As the recipient of the 2016 Florida Dairy Farmers Mr. Football award, Nick Tronti is recognized as the state’s top high school football player, but many of those closest to him say he’s the complete opposite of your stereotypical jock.
“He’s an extremely humble, thoughtful and caring human being,” said Aaron Avery, quarterbacks coach at Ponte Vedra High School. “Every achievement he’s ever had, he’s tried to deflect and give credit to other people.”
The senior quarterback led the Sharks on a magical playoff run that ended in a heartbreaking 35-33 loss to American Heritage High School in Ponte Vedra’s first ever-state championship appearance. He passed for 3,333 yards and 34 touchdowns and rushed for 662 yards and 19 touchdowns throughout the season, which ultimately resulted in him being crowned Mr. Football in December by a statewide panel of high school football coaches and media representatives. Tronti won the award in convincing fashion, with 12 of the 23 first-place votes. He joins Nease’s Tim Tebow (2005) as just the second athlete from St. Johns County to earn the award, and the sixth Jacksonville area athlete to do so.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Tronti, who is currently committed to play college football at University of North Carolina-Charlotte. “It means more to our team than anything, though. Those were the guys that got it for me.”
Known for his competitiveness on the field, Tronti brings that same determination off the field to be the best person he can be.
He is an active member of Ponte Vedra High School’s Best Buddies organization, which pairs students with special needs students to help them develop life skills. Tronti is paired with a special needs student, and the two eat lunch together every day. Along with others from the organization, Tronti also takes her out to dinner and to fun activities outside of school. Tronti said he also teaches her basic manners and skills, such as how to tip at a restaurant.
“I have fun hanging out with her,” he said. “I don’t do it just to do it. We have an awesome time. It’s fun to give back to them because they love it, and it makes me feel good inside to give back to people like that.”
Gordie Rolison, Ponte Vedra’s defensive line coach and a special needs teacher at the high school, said Tronti impresses him with something every day.
“People look at Nick as the athlete he is,” said Rolison. “He wants to beat you even if it’s ping pong. I think he also wants to be a better person than you. He wants to go that extra mile to help people.”
Rolison said his students have severe, profound or high functioning autism. Of the 150 kids in the school’s Best Buddies club, he said 15 are actively involved in helping these students. Tronti and three of his teammates, said Rolison, are part of that group.
“Those guys come through our room every day,” Rolison said. “They come in, sit down and talk with the kids. Nick eats lunch with a group of them every day. He’s a leader on the field and off the field.”
Tronti’s compassion doesn’t stop there. He demonstrates streaks of it throughout his life.
He lives in a neighborhood full of elementary and middle school kids who play flag football. Tronti said he regularly plays with them as the neighborhood’s all-time quarterback.
“I try to do things that when I was that age would have been cool for other people to do for me,” he said.
Ponte Vedra wide receivers coach Shane Bowers has a 9-year-old son who looks up to Tronti and others on the team. After one of the Sharks’ games, Tronti learned that Bowers’ son had a Junior Development League game the next day and told him he would go to the game to watch.
Bowers said Tronti followed through on his word.
“He didn’t show up for just the first quarter,” said Bowers. “He stayed for the entire game. You don’t see his care for other people very often.”
Avery has similar anecdotes about the quarterback. He said Tronti texted him when he got married to congratulate him and when his daughter was born to make sure everything was okay. Avery said Tronti just recently bought his daughter her first Christmas ornament.
“It’s day in, day out, every second of the day,” said Avery. “That’s who Nick is. It’s always about the little detail in other peoples’ lives.”
Tronti’s older brother Zach said this is the person he’s always known.
“He’s always just been a special kid,” he said. “He’s somebody that takes an interest in people. Despite all of his success on the football field, I think nothing has really changed or fazed him. He hasn’t let that change who he is or what he’s all about, and I really think that speaks to his character.”
Mr. Football doesn’t know any other way.
“I always want to do the right thing,” he said. “That’s probably the most important thing to me.”