Scituate Native’s Success on the Big Stage

Joe Gaziano's Story

Daniel Todd, Staff Writer

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College football fans will recognize the name Joe Gaziano, a star defensive lineman for the Northwestern Wildcats. However, many don’t know that he is from a small town on the coast of Massachusetts.

Raised in Scituate, Gaziano is something special: He made the All-Big Ten second team and finished first in total sacks (9) during the 2017 season. Although it is uncommon to see someone from the South Shore, and more specifically Scituate, playing Division I college football, Gaziano has successfully defied the odds. In fact, ever since the beginning, Gaziano has been proving people wrong, and that is what motivates him to keep going forward with his career.

According to Gaziano’s mother, Mary Ellen Gaziano, a sixth-grade math teacher at Gates Middle School, Joe has always demonstrated determination: “Since the beginning, his goal has always been to prove people wrong. He has his goals, and he never listens to the stuff on the outside that can bring him down.”

Ever since he started playing football with SciCoh (the combined Scituate-Cohasset youth football team), Gaziano has experienced the exhilaration of winning. His youth football team won five out of six Super Bowls, which is unquestionably a great accomplishment. With his dad, Frank Gaziano, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, coaching on the sidelines, Gaziano was always trying to improve his game. “I think learning the game of football doesn’t come overnight,” he said. When playing with SciCoh, Gaziano felt as though he “learned how to play different positions and how to fit into different schemes.” Gaziano said he always valued playing football with his friends every fall, and he still does to this day, although he’s playing at a higher level.

As his playing career progressed, Gaziano became more and more dedicated to the sport. According to his mother, “When Joe was in 8th grade, he was so committed to it. I think he has the heart and drive to never give up.”

When his career playing in SciCoh came to a close, Gaziano wanted to move onto Division I high school football. Although both of his parents are graduates of Scituate High School and several members of his family were All-Star SHS athletes, he decided to attend Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, MA. “I wanted to experience playing football outside of Scituate,” Gaziano explained. “I wanted to see what was out there and take advantage of the different opportunities that I had.”

The Xaverian Hawks won their State Championship during Gaziano’s junior and senior years with the football program. During his time at Xaverian, Gaziano was also a lacrosse star. According to Gaziano, attending Xaverian allowed him to take advantage of athletic opportunities while meeting new people who would be influential to his development.

When it was time to move onto college, Gaziano had several options. He was recruited by  Boston College, Syracuse University, Rutgers University, UMass, and Northwestern University, which are all Division I schools. Deciding which college to attend wasn’t all about football for Gaziano: “The decision to attend Northwestern was based on both academics and just getting the opportunity to get a degree at Northwestern–that created lots of value for me,” he explained.

Nevertheless, leaving Scituate and New England was challenging for Gaziano. His family has been nothing short of supportive, as his mother and father have traveled across the country to watch every single one of their son’s games throughout his time at Northwestern. According to Gaziano, “My family loves to travel and come to my games.”

As a freshman at Northwestern, Gaziano overcame several obstacles before he could be successful. Prior the season, he put on 40 pounds of muscle. He was redshirted his freshman year, but his college football career had only just begun.

During Gaziano’s sophomore year, his football career began to take off. He totaled nine sacks in the 2017 season, which led the Big Ten, along with making the All-Big Ten second team. Obviously, a great accomplishment, Gaziano’s success took his recognition to a higher level: He received recognition from sports media like ESPN.

This season, Gaziano’s junior year, he totaled six sacks during the regular season. Capping off 2018, the Northwestern Wildcats will face the University of Utah Swoops in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Nationally televised at 4:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1, the game marks the first time both teams have played in the Holiday Bowl. According to Mary Ellen Gaziano, the Gaziano family is incredibly excited to attend the game and watch Joe play, and they’re also excited to visit San Diego during the holiday season.

Looking to the future, Gaziano would love to make it into the NFL. “It’s a goal that I have to play in the NFL, but I do have one more year of eligibility with Northwestern,” he explained. “As a little kid when you’re playing on the Scituate fields and for SciCoh, you think about playing in the NFL. It’s one of those things that I always dreamed of; however, I never made it my priority,” he said.

“I think he has a shot,” Mary Ellen Gaziano said, “We will continue to support him no matter what he chooses to do.” With his family behind him and the goal of making it to the NFL in his head, it appears anything is possible for Joe Gaziano.

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Scituate Native’s Success on the Big Stage