TOWNSEND -- North Middlesex senior wide receiver/corner back Joe Dolciotto knows a couple things about toughness. The St. Anselm-bound senior was forced to go under the knife during his sophomore campaign to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Dolciotto felt his shoulder slip out of place during the Patriots' preseason scrimmage with Oakmont in 2010.
"It popped out during that game," said Dolciotto. "It continued to pop out for the next five games. After getting an MRI after the fifth game, it revealed a torn labrum. That's when I knew."
Dolciotto's shoulder problems continued to plague him even after the first surgery, and he started to wonder if he would ever make it through a full season.
"As a sophomore, he separated his shoulder and was out for the season," said North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles. "He had the surgery and went through a six-month rehab stint and was looking forward to his junior season. The first play of the second game of the season, he carried the ball and his shoulder popped out."
The doctors told Dolciotto there was a four percent chance of his shoulder popping out of the socket again, and it did. Ruggles lucidly remembers the look on Dolciotto's face when he injured his shoulder again in the second game last year.
"Everyone was really disillusioned and he was dejected," said Ruggles. "He thought that his season was over, and that probably his career was over.
The trainers and coaches at North Middlesex quickly became accustomed to the number five jersey needing his shoulder popped back in. When Dolciotto received the good news from his doctor, he quickly returned to the gridiron for the team's final three games.
Dolciotto's return was not without pain, and the shoulder continued to pop out. During the Patriots' 2011 Thanksgiving Day clash with Nashoba, Dolciotto's shoulder dislocated several times, but he bit his lip and played on. Dolciotto's second surgery took place in January of 2012, and he battled his way through the six-month rehabilitation process.
Ruggles felt that Dolciotto embodied all the criteria for the Paul Costello Courageous Player Award that the Massachuetts High School Football Coaches Association annually presents to four worthy seniors.
"He displayed great courage in everything," said Ruggles on selecting Dolciotto for the award. "Football teaches you to get up off the mat. You get knocked down and get back up. Joe certainly did that. He went through the rehab and the working to get himself ready for his senior year, and he had a great year for us and played injury free."
Dolciotto had always dreamt of playing football at the college level, and he never thought that he would get the opportunity with his shoulder issues.
"Going into this season, I didn't know what to expect," said Dolciotto. "After the first surgery, the doctor told me it would be fine. This doctor at Mass. General told me after the second surgery that I was all good, and I didn't know whether to believe him at first. It was good getting at least one (full) season."
Dolciotto's father played collegiately at the now defunct Hofstra University program, which competed in the Division 1 Football Championship subdivision.
"After my junior season, I thought it was a little out of the question," said Dolciotto on his dreams of playing college football.
"I thought if I couldn't get through a full season in high school that I should stay away from college football."
Dolciotto will be honored at the Lantana restaurant in Randolph Sunday night.