By Maximillian C. Burgos
Few players would return to the football field after going into cardiac arrest in high school. But Anthony Cortazzo, a sophomore political science major and the defensive lineman for the College’s football team, is different.
As a high school junior, Cortazzo almost had his entire life derailed when he suddenly collapsed during a routine track practice
“I was running warmup laps,” Cortazzo said. “And I collapsed, going into cardiac arrest. I was revived with CPR and an AED. It was discovered afterward that I was born with congenital heart defect.”
Congenital heart disease, one of the most common types of birth defects, affects the heart’s structure and function. It can cause death if not treated properly. In Cortazzo’s case, there were no symptoms present until he collapsed during that practice.Cortazzo underwent a five-hour open heart surgery to correct the issues with his heart.
“It was like a three-month period of absolutely no weight on my chest to let my sternum heal after the surgery,” Cortazzo said. “It was a six-month recovery period in all. I was actually able to come back and finish my senior year of football. I played the last half of my senior year in football and ran track.”
Cortazzo was able to return to sports after the traumatic experience, but he later admitted that it wasn’t easy. Coming back from what could have been a fatal experience limited his ability on the field and the track.
After high school, Cortazzo attended Rowan University and he did not lose faith in his ability to play on the field. He still hoped for a college career in football.
“I went to Rowan with the intention and the understanding that I would be able to play football there, or at least try out,” Cortazzo said. “I believed I would be able to play football somewhere after what happened to me.”
Cortazzo never got a chance to play at Rowan. He made the decision to transfer to the College after his sophomore year.
On Oct. 14, the Lions traveled to play Rowan University at their Homecoming game.
Cortazzo had played in plenty of games this season, but facing the team that never gave him a shot was some added inspiration.
“I was excited to go back and play Rowan,” Cortazzo said. “Going back and playing at Rowan was defiantly intense considering the fact that they never gave me a chance and it was their Homecoming. It was great. It couldn’t have gone any better in my opinion.”
Cortazzo played hard when he was on the field. He recorded key tackles toward the end of the game to help the Lions come away with a victory. Fellow defensive lineman Shane Kelley was impressed with Cortazzo’s performance.
“He was a monster,” Kelley said. “He made some clutch tackles that really helped out the team and close out the game.”
Kelley wasn’t the only one that had high praise for their fellow Lion.
“Anthony is one of those relentless players that plays bigger than he is,” said head coach Casey Goff. “He’s strong, he’s fast and he plays with a ton of heart. Anthony is what you want in a football player. He’s the kind of player that will go through a wall and not ask questions. He’s one of those old school players in the new age of football. I would love to have more Anthony Cortazzos.”
Goff also joked about Cortazzo’s smaller stature as a inspirational defensive lineman.
“Now we are going to feed him and feed him in this offseason,” Goff said. “And he knows that. He’s a weightroom rat. He works his balls off in there. We are more than excited about him and the progress that he has made.”
Coming into the College’s final home game, Cortazzo has totaled 20 tackles this season, putting him for 13th most on the team.
“Playing again is awesome,” Cortazzo said. “I love it. I’ve missed it. I definitely feel like I’ve created a bond with the teammates here which is something I missed from high school.”