick’s character carrying the program with them to the highest levels of the game, it’s a tremendous example to take to the guys we have here.”
Lovato and the Philadelphia Eagles will square off with the Patriots on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m.
The game will be televised by NBC with coverage starting at noon, followed by a National Anthem performance from Pink and a half time show starring Justin Timberlake.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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