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Sports Person of the Week
Tartagni’s the Man in the Middle for Guilford
Niko Tartagni wants to lead the Guilford football team to a successful season as a senior captain and middle linebacker. (Photo courtesy of Niko Tartagni)
Niko Tartagni is an integral member of the Guilford High School football squad who has anchored the team’s defense as a middle linebacker the past two seasons. Now a senior captain, Niko is ready to take the reins as a leader, while taking Guilford to another level this year.
“I’ve been playing football for about seven years,” says Niko. “I’ve made a lot of bonds and friendships with my teammates, and I’m really looking forward to getting started with this season.”
Guilford finished with a record of 4-6 in the 2019 season, but showed glimpses of becoming a contender by playing several competitive games, even in defeat. Niko proved a huge factor in Guilford’s progress by recording 70 tackles with one interception and one fumble recovery as a junior. Niko absolutely loves playing the middle linebacker position.
“I love being able to fly around the field and control the defense,” Niko says. “Getting the guys ready and knowing what to do is huge in game preparation. I also enjoy working out and building strength, so that I’m game ready.”
Head Coach Anthony Salvati calls Niko a coach’s dream. Aside from Niko’s skills on defense, Salvati was impressed with how Niko transitioned from playing running back to the offensive line last year. Salvati also saw plenty of traits that he knows are going to make Niko a great captain.
“Niko does anything and everything you ask him and does it at 100 miles per hour,” Salvati says. “He’s the vocal leader of the group and he’s respected by all.”
Last fall marked Salvati’s first campaign on the Guilford sidelines. Niko says that he and Salvati grew close throughout the course of the season.
“We’ve got a tight bond. I got to know him a lot last year,” says Niko of Salvati. “He came to work and wanted to get down to business, and that’s what I really harp on. He’s a great coach.”
The 2020 fall season is still no guarantee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Niko wants to play more than anything, so that he can help Guilford have a successful year, while also showcasing his talents to any colleges that are interested in him.
“I’m looking forward to the season, but it’s really in the hands of the officials at this point,” Niko says. “I’m hoping that we are able to start in time, and I think starting now would be as good of a time as ever, because we still have good weather.”
In terms of his plans for life after high school, Niko has been looking at colleges all around the New England area in his quest to continue his football career at the next level.
“I definitely want to stay more local because of my family, and my dream is to be able to play college football,” says Niko. “I’m going to work harder than ever this season to make sure that happens.”
Above all, Niko is aiming to create a solid foundation for the Guilford football team before he leaves the program. One of the biggest things for Niko is conveying the importance of hard work to the team’s younger athletes.
“I want to build for the football team and, hopefully, before I leave, we get these guys in the mindset of a hardworking culture,” Niko says. “I know when I first started, we had seniors that showed me the ropes and, once they graduated, I was able to improve because of what they taught me.”
Niko is also an outfielder for Guilford baseball team, although football has always been his main game. Aside from athletics, Niko is honors student who has a 3.1 grade-point average at Guilford High School.
“I enjoy baseball, but football is definitely my No. 1,” says Niko. “I also enjoy my schoolwork, and I feel like I’ve improved a lot academically over the years.”