North Hills, North Allegheny grads team up on college squad
On the gridiron and off of it, John Carroll University football players Kevin Cope and Brody Zangaro are inseparable.
They can be spotted Saturdays in the same gang tackles and Sundays watching a Steelers game together in their off-campus house.
It’s hard to believe that at one time, they were rivals.
Cope, a North Allegheny graduate, and Zangaro, who graduated from North Hills, found themselves going up against each other in football and guarding each other in basketball while they were in high school. During their senior season of football in 2010, North Allegheny claimed WPIAL and PIAA titles. However, North Hills won the Quad North Conference title by upsetting the Tigers and handing them their only defeat of the season.
“When you go to North Hills and you play NA, you tend not to like them too much,” said Zangaro, of Ross. “But I do remember Kevin always being a nice kid.”
A short time after graduating in 2011, they found themselves on the same college team. Ironically enough, what once had separated them banded them together. With each of them being from the Pittsburgh area, they used it as a common bond once they left town and enrolled at John Carroll, located in the Cleveland suburb of University Heights.
“In high school, there was animosity because of the rivalry,” said Cope, of McCandless, who is a business major. “Now we’ve become best friends. We instantly hit it off and became really close.”
The Blue Streaks were 8-0 overall and 7-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference as of this edition’s deadline.
Through the first eight games, Cope, a linebacker, had registered 38 tackles and an interception.
Zangaro, a safety, had 28 tackles, a sack and forced a fumble.
Their leadership and attention to detail boosted each to the position of team captain.
“They’ve made me a better coach,” said John Carroll defensive coordinator Chris Shula. “If you don’t have every little detail covered, Brody or Kevin is going to ask you about it.”
Cope missed all of last season after he tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder in the second-to-last game of his All-Conference sophomore season. Zangaro always was there to lift his spirits and help out during the recovery.
“He was there for me the whole time,” said Cope, who is a redshirt junior.
Now that Cope is fully healed and back to being “the best player on the team,” as Zangaro put it, there is a sense of fulfillment among the duo.
“Last year was great, but there was always something missing,” said Zangaro, a senior education major. “Having him out there this year has made it that much more special.”
The pair has roomed together since they stepped on campus after arriving from rival high school programs. What they didn’t realize then is that they always were on the same team.
“We both had pretty similar interests, the same sense of humor,” Zangaro said. “He’s been my best friend all the way through.”
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.