Giampietro happy to be back for Tomahawks

Maybe it was the unfortunate destiny for Joe Giampietro.

After all, his older brother, Mike, endured four major knee operations over the course of his football career.

“We’re both known for ACLs,” he said, almost jokingly.

But there’s a ring of truth in Giampietro’s words, as he makes his way back from his second knee injury in as many football seasons for Merrimack High School. So far, so good for the Tomahawks’ senior running back/linebacker, and inspirational leader.

It would have been easy for Giampietro to give up after a Manchester Memorial player blocked one of Giampietro’s teammates into the back of his knee during the second game of the season in 2013, exactly a year after he got taken out by a defensive back in a JV game in 2012, injuring the other knee. Same deal, second game of the season, ironically after he was told by the then-Merrimack coaching staff as he boarded the bus for the game it would be his last non-varsity appearance.

Hit the second time last fall, Giampietro said “I knew right away. I told myself it wasn’t true, but deep inside, I knew exactly what happened.”

But Giampietro, whose three older brothers all played at Merrimack, couldn’t give up. It’s not in his DNA, while football is.

“Football’s my passion,” Giampietro said. “It’s the number one thing that I love the most, besides my family and everything else. It’s what gets me through days, and I look forward to it the most.”

Merrimack football coach Dante Laurendi isn’t surprised Giampietro is completing a second comeback, because he saw a lot of the first after he took the job in the winter of 2013.

“I saw how hard he rehabbed,” Laurendi said. “When I saw how hard he worked, in the weight room, summer conditioning, and then to see it happen again. It was just a bad break. Knowing how hard he worked and knowing he had to do it all over again, I’m sure it was frustrating for him. But he did it. He just attacked it again.”

Coming back the first time was a little easier; Giampietro was back that spring of 2013 in time for lacrosse season, as he is a long stick middie for the ’Hawks. But the second comeback? Brutally painstaking.

“It was slow, very emotional, and my doctor said it would take even longer than the first one,” Giampietro said. “I was very depressed going through it a second time. Being on the field, and you can’t be an active member of the team. It was very hard the second time. It helps (going through it a second time) because you know what you have to do, but it also makes it worse because you know how long it takes.”

But now he’s back, and the Tomahawks, especially on defense, are better for it. Offensively he’s a bruising runner, but after they lost him a year ago opponents began piling up the points. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the ‘Hawks blanked Keene 35-0 in their season opener.

“Defensively we kind of moved him around a little bit but Joe’s there to be our thumper,” said Laurendi, who feels confident when Giampietro is on either side of the ball. “Take on the big blocks, kind of play between the tackles, take on fullbacks. Obviously we missed him a lot. More than the physical presence it was just the attitude and the leadership side of it.”

There were a few repeat moments of truth along the way, beginning with the start of practice

“In practice I felt fine, I felt my knees could support me, so I had no issues or no worries that my knees can’t hold me up, 100 percent,” Giampietro said. “The first game (back) it felt really good looking around, being under the lights and actually knowing I could play this time. I missed it.

“There were a couple of times where there were low hits and a little worried that my knees could take it, but after the first low hit, nothing bothered me after that.”

Does Giampietro think he’s an inspiration to his team?

“I hope so,” he said. “I want to be looked at by other kids and (they) see that If I can come back from two surgeries, and do all that I’m doing that other kids can work just as hard.”