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Kyle Maruca was one of three recipients of this year’s SCC Comeback Player of the Year Award after working his way back from surgery to repair a torn labrum to finish his careers with North Haven’s football and track teams. (Photo courtesy of Kyle Maruca )
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You can call Kyle Maruca the comeback kid. Maruca is a recent North Haven High School graduate who put together excellent careers as a lineman with the football team and a thrower in the track program. However, in order to even compete in his senior year, Maruca had to battle his way back from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Maruca was recognized for his efforts to get back on the field—and how well he performed after he did—when he was selected as a recipient of the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Every year, Connecticut Orthopaedics, a corporate sponsor of the SCC, presents a Comeback Player of the Year Award to student-athletes who overcome severe injuries to play interscholastic sports and then display great leadership upon their return. This year, Maruca joined Edwin James Figueroa, a member of the football and track teams at Hamden; and Mia Lawrence, a gymnast at Mercy; as recipients of the award. All three athletes will receive a financial scholarship for their college education. On June 9, Kyle was presented with his Comeback Player of the Year accolade during a ceremony at Connecticut Orthopaedics in Hamden.
“I wish there didn’t have to be a Comeback Player Award. I wish every kid could play every season and never get hurt,” Maruca said. “But the fact that the award does exist and I showed everyone involved that I was good enough and lucky enough to be nominated was a great thing. It’s one of my greatest accomplishments.”
Maruca was nominated for the award by North Haven football Head Coach Anthony Sagnella. Maruca suited up as an offensive tackle/defensive end for Sagnella’s squad, earning a starting position as a junior.
In the first game of his junior season, Maruca tried to tackle a West Haven ball carrier when his right arm got sandwiched between one of his teammates and a West Haven offensive lineman. Maruca’s shoulder popped out and then popped right back in during the play. Maruca came out of the game for a few plays, but went back in to finish it out, and was able to play the rest of the 2018 campaign.
Maruca had to deal with some pain in his shoulder throughout the season, but it was never to the point where he thought the injury was serious or that he had torn anything. Maruca competed for the boys’ indoor track team in the winter and the outdoor squad for a portion of the spring, recording historic performances during each season.
With the indoor team, Maruca claimed a conference title in the shot put by launching a toss of 48 feet-1 inch to win the event at the SCC Championship. Then for the outdoor team, Maruca broke the school record in the discus with a throw of 162 feet-5 inches in a regular-season meet.
Early in that season, Maruca went to his doctor for his yearly checkup and told the doctor that his shoulder was bothering him. Following a baseline assessment and some X-rays, Maruca found out that he had nearly torn the entire labrum in his right shoulder and needed immediate surgery to prevent him from tearing his rotator cuff. Maruca underwent the surgery, bringing his junior outdoor track season to an abrupt end and putting his senior season with the football team in question. The timetable for his recovery was eight to 10 months.
“It was definitely heartbreaking and confidence rattling. When I got out of surgery, my arm was in a sling, and I could not move it or feel it. It was so scary, and I didn’t know what would happen,” said Maruca. “The doctor said I would throw again, but said nothing about football. That was definitely a hit on me psychologically, and it was hard to come to terms that it could all be over for football. That was eye-opening to me. I had taken it for granted over the years, and now it could all be in jeopardy.”
Despite this major setback, Maruca was determined to get back on the football field for his senior year. For five months, Maruca went to Quinnipiac Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine for his rehabilitation, doing a pair of three-hour sessions each week. He also attended the football team’s summer weightlifting sessions in order to bond with his teammates. Maruca said there were some long, sleepless nights throughout that process, but that he was comforted by his parents Janet and David, who would stay up with him and make sure that he remained in the right headspace.
Bolstered by the support of the people in his corner, Maruca kept working hard and ultimately defied the odds by completing his rehabilitation in five months. When North Haven faced West Haven for its fourth game of the 2019 season, Maruca was back in uniform and ready to provide his formidable presence on both sides of the line.
“It was so nice. Everything that I had worked for had come full-circle,” Maruca said. “I just wanted to get back to them. People kept asking me when I would come back. They were all so invested, and I just wanted to get back to them. It was really the people around me who kept me going. It was my support system—my friends, my teammates, my coaches, and my parents. I didn’t want to let them down.”
Maruca started the last seven games of his senior season, helping North Haven post a record of 5-2 in those matchups to finish with an overall mark of 6-4. Maruca said the best moment of the season came when North Haven notched a 28-14 victory over an undefeated Sheehan team on Senior Night. With North Haven up 21-14 late in the third quarter, Maruca and his twin brother, fellow two-way lineman Luke Maruca, took down Sheehan’s quarterback and forced a fumble to give the ball back to North Haven, setting up an insurance touchdown that solidified the victory.
“That was by far the best game of my season and by far the highlight of my career. I was very blessed to be out there. It was the best feeling to win that game in front of our home fans,” Kyle Maruca said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though I missed three games, that experience helped shape me as a person going forward. It allowed me to be better on and off the football field. It just allowed me to appreciate what I had. I didn’t take anything for granted that night or that season.”
Maruca said the experience of grinding his way back to the gridiron changed his overall perspective and taught him about the importance of appreciating the opportunities in life. Maruca never expected to overcome so much adversity to simply to play his senior season. However, Maruca knows that the lessons he learned along the way had a huge influence on the way he looks at things.
“It changed my life forever. It allowed me to view the world as it should be. Don’t take things for granted,” said Maruca. “If there is an opportunity, take it and go for it. Don’t sit back and wait for the absolute best chance. Just go for that one. It’s all about, when the time comes, being mature enough to realize that it’s there.”
Following the football season, Maruca got the opportunity to compete alongside his brother Luke during the indoor track season this winter. The Maruca brothers turned in several strong performances in the shot put throughout the postseason and then finished their campaigns by competing together at the State Open.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them participating in the outdoor track season, Maruca and his brother are both looking forward to continuing their careers in college. Kyle is going to join the men’s track program at Merrimack College, a Division I school in Massachusetts, while Luke is headed to Rhode Island to play Division III football for Salve Regina University.
Kyle Maruca said that he is 100-percent healthy and ready to make a name for himself at the collegiate level. As he looks forward to the next stage of his life, Maruca expressed great appreciation for having had the chance to play sports in North Haven, along with tremendous gratitude to everyone who helped make the last few years such a rewarding experience.
“It shaped me into the person that I am today, and I really wouldn’t be who I am without that opportunity,” Maruca said. “It was just a great experience that gave me a lot, and I will forever be grateful to have played for the maroon and white.”
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