Healthier Costello seeks big impact
As Nick Costello laid on the turf at Wilkes University’s Ralston Athletic Complex, the thoughts flowing through his head weren’t exactly positive.
Beyond the excruciating pain he was feeling from the broken collarbone he had just suffered, he couldn’t help but think about all the time he was going to miss for the Lycoming football team. The receiver had truly begun to realize his potential over the course of the 2016 season. He was a 6-foot-5 matchup problem who could be one of the biggest game-changers in the Middle Atlantic Conference.
Costello’s injury occurred on Lycoming’s first offensive snap of the game. And in true Nick Costello fashion, it was a play which picked up 43 yards. But with essentially three games still remaining in the season, Costello’s year was done. The promise of what was sure to be an All-Conference kind of season disappeared on that one play.
Costello still finished with strong numbers — 34 receptions, 625 yards and five touchdowns — but nothing like what they could have been with three more games of action to add on.
“As soon as it happened, that’s all I was thinking about,” Costello said during Lycoming’s media day last week. “It popped in my head that I was missing the last two games and I didn’t like that at all. I just started worrying about the recovery and I didn’t know how that was going to be. It definitely got me out of a little bit of a groove, but the Canada trip helped me get back in the gist of things. I think I should be able to jump back in where I was last year.”
Even though Costello was shut out of the all-conference selections last year, his impact was palpable. He was third in the conference in receiving yards per game (78.1) and second in the MAC with 18.38 yards per reception. He also had 27 of his 34 receptions go for either first downs or touchdowns.
It was the potential kick-start to what could be a junior season in which Costello fully realizes his potential. As a freshman he was a player worth keeping an eye on because his 6-foot-5 frame made him an outlier in the MAC, and his strong 200-pound body made him tough to bring down.
Now, on top of all that, he’s learned how to be a better receiver. Regardless of who Lycoming’s starting quarterback is when it opens the season Saturday at Susquehanna, all they need to do it get the ball in Costello’s general direction for him to haul it in.
“While he’s not super twitchy or elusive, how do you cover 6-5, 200 pounds who is good in the weight room,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “He’s fast enough that when he gets going, you’re not going to catch him. You’re just not. He could be really good for us.”
For Costello, this season is about him becoming a leader. He’s confident in who he is and what he’s capable of as a football player. But for him to take the next step in his development, he wants to lead a corps of receivers which is full of potential.
Fellow junior Mike Mulvihill stepped into Costello’s role after his injury last year and had 12 of his 16 catches on the season over the final three games. Mulvihill had a career high five receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Delaware Valley.
Kyle Slivka-Fralin finished averaging better than 10 yards a catch with three touchdowns, and John Kim and Brock Zollicoffer add some athleticism and depth to the corps, combining for 20 catches and nearly 200 yards.
“I don’t know how, but I’m a junior already and I have to be more of a leader on the field,” Costello said. “We have a big group of guys and I need to lead the corps better than I did last year and make the plays when they’re presented to me.”
“That group of receivers is good,” Clark said. “Nick may be our most explosive or dangerous guy because of his size, but there’s some other guys who can help us in there, too.”