Boston and Avenged Sevenfold are not likely to be found together on your typical playlist. After all, one group was formed in 1975 and is a classic rock icon while the other debuted in 1999 and is known more for heavy metal.
Both bands, however, are at the top of Nick Sharga’s playlist. While the Temple fullback will not be bellowing Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” in the huddle anytime soon, he tries to find a little time each day to pick up the guitar and strum away. It is something he has done since he was 13 with Avenged Sevenfold serving as motivation.
“My biggest influence in picking up the guitar was a song called ‘Bat Country,’” he said of the group’s 2005 release. “I thought the sound of the guitars was awesome and it really prompted me to start playing.”
It is not often that somebody born in the 1990s boasts of being a big fan of Boston and other classic rock groups such as Journey and Kansas. Yet, that is what the 22-year-old Sharga enjoys, though lately he has been changing up his musical selection.
“I love anything from the ’80s,” he said. “I love that time period and I really enjoy classic rock and anything like that. Now I am getting into that heavier thrash metal, like Megadeth. It just depends how I feel at the time and I enjoy learning new songs. That is what I get the most enjoyment out of, learning new stuff and trying to better myself at it.”
Often, the kinesiology major, aspiring physical therapist and 2015 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team member plays simply to get a respite from the grind of the football field and classroom.
“If I had a long day I enjoy playing as a way to it to unwind and relax a little bit,” said the junior. “I try to play as much as I can, but obviously it is tough right now with football and all the stuff going on with school. I try to play an hour or so a day, if I am lucky. It just depends on where I can squeeze it in.”
Squeezing his helmet on his head might seem like a chore what with a hairdo that resembles many classic rock-era band members. While Sharga gets his hair trimmed from time to time he has not had a legitimate cut since his senior year of high school. It is a look he has had since the seventh grade when he said he had “a huge afro.”
“I plan on growing it out for a while,” he said. “I used to brush it out in middle school, which I don’t do anymore. I let it fall down and do its thing. I like the longer look than the shorter.”
Beyond the guitar playing and hairdo is a young man whose collegiate career has been a model of perseverance. A linebacker and tight end at Northampton High School in Cherryville, Pa., Sharga blew out an ACL in the first game of his senior season. With his high school playing career aborted prematurely he settled on playing at West Virginia Wesleyan, a Division II program, as a freshman in 2013.
A healthy Sharga played linebacker and led the Bobcats in solo tackles, which gave him an opportunity to piece together a film package to send other schools. He wanted to play close to home and his wish was granted when Temple brought him on board as a redshirt in 2014.
“My dream coming out of high school was to play Division I football and Temple is perfect,” he said of the North Philadelphia university, which is about a 90-minute drive from Cherryville. “It is close to home, I can go home on weekends if I want and it is a great program. I love it here.”
After playing all 14 games last season, including five starts at either linebacker or fullback, Sharga has devoted his time to fullback this year. Heading into Saturday’s game on ASN against visiting Charlotte, the 6-2, 240-pounder has six carries for 26 yards. While it is nice to get the occasional touch, by far his primary responsibility is to clear the way for Jahad Thomas, Ryquell Armstead and other Owls running backs.
“I love it and I feel it is a great role me,” he said. “I think that it really fits my skillset, being tough and physical. I really enjoy blocking and helping the team out that way.”
Sharga’s work and selflessness was recognized last season when he was awarded a single-digit jersey, No. 4, which at Temple is synonymous of toughness and dedication.
“He’s physical, he’s smart and he’s fearless,” said coach Matt Rhule. “We will need him this week to make holes for Ryquell and Jahad.”
Family members will be on hand at Lincoln Financial Field to cheer on his effort, and his rooting section is not small. Sharga is the middle of 11 children born to Marie and Paul and among the siblings, who range in age from 13 to 29, are eight sisters.
“Maybe over the years there was a lot,” he said when asked if he was bombarded with nagging from the lopsided female ratio. “Not so much now. Actually, maybe I just got used to it. But we all get along and we always try to help each other. That is the cool thing about our family, we are all super close.”
And it’s cool that Sharga returned close to home to play football … and the guitar.
Above: Nick Sharga (Courtesy Harry Caston/Temple University)
Middle: Video courtesy Temple University Athletics