Mike Catapano adopted a very simple expression to help get him through his athletic journey, and he invoked it again Saturday as he celebrated his biggest achievement: Attack the now.
"I was going to 'attack the now' and just do everything I could and make the most of my opportunities," the former Chaminade and Princeton standout said shortly after being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with the first pick of the seventh round. "I had to capitalize more than a guy from Michigan State or Ohio State, so I've had a chip on my shoulder, knowing it's do-or-die."
Catapano, a 6-4, 270-pound defensive end who was named the Ivy League's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, now gets to live out the dream he has harbored for a decade.
"Since I was 12 years old, I've just been trying to play the game, always loved the game, and wanted to be the best," said Catapano, who lives in Bayville.
Catapano actually started playing football at age 8 at the suggestion of his mother, Barbara, who worried that her child was being bullied. He soon grew to cherish the game and eventually dreamed of an NFL career.
That day is here.
"You can't really put it into words," Catapano said. "To get to this point, it's overwhelming."
Former Chaminade coach Bill Basel was delighted at the news that Catapano had been drafted. Catapano, who overcame shoulder problems as a senior, played mostly fullback at Chaminade but also saw spot duty at defensive end.
"He saw light at the end of the tunnel and now his dream is coming true," Basel said. "You always wonder about some guys, and a lot of them don't take the chance like he did in trying to achieve his dream. One thing that's for sure is that Mike won't leave anything in the locker room. It all lies in front of him for what he can do. I'm just so proud of him and so proud that all his hard work has paid off in getting drafted."
Basel said Catapano's intense work ethic will serve him well.
"He has that willing attitude to do well," he said.
Basel remembers Catapano as "a good blocker and hard runner. He ran so hard that we would want him to make a move on a guy, but instead, he'd just run him over. We'd say, 'Hey Mike, why don't you try and make some sort of move against him?' But he'd just love to run over people instead."
Catapano joins a Chiefs team coached by Andy Reid, who inherited a 2-14 team but has re-tooled the roster with a sweeping series of offseason moves.
"We went through some tough years at Princeton, so I'm familiar with changing the attitude and believing," Catapano said. "That's another reason [the Chiefs] wanted me, to bring that attitude and energy. I'll bring that on every down I get to play.
"I know I'm ready," he said. "I'm just really proud to represent a great longstanding tradition, proud to put a little town like Bayville on the map."