UMass: Correia trades court for gridiron

Sunday August 21, 2011

The former UMass point guard is now on the football roster as a defensive back.

AMHERST -- The face is familiar, but the equipment and the uniform number certainly are not.

Anyone attending a University of Massachusetts football practice may have noticed the defensive back wearing the number 13. He is Gary Correia, who was better known for four years as a point guard for head coach Derek Kellogg's Minutemen.

"It's a little different, I guess," said Correia, when asked about wearing the football gear. "I [played football] in high school."

Correia hadn't played football since high school. Recruited by former coach Steve Lappas out of the Northfield Mount Hermon prep school, Correia had a long and fairly successful career as a Minuteman.

He played in 27 games during his senior season, starting 25. Correia averaged 4.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. The Providence, R.I., native played in 124 career games, tying Chris Lowe for ninth all-time in games played.

It wasn't a difficult decision for Correia to try football again. He has six credits left to graduate, and didn't just want to be going to class. So Correia spoke with head coach Kevin Morris, who gladly accepted Correia to be additional depth in the UMass defensive secondary.

After years of listening to Kellogg, Vance Walberg and Adam Goldberg, now Correia is listening to Morris, defensive coordinator Frank Falcucci and cornerbacks coach Bryan Butterworth.

"The structure is a little bit different," said Correia. "In basketball, there's more running and being up and down. The conditioning is a little bit different. This game is a little more physical.

"Other than that, being a part of a team and part of a group, that's all the same."

It is often said that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you don't forget it. Is it the same if you haven't played football since 2007? Correia laughed and said no.

"Not at all. It was like trying to drive a Mack truck," the former guard said with a smile. "It was like something I'd never done before. It was a little bit crazy."

Correia said he didn't know if he'd get regular time in the defensive backfield, play special teams or basically be a practice player.

"That's up to the coaches," he said. "I'm going to work my hardest to try to get better every single day."

It'll be unusual to see Correia in a number other than the one he wore for four seasons at the Mullins Center. He said it wasn't available.

"No man, it was gone," said Correia. "The quarterback [freshman Michael Wegzyn] got one and [linebacker] Courtney [Jackson] got the other one."


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