Clifton’s Own Nominated
For USA Football’s
Heart of a Giant

NEW JERSEY – Clifton’s own Nicholas Burgess has been nominated for USA Football’s Heart of a Giant Award presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants.

The 2021 USA Football Heart of a Giant Award presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and NY Giants announced their second set of outstanding Tri-State area high school football player nominees open for voting. These students have been nominated by their coaches for their commitment, teamwork, will, character and dedication.

The voting period for these nominees is now open until October 3, at 11:59pm ET with the final vote tally determining who will be named the group’s finalist.

Overall, there will be six weekly finalists and five wild card finalists, leading to 11 total honorees. Each finalist will receive $1,000 for their high school’s football program, with the grand prize winner’s school getting an additional $4,000. The grand prize winner will be selected based on video submissions stating why they have the Heart of a Giant.

(in alpha order by last name)

Nicholas Burgess; Clifton High School (Clifton, NJ)
Nick Is 1 of 5 children who had a very tough life growing up. He and his 1 sister were adopted by an elderly couple. Last November Nick came to live with my family, wife and 3 kids. So, we can give him the guidance and direction he needed to succeed in life. Coach Cinque describes Nick as perseverant, having the biggest heart and endless amount of will power.

Melvin Claudio; Roselle Park High School (Roselle Park, NJ)
Melvin is described as caring, mature, and resilient. Melvin has had a difficult time dealing with a very sick mother. He has taken on the responsibility of caring for her while continuing to do well in school, working a part-time job, and playing football for the Roselle Park Panthers. I am impressed that a young man can handle such a challenge without it knocking him out. To be sure, some days are more difficult than others, but Melvin always comes back to the team and contributes significantly to the program’s goals as a starter on both sides of the ball.

Taylor Christ; Summit High School (Summit, NJ)
Taylor has been not only an example of commitment to his fellow seniors, but he has set the bar for the underclassmen as well. During quarantine, our weight room was shut down and he organized 6am workouts before school at the local YMCA so the team could complete workouts. He also has overcome so much to be in the position that he is in. He comes from an adoptive family, where his true birth mother is not in the picture. He finds a passion for football as the world around sometimes feels as if the walls are collapsing. His teammates selected him as a captain because of his love for this program and the game. He is expected to lead during tough times as others will choose to follow. He is the embodiment of adversary, and I can’t wait to see how his senior year plays out.

Quinn Devlin; Livingston High School (Livingston, NJ)
Dedication – Generally, I think that I’ve always been described as extremely dedicated by my coaches no matter the situation I am never someone who will quit but instead will be a relentless hard-worker despite any adversity. I am showing my dedication to my high school football program, my teammates, and my coaches currently as I tore my ACL in early June at a football showcase at Yale University, and despite this I have come to nearly every practice (had to miss a couple days after my surgery). Not just being at these practices and sitting there though, instead I am showing my dedication to our program by teaching up some of the younger kids and getting them better for future generations, as well as helping the coaches in any way that I can. Furthermore, I am so dedicated to this program that even though I tore my ACL about a month ago (June 6th), I am still committed to somehow find a way to recover quickly and get back on that field and help my teammates out later in the season.

Denholm Feldman; Fairfield Ludlowe High School (Fairfield, CT)
Three words Coach, Mitchell Ross, uses to describe Denholm Feldman are perseverance, determination, and intelligence. Denholm was in a horrific car accident last summer. He suffered many physical and emotional injuries including multiple facial fractures, required 7 root canals and tooth transplants with the most significant issue being the death of a good friend. Then the piling on seemed to show no mercy – Covid restrictions, then Connecticut canceling the official high school season, all this while his parents were divorcing. Then we were able to start playing an abbreviated season. Somehow despite all the broken bones, Denholm was able to return to play only to have his season cut short by an ACL tear in the 3rd game. He now has just returned to the field following the operation and his drive and will to compete remains strong. He is our team captain and will likely be a 2-way starter. This doesn’t even mention the fact that he sports a 4.0 GPA and hos work doing medical research.

Dominick Novello; Wellington C. Mepham High School (Bellmore, NY)
Dedication – I chose this characteristic, because ever since I was young the people in my life had told me “Hard work and dedication will always beat talent when talent fails to work hard.” In order to succeed on the Football field, in the classroom, or whatever you would like to succeed in, I feel that if you work hard, you can achieve anything you want to. One example of a time I embodied dedication was going into my freshman year. July 14th, I had texted my coach, and said “If I work hard enough this year would there be a chance of me playing on varsity?” He had said, “Only you can decide that.” So, by the end of the summer, I hadn’t missed one practice persevered thought all the hard times and worked so hard I started all 10 games on defense and special teams that season. Another example of a time I embodied Dedication was after every Football game. Whether we win or lose, instead of going out to party. I would turn on my computer and watch film on the team we were playing the next week. To try and play better the following week, but mostly to improve how my team would do on game day. The last example of a time when I embodied dedication was last season. My team had won in a competition and the losing team had to do 25 pushups. I was the player to get down on the floor and do the 25 pushups with the losing team, and the rest of the winning team had joined in after I did. When I was in that moment, I knew that we are one Football team and if one person has to do something the rest of us will too!

Rione Symonds; Saranac Lake High School (Saranac Lake, NY)
Coach Bennett commented, “Rionne is a hard worker, determined and kind. He is a great teammate and even though he has never played the sport of football before, he strives to become a better teammate every single day. His 15-mile daily bike ride to practice is inspiring to the rest of the team that he has decided to come out for the season to play and help the team. Rionne shows up every day, ready to work, with a smile on his face, determined to get better and a team first attitude, despite his long ride to practice each day. Rionne has been a pleasure to coach, and it has been exciting watching him grow.” He describes Rione as having perseverance, determination, and incredible character.

Logan Torres; Wallington High School (Wallington, NJ)
Logan is the epitome of a team player. He unselfishly does his job no matter what is asked of him. That could be anything from stalk blocking, motioning to draw the defense a certain direction, or sprinting down on the kickoff team. His commitment to his TEAM is something not every player embodies. Coach Charles Vellis describes Logan as a tremendous young man who is committed, determined, and respected among many.


USA Football’s Heart Of A Giant is presented by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants. This award program seeks to find and highlight Tri-State high school players who demonstrate that extra something special. The ones that have a relentless work ethic and unmatched love for the game.

Values like commitment, character, teamwork, dedication and will are crucial every season. But in times like this, they matter even more. When your players can’t be side by side, when they don’t take the fields on Friday nights, who helps keep the team together?

That’s who we’re looking for. High school football may look different this year, but your athletes who inspire greatness both on and off the field still deserve the recognition.

Highlight them to show what they mean to your team. Give them a chance to win a $5,000 equipment grant for your program.

For more information on the program –