By Matthew Portnoy
With six minutes left in the third quarter of the 2014 football season, Coach Mike Passuello asked the team, “This is your last game… how do you want to go out?” As the team huddled under the bright lights of the Merchant Marine Academy’s football field, each player’s mind shifted. Each suddenly became determined to beat South’s ultimate rival: North High. Down by 28 points, their spirits were low. This final huddle of the game was critical, and everyone knew that. Each player listened carefully and ran back to the field, ready to win. Like a scene out of a movie, the team miraculously took the lead. Putting in every ounce of energy, South won with a score of 34 – 32.
Senior Karan Thadhani, captain of the football team, remembers this night vividly, calling it one of his favorite memories from his time with South’s football team. Even though Thadhani didn’t score the final touchdown or give the final motivating speech during that game, he loved how his team came together and played as a single unit. That’s what makes Thadhani special: he puts his team before himself. He always “motivates [the team] on and off the field especially if we have lost a game,” said teammate Julian Francis. “He tells us to ‘keep our heads high’ and for that reason he motivates us to be better the next day.”
This year, Thadhani was nominated by the physical education department for the USA Heart Of A Giant award, which honors the hardest working high school football player in the tri-state area. The player who wins must excel in five categories: commitment, teamwork, will, character, and dedication. The winner receives a trophy on the field during a New York Giants football game as well as $5,000 to put towards his school’s football program.
Mr. Jon Ruvio, assistant coach of the football team, knows that Thadani has devoted countless hours to the team and fits all the criteria to win. “Karan motivates. Karan likes to get his team on board. Karan likes to keep things positive,” said Mr. Ruvio. “He likes to be the person to give the big speech before the game where he talks about team work on the field and off.”
Although Thadhani has been playing football since seventh grade, it was not until the two straining weeks of tryouts preceding his freshman year that he learned how dedication to an activity can shape you as a person. It was during these “hell weeks” he learned to “focus on doing everything the right way, without taking shortcuts.” By having this mindset on the field and seeing the outcome, he has taken it with him through life off the field where everything he does is based on taking initiative and being diligent. Thadhani’s main goal is to help the entire team be the best it can be. He builds all of his actions as captain on that pillar; every speech he gives and every move on the field he makes is to help the team as a whole.
Throughout his four years as a football player at South High, the greatest lesson Thadhani has learned is to have pride in himself, his team, and his school. Thadhani believes that the Rebels won that last game of the season in 2014 because of “Rebel Pride.” The team knew they could win that final game: their mindset shifted, they remembered the hard work and dedication they had put in all year, and they went for it. Ever since then, Thadhani and the rest of the team end each huddle by proudly roaring “Rebel Pride” regardless of the outcome of their game “because at the end of the day, if you can go home and be able to say that you gave it your all, you’ve won,” Thadhani says.
Thadhani is proud to be a Rebel and wants to win the award not for himself but for the school. He wants to be “be a representation of the opportunity that Great Neck South provides.”