The days of practice remaining in Ryan Rossi's football-playing days at Rye are narrowed to a precious few.
The Garnets' seniors will play in their final game Sunday in Syracuse, attempting to win their third state championship in four years, so the time for the senior center to enjoy the rite of every Rye player is limited.
"I'm going to be sentimental. I actually can't wait to have Dino yell at me this week," Rossi said, referring to longtime coach Dino Garr. "I never thought I'd like it, but this week I'm looking forward to it."
It's just another example of how Rossi is a little different from his teammates.
Even as a two-year starter for Rye - which faces Oneida (Section 3) for the Class B state title - Rossi isn't immune to the occasional scolding from Garr.
The difference is, Rossi might be the only one who knows to appreciate it.
Rossi has that type of mind. He's a spiritual and philosophical person, an Aristotle in face paint. He writes "John 3:16" when he tapes his wrists, reads Ernest Hemingway, and keeps a diary. He meditates in the morning, prays every night, and outsmarts defenders nearly a hundred pounds heavier in between.
"Ryan is one of those guys who everybody loves and who just does everything right," Rye senior Rob Santangelo said. "I wouldn't say that he's the smartest kid on the team, but everything he says makes you feel at ease."
Rossi is not only the best lineman the Garnets have, but also the perfect centerpiece on a team with varying personalities.
It's amazing to think he's been around the program for just two years. He transferred from Iona Prep before last season after starring on the Gaels' freshman and junior-varsity levels. When he arrived at Rye last summer, he fit into the locker room immediately.
"He's brought this philosophical side to the team," Garr said. "He's a sharp kid who's very down to earth. He didn't come through the system, but he's a part of the system."
Rossi often reflects back to his first practice at Rye last summer. A linebacker his whole life, he met with Garr to find out his potential role.
"Can you carry the ball?" Garr asked, and Rossi nodded eagerly, thinking he would be in the backfield. "Good," Garr said. "You can be our center."
Initially, the position didn't fit Rossi, who's just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. But he quickly won the starting job and has played every game since. Rye is 24-0 in that span and on the brink of its second straight Class B state title.
"I wrote my college essay on how you can change and still be yourself," Rossi said. "I changed positions, but I still played the same way. I changed schools, but I was still the same person. I wrote about taking on these new challenges, and going against bigger kids, and how much I look forward to it."
Not a day goes by, though, when Rossi doesn't plead with Garr to let him play at least some defense.
Garr sticks to his philosophy of "babying" the center. In his mind, it's not worth risking injury to the center and ruining the continuity of the offense, especially since there's not much of a need on the Rye defense anyway.
Rossi has adapted to his surroundings well, both as an interior lineman and as a student. He followed Iona Prep this season as many of the players who spent time on the freshman and JV teams with him won the CHSFL title.
"I've always lived in Rye, and the Rye-Harrison game was in my backyard and had so much tradition," he said. "Being such a great program, I sat down with my mom and we realized that it doesn't make sense why I don't go there."
Rossi hopes to continue his career as a linebacker at Susquehanna University, mainly because of the school's prestigious undergraduate writing program. He wants to be a writer, either as a sports journalist or as a novelist.
His uncle, Kevin Pilkington, is a poet who authored "Ready to Eat the Sky" in 2004. Ryan's sister, Caitlan Rossi, and mother, Maureen Pilkington, are also published writers.
"Coming to Rye was a great move for me," Rossi said. "I loved being a part of this program. Even if I play in college, nothing is ever going to be like Rye football."