Player Spotlight - Nick Coppola
Player Spotlight - Nick Coppola
So let’s get this straight: you’ve got a prop who is, if we’re being charitable, almost 5-10, who takes care of the scrum and battles in tight, but is also one of his college team’s best runners, passes from the lineout like a scrumhalf (because the scrumhalf is throwing into said lineout), and is the co-captain of the team.
It’s an interesting combination, and that’s what Nick Coppola is. The short, but powerful prop forward is an undisputed leader of the SUNY Binghamton team. A player Head Coach Kevin Dublin said deserves a serious look as he moves on in the game.
Perhaps too short to be a front-line prop, he’s got hooker written all over him, and he has led Binghamton to a conference title and a Bowl Series win. A win, by the way, in which he scored two tries.
“When we started off this season, this was by far the best preseason we’ve had,” Coppola told Goff Rugby Report. “We got a conditioning coach which helped a lot, and the chemistry we developed pushing the through workouts together was important. We’d replaced ten starters from last year, and this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us, but going through that hardship together made us a team.”
Coppola said it was difficult to know how their season would go, and of course the Empire Conference was crazy anyway, with six of the seven teams either 3-3 or 4-2.
“We moved a lot of guys around and it was hard to tell where we’d struggle,” said Coppola.
They did well enough, and made the conference final, where they beat Syracuse 21-20. Coppola said he felt Binghamton was the better team.
“They scored off an interception, a knock-on kicked 50 meters for a try, and a blocked kick,” lamented the Binghamton prop. “Giving up one of those, fine, but all three? Talk about being in the right place at the right time. But we managed to get past it and win that game. We know if we play our game we can win. Before it used to be is we had to score first to keep playing well. But now we play a full 80 and play our game no matter what. Mentally and physically, we don’t stop.”
That was evident in the Bowl Series game against Loyola, during which Binghamton held on stuck in their own 22 for a good portion of the first half, but held onto a slim lead, and then blew the game open in the second period.
Coppola scored the opening try of the game and a key try in the second half. He also made a breakaway run and passed off the Greg Lenane, executing a 2-on-1 perfectly. But, said the prop, “it’s not about one guy being a hero.”
A shot put and discus thrower in high school, Coppola took up rugby with the Long Island Colts for his senior year in high school. He knew he wasn’t going to progress as a thrower or a 5-10 (ahem) lineman in football, but rugby enthralled him and the sport was a big part of his college decision-making.
Formerly a No. 8 because of his open-field pace, Coppola is the team’s co-captain and has also played in the backs. He played with the Northeast Academy 7s program in 2015, working out with Eagles such as Nate Brakeley and Nate Augspurger. it was “a phenomenal experience” and his 7s experience has also made him a complete player. He has multiple skills, and that was on show against Loyola.
“Being a prop is different from eightman or in the backs,” Coppola said. “I have never been more banged up in a season. But I know prop or hooker is where I am going to have to be.”
The industrial engineering major is working toward his master’s at Binghamton. He’s smart, plays with heart, has the skills, and is a leader. He's the kind of player any club would be lucky to have. And because of all of that, Nick Coppola is our Eagle Impact Rugby Academy Player Spotlight.