Nick Calcaterra Has Established Himself as One of the Top Offensive Linemen in the City Section
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
When it comes to the pancake block, no one on the Palisades High football team has accumlated more over the last two seasons than big No. 76 Nick Calcaterra. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive lineman has twice been an All-Western League first team pick and has twice been named to the All-City second team. The senior-to-be was chosen Palisades’ Lineman of the Year in 2018. He made the Cal-Hi Sports All-State team as a sophomore and as a junior and was a straight ‘A’ student as an 11th-grader. He led the varsity squad with 66 pancake blocks his sophomore season and added 44 last fall for a two-year total of 110. In his two seasons on varsity the Dolphins have won nine of 10 league games. They tied Fairfax for the league crown in 2018 and took first place outright last fall for their first undisputed league championship since 1987. He also qualified for the City track and field finals in the shot put as a sophomore. Although he has been hard at work preparing for his last year in the blue and white Calcaterra recently took time out for an interview with Sports Editor Steve Galluzzo about his workout regimen, college recruiting, effects of COVID on his offseason training and his expectations for 2020:
PP: How big of a change was it switching from guard to tackle last season? Which position do you prefer?
NC: There was an adjustment but not much so it was easy to get used to. The main adjustment was needing to be able to get set faster than while playing guard because the defensive ends are much faster than a defensive lineman. This just took some practice. It was nothing major. I like both spots but I think I like guard a bit better because you get to pull and be more physical. I think I’m going to be playing tackle this year but that could change depending on a lot of things.
PP: You have made the All-City team two years in a row but what accomplishment are you most proud of?
NC: I’m most proud of my 66 pancake blocks as a sophomore. If I’m not mistaken Ari Sallus (who was voted City Division I Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior at Palisades and is now entering his sophomore season at UC Davis) had that same number his sophomore year and being able to relate myself to someone like him makes me extremely proud.
PP: What was the most important thing you learned as a freshman on JV that prepared you for varsity?
NC: The most important thing I learned during my freshman year was how to be tough. Going into high school I’d never played a contact sport like football, so that was a huge change from anything before. I wanted to quit so many times during the conditioning, but luckily I stuck through it. Comparing those workouts that almost made me quit back then to the workout I do on varsity regularly now shows the insane progress I’ve made and it’s all because I learned how to be tough.
PP: What college offers have you received so far? What factors are you considering in deciding where to go?
NC: So far I’ve received two official offers, from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology [in Terre Haute, Indiana] and Macalester College [in Lake Forest, Illinois]. I’ve been talking to many other colleges. I’m especially interested in the Ivy League schools and many are saying they’d offer me right now if they could, but they just aren’t able to due to the weird circumstances with COVID and their admissions office.
PP: What are you working on most to prepare for the coming season?
NC: I’m most focused on my agility, core strength, and flexibility. I’ve been regularly seeing a sports trainer/physical therapist who helps me with those things. I can already feel the difference it’s made; it’s just easier moving around and I generally feel better.
PP: What effect has COVID had on your training? Where do you go to work out?
NC: COVID has had a huge impact on how I train compared to last year when I’d regularly work out in groups at the beach or at a park or at someone’s house. Obviously working out in groups like that now isn’t allowed so I’ve been working out by myself with the weights and bench that I have in my garage.
PP: Do you have any brothers or sisters and do they play any sports?
NC: I have one sister [Sophie] who is 18 and just graduated from Pali. She used to play volleyball but no longer does. My mom [Jill] was a swimmer in high school.
PP: When did you start to play football? Did you play other sports growing up?
NC: My first year playing football was my freshman year at Pali. Before that I had played a variety of sports: lacrosse, soccer, basketball, baseball and flag football, but I didn’t enjoy any of them much because I was so much bigger and slower than everyone else. When I joined the football team, I instantly knew I wanted to be a lineman because I was almost as big and strong as the seniors. I was actually benching more than Syr Riley, the best senior lineman on the team, by the end of the year.
PP: What coach has had the biggest influence on you or has taught you the most technique?
NC: [Offensive Line Coach] Johnny Garcia has by far helped me the most. I train with him after practice and go over film and technique. During practice he definitely helps the most with technique, while other coaches go over plays.
PP: What game last year do you remember most and why? What was your best game?
NC: I remember the game against Reseda the most last year. The reason is that their linemen and especially their linebackers had the worst sportsmanship of any team we played. They’d consistently talk so much trash but couldn’t back it up. They threw so many cheap shots at me in that game even though we consistently dominated them. Even on film it’s easy to see how many cheap shots they had on all of our players. I’m not sure what my best game was. I really only remember specific big moments in the games. If the play went just as expected I’m not going to remember that for anything special. I like to think I’m pretty consistent one game to the next and those big memorable plays only happen when they need to. My best game would be my most consistently good game.
PP: Do you still plan to throw the shot put or discus in track season? Have you practiced them since the spring?
NC: I’m not sure yet what track sports I’ll do this year. I’d like to throw the shot again but it might conflict with things, especially if football gets pushed back or times get changed. I’m just not sure what this year’s schedule is looking like, but I’d definitely like to throw shot again if it works out.
PP: Is there anyone in college or the NFL who you aspire to be like? Who has been your closest teammate at Palisades?
NC: There wasn’t one specific professional or college player that I looked up to growing up. However, there are many amazing linemen I look up to now, a few being Mitchell Schwartz (a Pali High alum who helped the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV in February), [former Dallas Cowboys guard] Larry Allen, [former Cincinnari Bengals tackle] Anthony Munoz, [former Baltimore Ravens tackle] Jonathan Ogden and even though he wasn’t a lineman, [Hall of Famer] Lawrence Taylor. As for teammates, I hang out with Forrest [Brock] the most off the field. I often work out with [fellow lineman] Nick Raddon too.
PP: If you stepped on the scale right now, what would you weigh? Where do you want to be when the season starts? How much can you bench press?
NC: Right now I’m about 290 pounds. I’d like to be down to say around 280 for the season which is a huge change compared to last season when I was at 330 or so. I can max a bench press at 325, but I admit I haven’t maxed in quite a long while.
PP: What are Coach Hyde’s strengths? Is he good at having the team prepared for the upcoming opponent?
NC: Coach Hyde is excellent at getting his players ready for an upcoming opponent. No matter what team it is, Coach Hyde will hype them up and make sure we are still giving it 100 percent. Players tend to become lazy if they know they are playing a bad team. Coach Hyde also prepares us all by sending us opponents’ scout films to watch. Also, we run the other team’s offense and defense in practice to get a feel for what playing them might be like.
PP: What schools did you attend before coming to coming to Palisades? Do you live nearby?
NC: I went to Kenter Canyon Elementary and then to Paul Revere Middle School. I played a variety of sports while I was there. I live in Brentwood, off of Mandeville Canyon.
PP: What are your expectations this season? Do you hope to be City Lineman of the Year? Will Palisades repeat as Western League champion?
NC: My expectations are extremely high, both for myself and the team. Individually, I’d love to be City Lineman of the Year and I’m going to try my absolute hardest to do so, but obviously I can’t guarantee I’ll get it. As for the team, I think we’re pretty well off. Our line should be very strong since four of our five starting linemen are returning. Our quarterback [Forrest brock] is also going to be a senior, so we’re solid there. We have a lot of fast guys that don’t have a set position yet because we had many seniors there last year, but I’m not worried about that. I think everyone will find his spot and our team will be overall good.
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