When Mark Piccirillo started playing football in first grade, there was no telling just how good of an athlete he would become. Flash forward to Mark's senior year of college, and he is arguably one of the best quarterbacks to have come through the NESCAC. But despite his talents, Mark attributes much of his success to the support of his family and coaches, and to the skills of his fellow teammates.
Being a quarterback is a unique and challenging position, because it takes technical precision and mental toughness. Quarterbacks typically garner most of the recognition for wins, as they are the face of the team and often in the limelight. Having this role on a team can be difficult, and many quarterbacks struggle to stay humble. Mark, however, is a very unique quarterback because he doesn't think that he makes the team, quite the contrary, he believes that it is his teammates that make him a better player and person.
Before Mark arrived at Wesleyan, he had a seasoned career at Shelton High School (Conn.). As a senior in 2014, he racked up numerous accolades including New Haven Register All-Area MVP, Connecticut Post Super 33 MVP, National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete, Walter Camp Player of the Year, Walter Camp First Team, First Team All-State, Southern Connecticut Division I Player of the Year, Shelton High School MVP, 960 WELI Player of the Year and the Connecticut Coach DeMaio Player of the Year.
Wesleyan Athletic Director Mike Whalen had the privilege of getting to know Mark throughout his recruiting process and remembers recognizing immediately that Mark had the it factor. "Having been around college football for over 30 years, I have been fortunate to have been around some very talented quarterbacks. Just like Mark, they all had the it factor. It is tough to define, however, when you see someone who has it, you know right away."
During Mark's time at Shelton, he helped guide his team to a State Championship (12-1 record), while setting career records for passing yards (5,976), passing touchdowns (64), total yards (8,835) and total touchdowns (110).
Mark's high school campaign did not come without it's own challenges. During his early years, he had torn his hamstring, and despite playing through the pain, he was always worried about reinjuring it. However, Mark is the type of athlete that is focused on his goals and would not let anything stand in his way. This dedication and persistence is why as a first-year student at Wesleyan, he became a starter midway through the season. To be a starter as a freshman is not super common, but Mark believes that, "You have to make sure that you are ready when they call your name," and he made sure he was ready before he even stepped on campus.
Head Coach Dan DiCenzo spoke about Mark's impact early on, stating, "He is a complete player and a student of the game. He has been a leader since he walked on campus and has continued to improve in every area of his game every day."
Since then, Mark has been a force on the field as a Cardinal. During his first year, he was named Wesleyan Rookie of the Year, and he was named Second Team All-NESCAC Offense during his sophomore year campaign. Last season, Mark continued to build upon previous year's successes, where he broke 11 program records and become Wesleyan's all-time leading scorer with 252 career-points and 42 career-touchdowns. During the 2017 campaign, Mark totaled 2,657 passing yards, which ranked fourth all-time among NESCAC leaders in a single-season. Additionally, he led the team in rushing as a junior and ranked sixth in the NESCAC.
It is easy to look at Mark's successful career and assume that he is someone who was born with talent. However, Mark has worked extremely hard to get to where he wants to be. DiCenzo explains, "Mark has had an outstanding career. He will graduate with a bunch of offensive records and it is well deserved. As coaches, we see the work he puts in, but from the outside they just see the results. Mark has earned his success through his hard work and dedication."
With his dedication and passion for the game, it is no surprise that Mark has become such a talented athlete. But what others may find shocking is his desire to pass knowledge and motivation on to his teammates. He expressed, "It's easy to see in practice when guys are tired or getting down on themselves, I know because I am tired too. But, I have to be the one that sets the tone. So, even if I am feeling terrible, I just try to get everyone going again and making sure everyone has the energy to play at a high level every day." In addition to this, Mark's mantra he preaches to younger players is, "Every time you touch the ball, you have to make something happen. You cannot take any time off." This type of mindset has allowed Mark to excel on the field and has helped to make his teammates better. Whalen explained, "Mark thrives on competition and has a real passion for the game. He has that rare ability to make everyone who plays around him better."
As Mark's playing time comes to an end at Wesleyan, he will be remembered for his contributions on and off the field. Whalen expressed, "When his college career comes to an end, Mark will own many Wesleyan records. However, what I will remember most about him is his unselfish attitude, strong commitment to his teammates and his willingness to always put the needs of the team ahead of his own."
Book: The Science of Running
Professor: Kyungmi Kim
Music: Rock n' Roll
Band/Artist: Led Zepplin
Pro Athlete: Aaron Rodgers
Started Football: First grade
Best Kept Secret: Afraid of the dark