SOMERVILLE, NJ - Two football standouts from Somerset County have been nominated to receive the 2018 USA Football Heart of a Giant Award presented by the Hospital for Special Surgery and the National Football League NY Giants.
Joseph Ciempola, a senior and captain of the Somerville High School football Pioneers, and Tom Zdroik, a member of the Hillsborough High School football Raiders were each nominated by their coach for their commitment, teamwork, will, character and dedication.
Zdroik was included in the third group of ten nominees announced by the sponsors; Ciempola was one of ten players from throughout the tri-state area included in the fifth group of ten nominees.
A sixth and final group of ten nominees will be announced on Nov. 5th.
One grand prize winner will be selected based on video submissions stating why they have the Heart of a Giant and will be honored on the field during a New York Giants’ home game at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.
Ciempola’s letter of recommendation was submitted by Dallas Whitaker, Pioneers’ head coach. It reads:
“Joe Ciempola is an outstanding individual who was a team captain last year as a junior on a state championship team and this year as a senior.
“Joe is one of the hardest working and the most coachable players I have ever had.” In addition to being the team's number one leader he works year round with our school's life skills program and unified bowling team.
"In addition Joe is also in the high school's peer leadership program.Joe has selflessly devoted himself to individuals with special needs his entire high school career.
"He is a leader within the community and conducts himself as such at all times. Joe's devotion to his community has been done without any need for recognition and for that reason his coach has nominated him for this award.”
Kevin Carty, Hillsborough High School head coach had high words of praise for Zdroik. His letter reads:
“Tom has been an outstanding leader and player for four years. He is an unbelievable unselfish player who has played nearly every snap of the game.
"Off the field, Tommy is an outstanding student and wonderful example of community service.
"He has over a 3.7 GPA, and volunteers at every opportunity to help the youth players in our program.
“It has also been extremely impressive this year to witness Tom's irrepressible enthusiastic leadership while his father, and extremely devoted and helpful supporter for our program, has been undergoing chemotherapy and other treatment for aggressive cancer.”
All six finalists will receive $1,500 for their high school’s football program, with the winner’s school getting an additional $3,500.
Votes can be cast at usafootball.com/heartofagiant.
The main campus of the Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City, with satellite locations in Princeton and Locust Valley, NY. It specializes in orthopedic surgery and the treatment of rheumatologic conditions. Founded in 1863 by James Knight, HSS is the oldest orthopedic hospital in the United States and is considered one of the top hospitals in the world for joint replacement.