By Olivia J. Cappoli
Special to GoHolyCross.com
From the time he was a young boy, Gerald Mistretta was a part of the fast-paced, unpredictable world of sports. It was not until he was a high school freshman, though, that he realized football was his true calling.
Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mistretta played basketball throughout his childhood and early adolescence. Then, in the eighth grade, he got his first taste of competitive football playing for the Brooklyn Hurricanes, a Pop Warner team. From that point on, football became his sport of choice. "It was my freshman year of high school when I began to focus solely on football," he said.
It was during those high school years that Mistretta honed his skills as a wide receiver. Playing that position for the Xaverian High School Clippers, he racked up a career total of 96 receptions for 1,510 yards and 20 touchdowns. Mistretta also played defense in high school, totaling 108 tackles and five interceptions.
Mistretta's talent on the field did not go unnoticed. Along with twice earning a spot on the All-Catholic High School Football League, he received first team All-City and fourth team All-State honors during his senior season. Throughout those years, Mistretta also learned a lot about being a leader. "Leadership was something both myself and the rest of the seniors developed throughout our careers," said Mistretta, who was named team captain during his senior year.
Mistretta's combined athletic and leadership skills led to his being recruited by many schools within the Patriot League. When it came time to choose which college he would attend, Mistretta opted for Holy Cross, "because of its reputation both academically and athletically, and its Jesuit affiliation."
His first year on the Holy Cross football team, he played in all 12 games as a wide receiver, starting in five. It was during that season that Mistretta experienced one of his most memorable moments as a Crusader. Recalling the team's 27-20 victory against Harvard, he said, "My most memorable moment took place right at Fitton Field when my first college catch went 45 yards for a touchdown against Harvard."
His freshman campaign foreshadowed the success of seasons to come. During his second year as a Crusader, Mistretta caught 29 passes for 374 yards and three scores. He finished the year ranked 16th in the Patriot League in receiving yards, 18th in receptions and 20th in scoring.
His junior year proved to be his stand out season thus far. Playing in all eleven games and starting in five last year, Mistretta totaled 60 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns. He was ranked third in the Patriot League in both receiving yards and receptions, and was seventh in all-purpose yards. He was also ranked nationally in two categories — receptions and receiving yards (32nd in receptions, and 51st in receiving yards). With those stats, it was no surprise when Mistretta was named first team All-Patriot League, and was chosen as a team captain for the 2012 season along with three other teammates.
Mistretta credits Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore for teaching him a great deal during the past three years. "He has taught me just as much off the field as he has on the field," said the wide receiver, adding that one of Coach Gilmore's most useful lessons has come in a oft-repeated reminder: "The pain of preparation outweighs the pain of defeat." For Mistretta that means putting in all the hard work now so he and his teammates can reap the rewards that come from it on game day.
Like many college football players, Mistretta hopes to one day play alongside some of the greats in the National Football League. However, if that does not work out, he plans to put his economics degree to work as an investment banker, helping individuals and corporations to find the funding to back their business ventures.
No matter which field he ends up pursuing, Mistretta is grateful for the unfaltering love and support he receives from his family. His parents, Gerald and Susan, along with his brother Richard and sister Francesca, cheer him on from the sidelines at every home game. He referrs to his mother and father as his role models because they taught him to be a responsible, hardworking individual. "Knowing all they went through to ensure my success is something I am very thankful for," Mistretta said.
When Mistretta graduates this upcoming May, one of the many things he will take away from his Holy Cross experience is the relationship he has built with his teammates and coaches. "But the most important thing I learned that allowed me to be successful here at Holy Cross is the power of mental toughness," said Mistretta. "I think the ability to bounce back after a mistake or a turn of events is crucial in the success of a player or a team."
With Mistretta's strong leadership and talent on the football field, the Crusaders look to make the 2012 season one for the books.
This story originally appeared in the September 22 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Dartmouth. To order a copy of the program, click here.