Bison athlete of the Week: RJ Nitti ’17, Football

Devan Schulte, Senior Writer

Out of all the Bison quarterbacks over the past 20 years, R.J. Nitti ’17 is the only one to tally a win in Ithaca against Cornell. The New York native led the Orange and Blue to an outstanding 19-14 victory against the Big Red on Sept. 19 after executing a 14-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Nitti collected two touchdowns on the day, completed 20 of 33 passes, and threw for 174 yards. Most remarkably, it was in the high-pressure moments that Nitti found his success.

“On fourth and 10, my mindset was to trust my teammates and the play call and then just to do my job and execute the play. The way to deal with the pressure is preparation during the week,” Nitti said.

Although as a quarterback his personal success is often highlighted, Nitti attributes the win to a complete team effort. The combined running, passing, and defending game of both offensive and defensive players created an atmosphere that enabled big playmakers like Nitti to succeed. C.J. Williams ’17 led the Bison on offense with 133 yards, Joey DeFloria ’18 capitalized on Nitti’s last touchdown pass, and Bryan Marine ’19 had his first career interception to stop the Big Red from tying or winning the game.

“Everyone did their job when it came time to make the plays that needed to be made, the offensive line protected well, and the team kept a good attitude throughout the game which is crucial in tight games,” Nitti said.

In his second year as the team’s starting quarterback, Nitti recognizes how important it is for each player to win his individual battles on the field in order for the entire time to be successful. As a sophomore, he completed 105 of 195 passes for a total of 1,553 yards and threw for 13 touchdowns. In addition, he was the first Bison since 1996 to throw four touchdowns in a single game. As a first-year, Nitti played in four games and started in three. Since then, he has grown significantly as a football player and especially as a quarterback.

“I have become a student of the game, as one of the most important ways to improve as a quarterback is film study. Also, I have gained weight through the off season training and the summer program,” Nitti said.

Nitti has two seasons left as a Bison, but he has high hopes to win a championship this year. He is extremely aware of the possible setbacks the team could face within the next few weeks and is actively preparing to overcome adversity.

“Every Saturday is a challenge. Mental toughness is the key to overcoming obstacles,” Nitti said.

The entire Bison squad will need to exhibit mental toughness in the upcoming weeks in order to secure crucial victories both at home and on the road. To deal with the weekly challenge, Nitti has specific pregame rituals he uses, including reading over notes, cleaning his room, and listening to J. Cole. To get relaxed and focused on game day, he listens to reggae. His rituals have proved effective so far, as the Bison have only suffered one loss to Duquesne.

Nitti and the rest of the Orange and Blue will have a weekend off to recover and rest before heading back out on the road against VMI on Oct. 3.


Bison 2015 stats:

Five touchdowns

552 yards passing

96.8% passing efficiency rating

Average passing: 184 yards per game

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