Xaverian's Iannacone signs with Wagner
Rocky Iannacone’s remarkable journey will continue on Staten Island.
Xaverian’s standout defensive end from The Bronx signed a National Letter of Intent with Wagner College, it was announced during a ceremony at the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn high school Friday afternoon.
“It feels pretty good that next year, not only will I be able to play football, I’ll be able to get an education, which is the most important thing in my life,” Iannacone said. “To be able to continue and play football, which I love, it’s just a dream.”
Iannacone chose Wagner over Sacred Heart and Maritime College. He fell in love on his visit and has been a regular fixture at the Seahawks spring practices.
“I like the atmosphere,” he said. “It felt like I never left home at all. I love the kids there, the coaches are fantastic, and the teachers are just great.”
Iannacone said he wants to coach in the future – he already has plenty of experience with the Warriors Football Club in Pelham Bay – and Wagner’s education program was ideal.
“It was a tough decision, but I’m glad its over and I can move on,” Iannacone said.
Iannacone said legendary Wagner coach Walt Hameline thinks he could be a hybrid defender with an opportunity to play on the line and as a linebacker.
“I’m always used to putting my hand on the ground, but now I get a chance to do other things,” Iannacone said. “That’s why I love Wagner. They love to blitz.”
Iannacone enjoyed a stellar senior season, earning second team all-city defensive honors by MSG Varsity. He helped guide the Clippers to a 7-3 record and a berth in the CHSFL Class AAA semifinals.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound warrior was among the league’s leaders with five sacks and had a memorable 98-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Iona Prep.
“He really didn’t waste a rep, from the weight room, off-season workouts and practices, for four years straight,” Xaverian coach Joe DeSiena said. “Rocky made himself the player he is and he should be proud of it.”
It’s hard for Rocky and his parents, Ray and Christine, to believe his days at Xaverian are down to a precious few.
“I remember him trying out for the freshmen team and I just can’t believe four years have gone by so fast,” Ray said.
Indeed, Graduation Day is bittersweet for Rocky.
“It’s sad because I made so many friends, not just the students, but the teachers too,” he said. “I’m going to miss a lot of them, but at the same time I’m happy that I get to move on to college.”
Wagner will be a whole new challenge for Rocky, who will have to prove himself all over again in the Northeast Conference.
“I’ve got to earn my spot,” he said. “It’s always hard when you’re a freshman. I’ve got to work hard.”
Because of that work ethic, DeSiena is confident Rocky will also succeed on the next level.
“Rocky’s going to be a guy who is going to have a short set of goals,” DeSiena said. “It’s not going to be, ‘I want to start and be all-conference.’ It’s going to be, ‘I want to have a good practice.’ That’s going to help him down the road…By the end of it all, he’s going to be on the field and he’s going to be making plays.”
When he was a freshman, Rocky remembers watching Najee Tyler, who transferred from Purdue to Youngstown State, sign his NLI in a ceremony at Xaverian.
“We were close when I was a freshman and he kept telling me to follow my dreams, keep working hard and one day, you’ll see,” Rocky said. “I’m following his footsteps now.”
And he’s living his dream, much to the delight of his mother, Christine.
“To watch what he’s been through for all these years, to see all the work he’s put in, he’s getting to where he wants to go,” Christine said. “Most of us don’t get to follow our dream.”
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