Nick Villanueva is an “all-around” leader for the Colonels.
As he sat in his dorm room at the University of Rhode Island in the fall of 2015, Nick Villanueva couldn’t help but think about one thing — football.
For the first time since third grade, there were no shoulder pads to put on, cleats to tie or playbook to study. He was out of the game.
“I missed it more than anything,” Villanueva, a Hanson resident said. “At that time, all I could really do was follow the Patriots. I was watching football every day.”
Villanueva opted to attend URI in order to pursue a degree in engineering despite being recruited by colleges to play football, after hauling in 31 passes for 538 yards and two touchdowns in his senior season at Whitman-Hanson Regional High in 2014. He quickly realized URI wasn’t the place for him.
“I started missing the game and everybody because I saw the football team there playing and everyone preparing for the season,” Villanueva said. “It was the first time I hadn’t had to go through camp and everything.”
It wasn’t completely lost time for Villanueva, though. He pushed himself to the limit in the weight room, with a mission of getting back into the game the following year. After transferring to Curry College, he was one step closer.
“I had a coach who coached at W-H and coached at Curry, coach [Steve] Scott, and he told me a lot about Curry and the program and I should give it a shot,” Villanueva said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been waiting,’ and I kind of made my decision really quick.”
His next step was to pick up the phone and call Curry head coach Skip Bandini.
“I told him who I was and that I was interested in playing football,” Villanueva said. “I had to almost ask to play.”
Bandini let Villanueva come to camp. He caught the coach’s attention right away.
“I saw a kid that was very well mannered,” Bandini said. “He’s very articulate. Coach Scott said that this is a kid that we want on our team and coach Scott was right.”
Since making the team, Villanueva has blossomed into Curry’s go-to offensive weapon at wide receiver, earning Second-Team All-Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Football Offensive selection in 2017 and Second-Team All-CCC honors last season. But his biggest achievement came heading into this season: being voted as team captain.
“It’s a great honor,” Villanueva said. “To have my teammates think of me as a leader for them makes me feel incredible. I just want to be a member of the team and not only lead by example but make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
Bandini called Villanueva an “all-around leader.”
“Any company would love to hire this kid,” he said. “We have players speak in front of recruits all the time and their parents. He gets up there and is very articulate, passionate about what he talks about, clear and concise and he certainly delivers a great message, so I think that makes him stand out above the other people.”
Last season, Villanueva ranked in the top five in the conference in receptions (50, third), receptions per game (5.0, second), receiving yards (655, fourth), receiving yards per game (6.5, third) and yards per reception (13.1, third).
“The system is great and practicing every day and just being part of the system kind of made it happen,” Villanueva said. “My teammates make me that much better, I just happened to be the one in the right place at the right time.”
Villanueva said he has a new appreciation for the game of football now, after going a year without it.
“Coming to Curry changed my whole life,” Villanueva said. “It was probably the greatest decision I’ve ever made. Whether I have anything going on in my personal life or school, once I step foot between those sidelines and get on the field, all that goes out the window and it’s a whole new life. I loved the game my whole life but having that time off made me realize it’s not always going to be there for me so I have to take advantage of it while I have it.”