Football rivalry can't diminish rock-solid friendship of these high school captains
By CLAUDIA McDONNELL
Ryan Hoffer, Colin Flynn, Nick Costa.
They've been buddies since they were in elementary school at St. Eugene's in Yonkers. Now, as high school seniors, they're still the best of friends.
Until they suit up and hit the football field, where they become the most determined of foes in what all of them call an intense rivalry. Each attends a different Catholic high school that competes in league play, and each is a team captain. When they're on the field, they're in it to win.
"After the coin toss," Hoffer said, "it's strictly business."
"I definitely would never take it easy on them," Flynn remarked. "I try to hit them extra hard."
The rest of the time, they share a friendship so strong that Hoffer said, "We're like brothers." They hang out together on weekends, go to parties together, sometimes work out and train together, and look out for each other. Their friends know that off the field, they're a team of their own.
"Wherever one of us goes, you can expect two more," Hoffer said.
Costa, 17, is the son of Donna and Anthony Costa and attends Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle; Flynn, 17, is the son of Joanne and Kevin Flynn and attends Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx; and Hoffer, who turns 17 this month, is the son of Kathy and Rich Hoffer and attends Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. They talked with CNY on a recent Saturday morning at Stepinac.
All three live in Yonkers, belong to St. Eugene's parish and became friends at the parish school, which Costa and Hoffer attended from kindergarten. Flynn, who was born in his mother's native New Zealand2his father is American2entered the school in third grade.
Flynn and Hoffer played basketball, and all three got into track and baseball.
'We were always playing sports together, always looking to do something," Costa said.
When the time came to choose a high school, Costa and Hoffer each followed in his older brother's footsteps. Flynn said he was torn between Stepinac and Iona, but when his father pressed him to make a choice, he picked Fordham.
All said the three schools are very different, and each said he loves the one he attends.
"I'd have it no other way," Flynn said. He added that they have benefited by having different coaches: Mike O'Donnell at Stepinac, Peter Gorynski at Fordham, and Vic Quirolo at Iona.
Costa suggested that if they'd gone to the same school, they'd get tired of each other because they'd always be together. This way, "when we do see each other, we're happy to see each other," he said.
Hoffer said simply, "It's brought us closer."
Maybe it's a long shot, but it's just possible that any two of them could end up at the same college. All are being recruited by Division I schools, and each has the look of a college football star: clean-cut and powerfully built. Hoffer, a defensive end, is 6 feet 3 inches and weighs 250 pounds; Flynn, a linebacker and running back, is 6 feet 2 inches and 235. Costa, a running back who also runs track, is 5 feet 7 inches and 170; the others are quick to remark that though he's smaller than they are, he's also faster, "one of the fastest kids in New York," with a time of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Hoffer said proudly.
The three friends say they admire the ideal of the scholar-athlete, and they work hard to live up to it. Schoolwork never takes a backseat.
"My coaches always say that in the word 'student-athlete,' 'student' comes before 'athlete,' Hoffer said. "They really push for academics as well as athletics."
"My dad is always on me29You've got to keep working hard in school, that's number one,'" Flynn said.
Costa said that student-athletes benefit by having to manage full schedules.
"I've found that if you are just a student, you have a lot of free time after school, and you tend to get lazy," he said. "But when you're a student-athlete, you have to be organized, and things work out a lot better that way."
"He's definitely right," Flynn said. "I couldn't imagine not doing a sport... It's got to be boring."
"I think that sports has really kept us out of trouble," Hoffer said. The others quickly agreed, finishing each other's sentences as they explained.
Without sports, "you're looking for something to do," Costa said.
"That's where questions come in: what if I do this, what if I do that," Hoffer added.
"Sports keep me in check," Flynn said. "If you see some guys doing drugs, you just know you can't do it2"
"2because you're an athlete," said Hoffer.
"2you're trying to go to college," said Flynn.
"2or you have a game tomorrow," Hoffer said. "That's another thing that brought us together. We all stay away from all that and focus on our school and athletics. So we look to each other to get out of those situations, and it's worked every time."
The same strategy applies anytime they run into something they don't want to get involved in.
"We just walk the other way, just go throw a football around or play wiffleball," Hoffer said. "Then that gets tense...that gets us going."
"Back to square one," he said. "Back to getting into competition again."
"Everything we do, somehow or another, leads to the Stepinac-Iona-Fordham rivalry," Hoffer went on, smiling. He said it influences their work as captains. "We bring that intensity to our teams from each other."
They are equally intense about their loyalty to each other. Flynn said that's mainly because of "all the good times" they've shared, but he added, "If anything sad happens, we'll always be there to help each other."
Hoffer recalled that when he was in the fifth grade and his uncle died, Costa and Flynn came to the funeral. Costa said, "Last year I broke my jaw; these guys were there for me."
Said Flynn, "We'll always have each other's back."