Nolan Cooney, the East Greenwich athlete, who overcame testicular cancer while in high school, went to Bridgton Academy in Maine and walked on at Syracuse University, has achieved post season honors that most youngsters can only dream about.
Cooney was recently named an Honorable Mention All American by Pro Football Focus. He was also named Third Team All Atlantic Coast and won the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award as the league’s most courageous player. His 44.8 yards per punt average was a single season Syracuse record; 25 of his punts traveled 50 yards or more.
Other honors accrued by Cooney include several ACC(3x) and AD(5x) Honor Roll Awards; the Jim DaRin Courage Award, President of the Uplifting Athletes Organization; VP of Leadership team and a member of the Student Advisory Board.
He has three Syracuse “S” Letter Awards. He was the FBS Division 1 leader in punts (74) and punt yards (3314) and opponents averaged only 6 yards a return against his punts.
This year he was named Team Captain for the Senior Day Game. He should be attracting some pro football notice. He can offer five positions for the cost of one. At The “Cuse” he punted, kicked off, held for field goals and points after and can kick field goals and points after himself. Those attributes appeal to a coach like Bill Belichick of the N.E. Patriots, and there is word that some other teams may be interested. With a recent proliferation in pro football leagues, it would not be surprising if Cooney lands somewhere.
Another East Greenwich boy who is having quite a career for himself is Salve Regina’s Matt Sylvia. Despite a slow start as a freshman, Sylvia took off as a sophomore. He led the nation in interceptions for most of the season and finished in second place with eight, which set a Salve grid record. He made the New England Football Writers Association All Star team, was first team All Commonwealth Coast Conference and third team All East. He also garnered two Defensive Player of the Week Awards.
In 2019 he recorded 48 tackles and 2 interceptions, and once again earned first team All CCC honors.
If Salve plays this spring, Matt will be there and he also intends to play in the fall of 2021 as he starts work on his masters. He has an interest in playing beyond college and some doors may be open to him from CFL, XFL, Arena, The Spring Football League, Fan Controlled League or playing pro football in Europe.
EG’s Cristos Argys, who played his football at Moses Brown is returning to Holy Cross to continue his football journey. As a frosh he played in all 11 games as a backup safety and on special teams. That year he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against Boston College. He only played briefly in 2019 due to injury but has a comeback in mind when play resumes for the Crusaders.
So, Rhode Island boys continue to surprise, and star, at all levels of college football, coming from the country’s smallest state, with only 44 football playing high schools. People forget that most of the other states have high schools of 2,000 to 3,000 students, and that the formula is that for every 100 students there are 10 good athletes. Rhode Island only has 2 or 3 high schools that big. Not too long ago East Greenwich had an enrollment of 90 boys, yet went against schools, even in their own league, which were 2 or 3 times bigger. The recent list sent out of Rhode Island high school footballers who have gone on to big colleges and the pros should put to rest the notion that the Rhode Island high schools fall short in turning out talent. You have to look at the player, sometimes, and not the school or league, and, to get rid of the longtime inferiority complex that existed here, look at RI as a large city-state of 44 high schools and not a small state.
* This press release is brought to you courtesy of the Providence Gridiron Club, promoting Rhode Island football on all levels since 1945.