Purdue will have almost complete turnover with it specialists this coming season, but a key starter is returning in today’s player.
Nick Zecchino - Sr. (6)
Cedar Grove, NJ (Cedar Grove HS)
6’, 210 pounds
2021 Projection: Starter at long snapper
Zecchino has been around the college game a long time. In the season’s second game he will face his old school, as he played in all 12 games for UConn in 2016. He then lost his entire 2017 and 2018 seasons due to health issues:
Their son was about to play in a college football game 10 months following his third surgery for ulcerative colitis, which ravaged his body and sliced his weight 55 pounds to 145 in a span of about 90 days at the end of the 2016 season while at Connecticut.
“I’m out there playing football against Nevada in the first game, which was fantastic. It was awesome,” Nick said. “I know it was Nevada and everything – it wasn’t a huge grand stage – but it was one where I was getting goosebumps in the locker room. I couldn’t even believe it.”
Although Zecchino earned a scholarship to play for the Huskies from then-head coach Bob Diaco – who was recently fired as Purdue’s defensive coordinator after one season - his dream was to follow his dad’s footsteps and play in one of the nation’s top conferences. His father was the long snapper at Tennessee from 1986-88. His son would soon be looking for his opportunity.
Two years after he played his last game at UConn and nearly 14 months removed from watching the annual Fourth of July fireworks show on the Hudson River from his New York City hospital bed, Nick suited up for the Boilermakers.
Nick signed with UConn in February 2016. However, during his senior baseball season later that spring, symptoms started to surface. There was blood in his stool. Was it cancer? His condition didn’t improve. He started losing weight and it worsened. He was diagnosed with mild ulcerative colitis.
He ended up playing in all 12 games in 2016, a remarkable accomplishment given how his health was deteriorating. Nick started the season weighing 200 pounds. After the last game, he had dropped to 145.
That is quite the tale, but since that Nevada game Zecchino has been a mainstay int he lineup. He has started 18 consecutive games at long snapper and has been an Academic all-Big Ten selection as well. The COVID rules allowed him to return for a 6th season (though he likely had a case for a medical one anyway), and he will be a needed contributor as Purdue works in a new kicker and punter.
For more on his journey to Purdue I strongly recommend reading what he went through in 2017 and 2018 linked above.