AOTW: Mainiero has versatile day in Maroon Raider setback

Mainiero’s Sports Shop has been a staple of the Nutley community for ages. Located on Franklin Avenue, right behind the Nutley Diner, Nick Mainiero, Sr. and his son, Nicholas, have partnered to establish the premier sporting goods store in Nutley for four decades.

Someday, the third generation of the Mainiero family, also named Nick, will probably take over. The youngest Mainiero knows all about the family business, having worked at the store when he’s free from Nutley classes or free from any outside activities.

“I think there will be a time when they just pass it over,” Maineiro said. “It’s been amazing growing up, knowing my grandpa and my Dad have the shop in hand. They’re always around to help me out.”

The eldest of the Maineiro family played football and wrestled at Nutley High during his heyday. His father was also a fine gridder, so they went to carve out a lasting legacy in Nutley football.

“I owe a lot to my father and grandfather for helping me out. Having the shop inspired me.”

The youngest of the three Nick Maineiros is busy making his mark for the Maroon Raiders this season. You can’t ask Maineiro what position he plays, because he’s likely to say all of them.

“He’s the most versatile athlete we have,” Nutley head coach Tom Basile said. “He’s only about 5-foot-6, but he does it all.”

For example, Maineiro used to be a slot receiver who was moved to running back this season. He handles the long snapping on placekicks and punts. He plays cornerback and safety and sometimes linebacker.

To try to change the fortunes of the struggling Maroon Raiders, Basile turned Maineiro into a Wildcat formation quarterback, a la Tim Tebow, where Maineiro lines up as a shotgun quarterback and has the option to either run or throw.

“I knew he could throw the ball a little, so we put the Wildcat package in for Nick,” Basile said. “I already knew he could run. Our running game was non-existent. Nick has the heart of a lion who just keeps going.”

More like the Energizer Bunny _ who has disappeared and taken a sabbatical from television advertising lately.

“Nick is a throwback kid, in that he would do anything for the team,” Basile said. “I wish the whole team had his attitude. He’s not a big kid at all.”

Maineiro didn’t mind having the bulk of the responsibilities on his shoulders.

“I think it’s great,” Maineiro said. “We’ve been practicing the new formation with me as the quarterback. I never played quarterback before. I was a running back my whole life growing up. So this was new to me. Anything I can do to help the team win, then I’m going to do it. Let’s see what I could do.”

“Nick is a natural,” Basile said. “I knew he could handle it. Nick didn’t bat an eye when I approached him with the change. He just said he’d do it.”

Sure enough, Maineiro did it all last Saturday against Orange. He carried the ball 17 times for 52 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground. He completed both of his passes for 60 yards and another score. He also returned a punt 76 yards for another touchdown.

On defense, he made six tackles from his cornerback slot and collected an interception. Needless to say, Maineiro had a very productive day.

And for his efforts, Maineiro has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

In a case of sheer irony, Maineiro becomes the first football player to ever in the 15-year history of the feature to earn Observer Athlete of the Week honors _ and his team suffered a loss in the process. Nutley lost the game to Orange, 36-29, in overtime Saturday at Orange.

“His individual performance shined in so many aspects of the game,” Rybeck said. “I think he’s the kind of kid who would have stood out no matter what.”

“It’s really tough,” Maineiro said. “We’re not a 1-5 football team, I can tell you that. There’s a little sense of pride that I did all that. It’s just a shame we lost.”

Maneiro is just a junior, so he will be back next season as well. He’s strictly a football player and will condition himself next year to have an even better senior year.

“My senior year, I’ll be ready to handle whatever role is best for me,” Maineiro said. “Then, if I was able to play college football, I’d relish that chance. But it’s not something I’m striving for right now. If it happens, it happens. I just want to come back next year and win.”

And help his Grandpa and Dad to run their business.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”