ATHLETE OF THE WEEK Secaucus' Nunez follows in footsteps of big brother
Nov 04, 2008 | 4244 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Mike Nunez was growing up, he didn't have to look far to find inspiration and motivation. In fact, the person that Nunez looked up to shared his own living room, namely older brother Ricky.

"Honestly, Ricky inspired me to do so much," said the younger Nunez, currently playing linebacker and running back for the undefeated Secaucus High School football team. "He's the one who inspired me to play football. I always looked up to him."

When the Nunez family moved to Secaucus from New York when Mike was just 9 years old, it was Ricky who took his little brother by the hand and enrolled him to play Pop Warner youth football.

"He was the one who started playing and then I joined," Mike Nunez said. "He was always a positive role model for me. I just wanted to be as good as he was one day. I aspired to be as good as he was. I was so happy to have Ricky as my brother."

When the time came for the younger Nunez to enroll at Secaucus High three years ago, where Ricky was already entrenched as a solid three-sport athlete, Mike was ready to follow in his brother's huge footsteps.

In fact, it didn't take long for the younger Nunez to make his presence felt as a varsity football player at Secaucus.

"I put him on the field right away as a freshman," said Secaucus head football coach Charlie Voorhees. "He's been a starter ever since."

The Nunez brothers got the chance to play together as teammates for two seasons.

But ever since Ricky Nunez graduated in 2007, the younger brother has had to go on his own way.

However, there's no doubt that the little brother can handle himself on his own quite well.

Last Friday night, the Patriots were getting ready to face BCSL National rival St. Mary's of Rutherford in a crucial game that had ramifications in both the league standings and the NJSIAA state playoff scenario.

"Every year, I can't wait to play St. Mary's," Nunez said. "It's a tough battle every time we play them."

In Nunez' first high school football game, St. Mary's laid a licking on the Patriots to the tune of 41-6. It was something that Nunez never forgot.

"That was tough," Nunez said. "That's why this time, we were all really focused. It's my senior year and I wanted to make sure that we came out as winners." So Nunez made a pre-game speech to his teammates.

"I basically said that this game was like a state playoff game for us," Nunez said. "We really needed it. There was no way we were going to lose."

Voorhees knew that he didn't have to worry about his senior captain.

"Since the last game of last year, Mike has been absolutely dominant defensively," Voorhees said. "He just makes plays. He sets the tone for us defensively."

However, in the first half in the game against St. Mary's, Nunez was beside himself.

"He was really trying to do too much," Voorhees said. "He wasn't playing like he normally does."

"I was trying to make every play that I could and it wasn't working," Nunez said. "I was trying to do too much. Coach [Voorhees] said that it would be better if I let the game come to me."

"After halftime, Mike just had to trust the players around him to also make plays," Voorhees said. "But he made a ton of plays on his own."

As it turned out, Nunez made more than his fair share of tackles from his linebacker slot. In fact, he set a new school record by collecting 22 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, in the Patriots' huge 14-7 victory, pushing Secaucus' record to 5-0. For his efforts, Nunez has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Nunez also earns the Athlete distinction captured by his brother two years ago. The Nunez brothers become only the second pair of brothers to ever earn Athlete of the Week honors, joining Brian and Mike Lang of St. Peter's Prep.

Voorhees was impressed with the way Nunez took over the game defensively.

"When Mike saw a crease, he just went after it," Voorhees said. "He filled the gaps and made the plays. He was just that dominant."

Nunez had no idea that he had so many tackles.

"I thought that was crazy," Nunez said. "I figured there was no way that I could have 22 tackles. I didn't know I could get that many. Everything went well for us, especially in the second half. I just found a way to get to the ball and made the tackles."

Considering that most football teams average anywhere between 45 to 50 offensive plays in a game, Nunez getting in on 22 of those plays is quite extraordinary.

"It was a phenomenal performance, but it wouldn't surprise me if he does it again," Voorhees said. "He does take some chances and I have to yell at him, but it's short lived, because he realizes what he's doing. He's really at the top of his game right now. He's going to graduate as the best linebacker we've ever had and that is saying a lot."

Nunez is an avid student of the game of football. While he plays basketball and baseball as well, Nunez studies football more intently.

"I watch a lot of game films," Nunez said. "I watch our opponents over and over again, to see if I can pick up trends. I bug [Coach Voorhees] every day if he has the film for me to take home. I watch the film twice, then go over it again. There are a few little things I can pick up by watching the film."

Nunez was floored when he realized that Voorhees said that he was the best linebacker ever, even better than his older brother.

"It's a great compliment," Nunez said. "My brother was a very good player. I'm glad I could be like him."

Nunez is hopeful that a college takes notice and recruits him.

"I know I have to get the SAT scores up," Nunez said. "That's what we're waiting on. I really want to play in college so bad. I keep telling Coach [Voorhees] to get the colleges to come to see me. I'm really bugging him about it. I don't care where I go. I just want a chance to play."

"He's a very nice kid with a lot of respect for everyone," Voorhees said. "He has an intense desire to do well in all sports. He's been a starter for us for four years and there's no one who will come close to his tackle record. His desire to win is tremendous. He really sets a different tone for everyone."

There's bad news for future opponents. There's another Nunez on the horizon - 7-year-old Rene Nunez, who wears No. 34 like his older brother Mike. Every Nunez needs a brother to look up to. - Jim Hague
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