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Bergen Catholic Grad Nick Tighe Rises Above Adversity at Amherst College

While growing up in River Vale, N.J., Nick Tighe loved playing sports, whether it be football, baseball, lacrosse or wrestling. Mostly, Tighe was drawn to football, playing since he was four or five years old and on through middle school.  

When it came to choosing a high school to attend, most of Tighe’s friends decided on Pascack Valley High School. However, Tighe chose an alternate path by attending Bergen Catholic High School.

“In 8th grade I had the chance to meet Coach Nunz [Nunzio Campanile] and was drawn to the culture,” said Tighe. “I wanted to get a great education and play at the highest level in high school sports.”

“I really developed as a person and player there, with an emphasis on toughness. I vividly remember people saying when the chips are down, the one thing that matters is being tough. Coach Nunz is a very important mentor to me – I went to Bergen Catholic as a teenager and came out a man.

“He always emphasized what it meant to be on a team, playing for the guy next to you, and accountability for your own actions. We faced adversity as a team my sophomore year, but we stayed the course and were very resilient.”

For Tighe, the support received from the student body, teachers and late athletic director Jack McGovern were unparalleled.

“We would have pep rallies during lunch, especially with all the big games,” Tighe said. “Every kid in the school bought in. It’s hard to find a culture like that – where every kid is united for one common goal. The teachers were aware of the big games on Fridays and Saturdays, and they bought into our success just as much as the players and students. At Bergen Catholic, it’s easy to be motivated when everyone around you is motivated.”

“Athletic Director Jack McGovern is was the face of Bergen Catholic, and he set up all the expectations for all of us. He was someone we looked up to and he truly supported us. I feel extremely sad for the McGovern family and my prayers are with them. He was everything the school stood for, a great leader, man and father.”

Playing on the gridiron for the Crusaders brought opportunities for Tighe and the rest of the team to travel to different parts of the country during the regular season and experience the way people live elsewhere.

“My freshman year, we went out to Las Vegas to play Bishop Gorman, sophomore year to Louisiana to play John Curtis, junior year to Arkansas, and senior year to Ohio,” said Tighe. “Traveling to different states and experiencing various traditions and ways of life was great. We would have pre-game meals with the opposing team.”

When it came to selecting a college, Tighe turned to Campanile for advice, but was most impressed with receiving receiving a call from Amherst College defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Bussard.

“I received a call from Coach Bussard and he wanted me to [attend] an overnight at Amherst. I went to visit and really enjoyed the campus and team,” said Tighe. “Coach Nunz also went to Amherst so he had a say in the decision and I committed in January of my senior year.”

Looking forward to the best of both worlds with football and academics at Amherst, Tighe hit a rough patch, sustaining a plethora of injuries that cost him valuable time away from playing the sport he loved so much.

“I had shoulder surgery before my freshman year, tore my hamstring, had shoulder problems and suffered a concussion last season,” said Tighe. “A little bit annoying because I had been unable to stay healthy.”

Despite these setbacks, Tighe has enjoyed the support from his coaches, teammates and professors.

“The two coaches that have had an impact on me are head coach (E.J.) Mills and Coach Bussard. Coach Bussard is my position coach for the linebackers. Coach Mills is also the defensive backs coach. Coach Mills has been very supportive of everyone and he always emphasizes academics. If you have any conflicts, he is even willing to go with you to an academic meeting. He is someone I can always go talk to.”

“I love the guys on the football team and we all come from diverse backgrounds. The Amherst community has been awesome with a ton of support from the professors. There are small classes and a great support staff. The Amherst Alumni Network and Bergen Catholic Network have enabled me to get excellent internships. Everyone here just wants to do well and is looking forward to a greater goal: to do well in college and get a good job.”

Returning to the field in his senior year, Tighe has made an impact by registering 29 tackles and a fumble through the first six games. I a double-overtime loss to Middlebury College on October 5, Tighe recorded a game high nine tackles, six of them solo.

“I have been able to showcase my skills as an outside linebacker – the physicality and toughness that I bring to the game,” said Tighe. “I play a position called ‘Viper’ that is a hybrid between linebacker and safety and quite unique. I move around quite a bit and have the opportunity to come downhill and play against the run and drop down into coverage when it’s a pass. It’s similar to the position I played at Bergen Catholic. The competition in the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) is awesome and a lot of these players are in it for the same reason – to get a great education and also play football.”

An economics major, Tighe has secured a job after graduation next year and is embracing the overall college experience.

“Division III is overlooked because there is a great balance between academics, football and extracurriculars. In Division I, I would not have been able to go abroad back in the spring with my three best friends to Rome. Players in Division I never get that opportunity to study in a foreign city and travel the whole semester because they have to be at school working out.”

“I already have a job locked down that is awesome, so in my senior year I don’t have a lot of stress and am just focusing on football and academics. My parents have been super supportive throughout my journey and my sister, who is two years older than me and went to Rutgers, is my biggest fan. My family has been willing to break their back for me and I wouldn’t be here today without them.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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