(SU ATHLETICS) - Two boys who grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania lost contact when they were each around six and ten years old. Neither of them expected to be reunited at Fort Drum this week. Quarterback Ryan Nassib
and Lieutenant Joe DeNenno grew up together in West Chester, Penn. and were each surprised to see each other at Syracuse football at Fort Drum, both in leadership roles.
"At first I didn't know who this guy was when he was staring at me because I haven't seen him since I was five, six years old," Nassib said. "Then once I put the name together and I was reminded who he was and who his family was, all of those memories started coming back. I was more friends with his younger brother and he was more friends with my older sister. It's a small world."
Lieutenant DeNenno's father reminded him of the connection and the two were able to meet up again after spending 20 years apart.
"His dad's really proud of him and talked to my dad who gave me the heads up a couple of years ago," Lieutenant DeNenno said. "I didn't put two and two together until I realized he played for Syracuse and he is coming up here. I looked at a few pictures online so I could get his face and hone in on him and try and save him from the drill sergeants."
While both Nassib and Lieutenant went their separate ways, their leadership paths crossed 350 miles away from home. Through the experiences this week, the two have found parallels between Nassib's leadership on the gridiron and Lieutenant DeNenno's role with the 10th Mountain Division's third brigade.
"A lot of their discipline and dynamics that they operate with their head coach and we have our head coach with General Milley, it's not all that different," Lieutenant DeNenno said. "They have a very focused mindset. They have a mission and a driven mentality just like we do. I will say this about the players. They have surprised me a lot. They are extremely respectful and disciplined. They have a very professional organization here."
Lieutenant DeNenno has been a key component in coordinating SU's week of camp at Fort Drum and has acted as a liaison between the football team and Fort Drum.
"Coming into this, I didn't know what to expect," Nassib said. "Being here for a few days, I'm shocked with how much I've learned. I never really understood how much leadership and teamwork are involved in the Army. All of those little things that they talk about and they preach, I always find myself kind of thinking, I can work that into the football team. I think it will help our team but we are learning from the best team in the world."
Both the SU football team and all of the military involved have been enjoying the learning experience. Today, the defense participated in PT training, learning how to work together in various tasks. The offense took part in engagement skills training, learning about the different vehicles and weapons used by the Army.
"It's a great feeling when you are able to provide my soldiers an opportunity to talk with their peers, guys in their age group and to be able to show them what they do," Lieutenant DeNenno said. "We can watch football games on TV and see their skill set but to be able to turn it around and give our men a sense of pride and it's a way tell a true story and communicate with these guys on what they do and what we do."