Hugh Kelleher shows up — always.
If the MacArthur Generals had an important football game, Kelleher, a two-time Newsday All-Long Island selection, turned in the big performance. If a lacrosse game was to be decided in the waning seconds, MacArthur coach John Nessler wanted the ball in Kelleher’s stick.
And when MacArthur High School ran a fundraiser or a community service event, Kelleher could be found in the thick of it. Whether it was a book collection or packing backpacks full of supplies for underprivileged students or a lacrosse clinic for kids with autism — Kelleher showed up.
While Kelleher found time to succeed on and off the field and in his community, South Side senior Nick LiCalzi was doing much of the same in his town.
LiCalzi also showed up.
He was an impact player on both sides of the football and a two-time Newsday All-Long Island selection. He propelled the Cyclones to a 9-2 season and the Nassau Conference III final. He was one of coach Steve DiPietro’s top lacrosse players for four years and earned Nassau long-stick midfielder of the year in 2019.
LiCalzi, a devout Christian, went on mission trips with his church and during the pandemic has helped his mom make masks for essential workers in the community.
For their accomplishments, Kelleher and LiCalzi were recognized as the first recipients of the Tom Flatley Award, which will be presented annually to a male student-athlete in Nassau who competes at a high level in football and lacrosse, demonstrates athletic and peer leadership, academic success, and participates in extracurricular school and/or community service.
Both winners received a $1,000 scholarship from the Nassau Lacrosse Coaches Association.
The eight-man committee consisting of football and lacrosse coaches across Nassau narrowed the nominations to four finalists, which included standouts Jacob Bruno of Cold Spring Harbor and Billy Kephart of Garden City.
“We started talking about an award to recognize the impact of Tom Flatley back in August,” said Joe Baccarella, vice president of the National Interscholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association. “We thought it would be fitting to recognize these great student-athletes while he was still around. We wanted him to see the impressive candidates.”
Flatley was one of the most successful football and lacrosse coaches in state history. He led Sewanhaka lacrosse to 131 wins in six years and the school’s only Long Island title in 1981. After taking over the Garden City football program in 1985, he led the Trojans to 18 Nassau Conference championships and five Long Island championships.
Flatley died on May 26 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 80.
“I am so honored to win this award,” said Kelleher, who will attend Cornell this year. “He was a great man and an unbelievable coach. I will never forget when I was in ninth grade and playing JV football and we beat Garden City. Coach Flatley came over to me after we beat them and congratulated me. I’ll never forget that. It really left an impression.”
LiCalzi, who committed to the U.S. Naval Academy to play lacrosse, will leave for school on July 2.
“I’m super honored about receiving this award,” he said. “I’ve heard great things about coach Flatley. One of my coaches at South Side, coach [Connor] Horl, played for him, and said his impact is what inspired him to become a coach.”
Kelleher and LiCalzi have already started to inspire folks.