When Rob Nittolo Jr. settled in after transferring to Hillsborough High School in February, his new teammates quickly found he was as eager to help them as they were to have a Division I-caliber quarterback to learn and work with every day.
Nittolo’s family moved from Florida where he was the starting quarterback at powerhouse William T. Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens to Hillsborough to be closer to Rob’s grandfather Ralph, who lives in Hillsborough and has been waging a successful fight with cancer.
Nittolo’s dad, Rob Sr., was a quarterback for Middlesex, then transferred after his sophomore year to Immaculata where he led the Spartans to combined 15-4 record in the 1986 and 1987 seasons. He went on to play at the University of Minnesota, then Pittsburgh. Rob’s mother, Darlene “Dolly” May Nittolo, grew up in Scotch Plains.
Rob Nittolo Jr. has the ability to be the second Division I quarterback in the family and Hillsborough’s best player and quarterback since former Penn State standout and former New England Patriot Shawn Mayer (1994-97). Nittolo has been offered a scholarship by James Madison University with plenty more expected to do the same. Nittolo reserves that talk for the backburner.
He says his grandfather is doing well, and he’s very happy to be in New Jersey where he had visited many times before this year. He is also being coached by Kevin Carty, a former standout at Somerville High, who went on to play collegiately and is known for nurturing of young quarterbacks.
“It’s a good situation being here,” said Nittolo, 6-2, 200 pounds. “I do miss my friends that I played with; that was a little upsetting, but its awesome being here.”
Nittolo is outgoing, always prepared to talk sports — about a play from a NFL exhibition game the night before or about the NBA champion Miami Heat, his favorite team. Whether you’re a teammate or an introverted classmate, Nittolo will engage you in conversation.
“He’s not too cool for anybody,” said Carty.
The Raiders, 3-7 last season, figure to be much better with Nittolo, who spearheaded Dwyer’s 9-4 season after beating out senior Clay Meister for the starting role. Nittolo threw for 833 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, but also ran for 105 on 21 carries. He has been timed at 4.65 for the 40.
“He’s a big kid who runs fast,” said Carty. “He’s a really, really good thrower with a live arm and he’s very accurate. He doesn’t miss much.”
Not all of it has to do with his quick three-step drop, fast release and powerful arm. What Raider receivers like Cedre Small, Jared Senerchia, Andrew Zitel and Scot Levonaitis has learned is Nittolo’s confidence in what they can do.
“I see some real talent here,” Nittolo said. “We really have some awesome receivers.”
One of Nittolo’s best friends and talented receivers Johnnie Dixon visited New Jersey during spring break. Dixon, who had 711 yards in receptions and eight touchdowns last year for Dwyer, worked out with Nittolo and some of the other Raider receivers. Dixon, a senior this year, has received more than 20 offers.
“Johnnie told me that Cedre looked like a Florida kid to him, that he could play at the D-I level,” Nittolo said.
WNittolo may rejoin Dixon somewhere at the big-time college level, but where the quarterback will land won’t be decided for awhile. Right now, the idea is to make his one season at Hillsborough a special one, helping the Raiders win, and for more colleges to see just how good a Florida transfer with deep Jersey genes can be.