North Middlesex Regional football coach Sandy Ruggles has coached many rough and tough football players over the years, but maybe none like senior Joe Dolciotto.
Dolciotto, a wide receiver and cornerback, overcame two years of painful shoulder injuries that required surgery to put together a injury-free and successful senior campaign for the Patriots this past season.
For Dolciotto's hard work, determination to compete while being physically challenged with continuous shoulder injuries and being an inspiration to his team, the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association will present him and three others with the annual Paul Costello Courageous Player Award on April 28 at Lantana's in Randolph.
"I'm honored to win it," Dolciotto said. "Coach Ruggles is a great guy and I know he has a lot to do with this. I'm honored because only four players in the state win this."
Auburn's Jordan Giampa, Acton-Boxboro's Joey Peduto and Andover's Mark Zavrl are also this year's courageous player recipients.
"Joe came back from this and had a great senior year," Ruggles said. "We've never had a kid here win this courageous player award, and Joe is very deserving of this award."
It's been a career of bad luck and injuries that required surgery for Dolciotto -- a diehard New York Giants and Yankees fan, according to Ruggles.
As a sophomore, Dolciotto had to have surgery on a torn labrum, and a year later needed another surgery because he shoulder kept dislocating.
"Sophomore and junior year I had to battle two shoulder surgeries," Dolciotto said.
Dolciotto said he "battled through five games" his sophomore season before his shoulder forced him to miss the rest of the year.
"You get used to it (popping out) after a while," Dolciotto said.
As a junior, he played the first two games, but then took a good portion of the season off to rehab the shoulder back to health.
"It popped out a couple of times in the first two games," Dolciotto said. "My shoulder continued to pop out; it was very unstable."
He came back to play the final three games of his junior year, however.
Ruggles vividly remembers how tough Dolciotto was during the annual Thanksgiving Day game against rival Nashoba Regional.
"His shoulder probably popped out three times during the Thanksgiving game," Ruggles said. "He's tough and he loves football."
Dolciotto had shoulder surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital on Jan., 23, 2012.
"I was expecting it would happen again," Dolciotto said.
He's had a clean bill of health ever since the final surgery.
"It felt great this year," he said. "It was perfect.
"I'm just grateful I got to have at least one year (of good health on the football field)," Dolciotto said.
Dolciotto plans to attend Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., in the fall and play football.
Follow Chad Garner at twitter.com/CGARNER23