On Saturdays, Nick DeMarie is worried about gap control.
The rest of the week, he’s designing his future plan to sway the voters of New Jersey into thinking his way so he can help the state, country and world.
It’s safe to say the Nottingham senior linebacker is not your typical high school football player. For that matter, not your typical high school student.
“I hope that someday I can be elected U.S. Senator from New Jersey in order to serve the people of our state and address the issues that will be confronting our state at that time,” DeMarie said, matter-of-factly. “But I also want to make a difference globally.”
Is it any wonder Northstars coach Jon Adams has dubbed DeMarie with the nickname of “Mr. President”?
“He is a politician,” Adams said, with a fierce emphasis on the word politician. “He loves to speak politics and debate. He is a leader amongst his peers, a clean-cut All-American young man. The kind of kid you want to lead people.
“If you ran into him on the street, you wouldn’t think this bright, articulate young man who speaks so eloquently played linebacker or fullback. He is not the ‘prototype’ for that position.”
DeMarie is the first to admit that. He doesn’t look like a football player at 5-feet, 7-inches and 175 pounds. And he doesn’t sound like anyone who would want to throw themselves into the punishing mix of high school football.
But putting on that Northstar uniform is like Clark Kent donning his blue outfit and red cape.
“One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about football is the opportunity it provides for you to become a completely different person,” Nick said. “When I strap my helmet and shoulder pads on, both in practice and in games, I’m transformed.
“Many people that I know are really surprised when they see me playing because the majority will say that they can’t believe that number 33 is me, based on my aggression and reputation as a physical player. It sort of takes a lot of my friends by surprise.”
It often takes opponents by surprise as well, considering his size. But he plays his positions well, and with little fanfare.
As a blocking fullback last year, DeMarie was an integral part of Nottingham’s drive to the Central Jersey Group III championship. Adams still raves about the pancake block he threw in the title game against Neptune, which sprung Clyde Huntley for a 53-yard touchdown run that gave the Northstars a 28-18 third-quarter lead.
“I do think about that block in the Neptune game from time to time,” DeMarie said. “For me, it was a way to prove to Coach Adams and the coaching staff, undoubtedly, that I really deserved to be playing in that game and could execute in high pressure situations.”
DeMarie grew up in Mercerville, right off of Five Points, where he attended Morgan Elementary School before moving over to Reynolds for middle school.
His football career began at age 6 playing for the Nottingham Pop Warner team, before it merged into the Hamilton Revolution. He played middle linebacker on defense and tailback/fullback on offense, and credited the experience with helping him get ready for life with the Northstars.
When he arrived at Nottingham, Nick played middle linebacker and fullback on the freshman team before getting moved up to JV and starting at fullback at the end of his freshman year. As a sophomore, he played strictly outside linebacker on the JV team.
Last year, he got switched again to blocking fullback for the varsity.
“Just watch him block, it’s impressive,” Adams said. “He accepted the role of playing fullback and was a very effective blocker.
“However, this year, we needed him to fill the shoes of Devin Thompson as our SAM (strong side) linebacker from last year. He has accepted the role and despite his short stature, he makes plays all over the field. He is tough as nails and has played excellent football.
Adams said he will eventually use DeMarie as a two-way player, but for now, “Mr. President” is sticking to linebacker and special teams. DeMarie had no issues with moving back to linebacker, where his duties include quarterbacking the defense along with handling his gaps and taking on the tight end.
“When Coach Adams and Coach (Frank) Gatto (defensive coordinator) approached me about playing linebacker, I was actually thrilled to have the opportunity to return to defense to try to help out on that side of the ball,” Nick said. “Hopefully I would be contributing to a unit that wouldn’t lose a step from the previous season. Especially because I have several years of experience playing linebacker and because it is the position I feel is the most natural.
“I did not hesitate in accepting both coaches’ requests. Football parallels life, in that if there is a need, one needs to pitch in and fill it. When opportunities arise, don’t hesitate – accept them and learn from them.”
Adams raves about DeMarie’s football IQ and refers to him as “Gatt’s eyes on the field.”
Gatto can’t say enough about DeMarie, who is probably the most unheralded player on the team outside of the offensive linemen.
“Nick has done a great job adjusting to the linebacker position,” the coordinator said. “He also calls all the defenses, he is my quarterback on the field. Nick is a natural born leader who puts his teammates first.
“He’s a very bright player who understands the game and will make a great coach some day. His skills are outstanding. He is fast and very physical. He cares about people and is willing to help anyone in time of need. I am very happy this young man is being put in the spotlight.”
That spotlight may not fall on him as a coach, however, but as a politician. DeMarie got the bug in his living room at the ripe old age of 8.
“The 2004 Democratic National Convention was on television and my parents happened to have it on but weren’t really paying attention,” he recalled. “I was, however, and I can clearly remember watching President Clinton speak. I was just inspired by his message and demeanor, but I couldn’t fully understand all that he said, particularly economic issues and specific policies.
“Not knowing the specifics ignited a curiosity in me than has never been extinguished. I’ve always had the desire in my heart to want to effectuate positive change in the world, and when I understood that public service was a way in which I could become involved in a wide range of issues and topics, and that I could combine my love of history into the mix as well, I knew that this was the path I wanted to pursue in life.”
It doesn’t stop there, however.
“More specifically,” he added, “my goal in public life is to to help those in the world that are denied fundamental human rights gain access to basic freedoms by working to eradicate oppressive leaders and establish positive relationships with nations we are traditionally viewed unfavorably by.”
With that kind of attitude, it would be hard to count out DeMarie getting that U.S. Senate seat one year. And if he ever does actually live up to the nickname of Mr. President, he was asked what cabinet positions he would have for Adams, Gatto and legendary Nottingham sports photographer Wes Kirkpatrick.
Needless to say, he had a good time with that one.
“If I am extremely fortunate and am able to serve as president, I will appoint Coach Adams as Secretary of Defense,” he said, adding with a laugh. “Hey, football is a physical game, secretary of defense should be easy for him, right?”
One would think the defensive coordinator would have that role, but DeMarie has other plans for him.
“Coach Gatto would be Secretary of State,” he said. “He always has interesting and humorous stories and sayings. It would be amusing to see him negotiate with foreign leaders by telling one of his famous stories.
“And Coach Kirkpatrick would be Secretary of Education. Heck, he lives at Nottingham and is a mentor to all the guys on the team. This is a natural fit.”
Just as DeMarie is a natural fit, at linebacker, fullback or in the political arena.