Long line of athletic talent

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER John Nassib plays his final high school game tonight.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER John Nassib plays his final high school game tonight.
Posted: November 22, 2013

AS MALVERN PREP senior John Nassib fielded questions inside the health room at the school's O'Neill Center on Wednesday, an announcement blared over the public address system.

Wearing a white dress shirt with a gold tie and cream-colored vest that matched his pale-blonde hair, the 6-6, 245-pound Nassib stood on a desk, reached up and turned a knob that lowered the speaker's volume.

"Don't ask me how I knew that," he whispered, settling back to the ground, his face a tinge red from the effort.

Self-deprecation about his fair hair and skin wasn't far behind. But, imagine the advantage at a summer football camp where hundreds of other talented kids are all vying for the same attention.

"You go to camps and you try to stick out," said the 17-year-old Delaware commit. "Sometimes kids wear flashy cleats. I don't have to. I just use my hair. Mine's just natural."

If the hairdo doesn't work, his blend of size and skill should suffice. The surname doesn't hurt, either.

John Nassib, the youngest of five, hails from a long line of athletic talent. However, prowess wasn't necessarily preordained. In fact, lickings at the hands of siblings are what pushed him, as did trying to make his own name.

Older brother Ryan, 23, starred at Malvern (2007) and then at Syracuse before being drafted by the N.Y. Giants (fourth round) in 2013. Carl, 22, was also a Friar (2010) and is currently a 6-6, 220-pound defensive end at Penn State. Patriarch, Gil, the original Friar (1976), was a tight end at Delaware.

So, who's the best athlete? According to the youngest Nassib, the answer doesn't come from the male side of the gene pool.

"Personally, I think [Carey is] the best athlete," John said of his oldest sister. "She could jump through the roof. Tough as nails."

Carey, 25, played volleyball at Villa Maria Academy and later at Catholic University. Paige, 20, followed older sis, same high school, same sport. The originator and matriarch, Mary, played at Villanova.

"Athletically, for sure, I'm the best," said Carey over the phone from her home in Virginia. "I'm just joking. It's definitely hard to measure in our family."

Competition was fierce. Carey, 5-8, is the only member below 5-11, which earned her the handle "Stubbs."

"Not the most flattering of nicknames," she said.

Early on, John couldn't even get a title shot, let alone claim the throne.

"I remember I was never good enough to play with them," he said. "And if you weren't good, you weren't playing."

Ping-pong tournaments held in the basement of the family's West Chester home were serious business, replete with sketched out championship brackets. Lose 7-0 (skunk) and you weren't invited back. Better luck at the air hockey or foosball tourney.

Little motivates quite like losing to older brothers and sisters.

"I guess maybe you could say it was a goal to maybe be as good as them sometime," John said. "Maybe just to impress them because they always impressed me."

A one-handed interception from his defensive end post against Episcopal, with Giants QB Ryan in attendance, likely did the trick.

The Malvern coaching staff was also impressed, but you know coaches . . .

"Get your second hand on the ball," recalled defensive line coach Jeff Carroll, laughing on the phone. "Well, [at least] he came away with it."

The 49-21 conquest helped secure the Friars a share of the Inter-Ac title with Haverford, which bested Malvern, 34-31, in 2 OTs during Week 7. Troy Gallen, another Blue Hen commit, rushed for a school-record 372 yards and five TDs.

John's interception was No. 6 on the season, equaling his reception total as a tight end.

"Whatever's more crucial for the team," he said when asked of preference.

His final high school game kicks off at 7 tonight against St. Joseph's Prep at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Malvern leads the all-time series, 11-7.

Delaware's main interest in him, John said, was on offense. A tape measure revealed paws that spread 10- 1/2 inches from pinky to thumb, so there's little doubt why. Ryan's hands scored similarly at the NFL combine, John recalled, adding, "Carl has alien hands."

John always followed his older brothers. First to Malvern, then while there, to student council. Ryan and Carl both served. As the school's vice president, John recently organized a Thanksgiving Day food drive that netted more than 500 cans for families in need.

Off the field, there isn't time for much else. School (he's eyeing a major in business or finance) keeps him busy. Playing with his nephews, Jackson, 5, and Everett (his godson, 4 months) occasionally provides peace.

After all the basement battles (they call it "the green room"), the siblings remain tight, although geography keeps them apart.

"I can't express how proud I am of my siblings," Carey said. "John in particular, the youngest, he was my baby."

Sure, the baby (sorry, John) comes from athletic stock, but John said that guarantees nothing.

"Nothing comes easy in life," John Nassib said. "You get what you [earn]. Nothing is given to you. That's what my brothers taught me. Whatever you want, you have to go get it. It's up to you. That's what's been pushing me."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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