Player Profile: John "Cat Stevens" Vizzachero
1. How long have you been playing rugby?
About 10 years off and on, give or take.
2. What other Clubs have you played for?
I played rugby for Penn while I was an undergrad, and then Second City Troop before we came together with Schuylkill under the merger.
3. What sort of process goes into being the best dressed man in American rugby?
Well, everything flows from Yves Saint Laurent’s time honored adage: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Finding your personal style really is the key for anybody. There’s a lot of mixing of colors, textures, fabrics. Find one item you can wear that throws a nice wrinkle into the mix to catch peoples’ eyes. Making sure the fit of my suits are approved by my old Italian tailor. Reading the odd GQ or Vogue magazine for some inspiration from time to time. Ultimately I ask myself “If the spirits of Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, and James Bond could see my outfit, would they approve?” It’s been working well so far.
4. What is the proudest moment of your rugby career so far?
Gotta be a tie between my first start for Penn against Columbia where I charged a kick down in their tryzone for points and the win, and the spring season before last where I subbed in at scrumhalf towards the end of a close game and, cutting across the defensive line, managed to magically find a slashing Ryan McHugh for what ended up being the try that sealed the game for us.
5. What do you hope to accomplish in rugby going forward?
Putting on a solid fifty pounds of muscle so I can properly play flanker one day. Honestly though, on the field I’d really like to just keep upping my game more as a scrumhalf to set up other guys for try scoring opportunities, while working on building our rugby family off it.
6. You traveled to Ireland with Schuylkill 2 years ago and you’re set to go to South Africa next month. What was the best part of the last trip and what are you most looking forward to for this trip?
Well the best part of the Ireland tour has to be a toss-up between watching Kyle King get chased around our hotel bar by a girl who wanted to kiss him for a solid ten minutes before he finally dissuaded her with a spray bottle, and my now famous, completely family friendly, singing episode before the Six Nations game. As for South Africa, I’m looking forward to scrounging around for a gold krugerrand to bring back stateside and seeing how Izak’s hometown friends react to my world renowned singing skills.
7. So no offense intended here but you came to Schuylkill in 2015 as part of the merger with Troop and you’ve spent most of your time as a reserve on our second side. What makes Schuylkill the best Club for you despite the fact that you haven’t been a D1 player?
The comradery, hands down. I always get the feeling that we’re all just one big extended family, whether we’re kickin’ back at Brolitas or on the practice field. Everyone is willing to help you whether it be taking time to work on specific skills or answering questions about on-field stuff. That and the fact that everyone seems to put up with my crazy ramblings.
8. Despite being on the second side I’ve seen you getting an opportunity to do a lot of individual skill work. Greg Mininger in particular, though he’s a player still and not a coach, is good at setting up drills for you to do to improve your game. How does Schuylkill’s structure enable you to develop your game and get better as a player?
One of the things I think that really sets us apart from other clubs is sort of the decentralized brain trust we have on our team. Not only is everyone’s opinion heard and valued, we’ve got such accomplished ruggers throughout our roster from our coaches to our bench it’s like we have a teacher at every position even if they don’t hold any official title. We’ve got guys who’ve played/coached for top tier teams donating their time to see us succeed both on and off the pitch, and I just don’t think any other club can match that.
9. We’ve already established that you’re the best dressed man in American rugby. Are you also the loudest? Where does all of that enthusiasm come from?
If there’s anyone who can pound for pound put out more decibels than me, I haven’t met ‘em. Coming from a Greek and Italian background, I got a lot of practice being heard at family events. If you couldn’t out talk people at the dinner table, then you just weren’t heard. I’ve always been a big believer in the ‘12th man’ effect too so I try to be the best damn hype man in the business for our team when we’re on the pitch.
10. What’s on your pregame playlist?
Usually a mix of sea shanties, classic rock, funk, some Wu-tang, and a few bangers from my man Drake.
11. With our second side participating in a D2 league called “D1B” this year and traveling with the D1 side we’ve been on the road for some slightly longer trips than usual. Do you enjoy the opportunity to spend more time with the guys and develop a good club culture?
Oh absolutely. We’ve got such a cast of characters on this team, the stories and banter we get to trade on the trips to and from games has been an awesome way of bringing us closer. You don’t really get those kinds of opportunities during more focused moments like practice or games.
12. I asked Ryan this question in his interview and it’s pretty important to me. Who is your favorite member of the wu-tang clan?
The Wu-brother number one, the genius – the GZA. Hands down. Liquid Swords is definitely the best hip-hop album of the 90s.
13. I’ve been asking everyone for cheesesteak recommendations but since you’re from the South Philly delegation I’d also be willing to accept some roast beef sandwich ideas. Tell me some of your favorite spots.
I’ll chime in for a roast pork recommendation and there’s only one worth mentioning; John’s Roast pork down on Synder Ave. The place actually won a James Beard award for their sandwiches back in the day. MAJOR KEY ALERT! You must absolutely get it with broccoli rabe and provolone, and ask for a little extra juice on the bread. You won’t regret it.
14. What does Philadelphia rugby mean to you and how do you try to incorporate that into your game on a personal level?
Heart, friendship, and above all true grit. It’s about taking the hardest hit the other guy can throw at you and getting back up to help your teammates over the try line. I may not be the biggest, fastest, or strongest guy on the pitch, but I go into games thinking I’m gonna make damn sure to be the last one standing when the final whistle blows.
15. Who does your heart tell you to cheer for on Game of Thrones and who does your head say is most likely to end up on the Iron Throne?
I’ve been cheering for Tyrion and Bronn, the best bromance in the Seven Kingdoms, since they hit the screen together. I really could care less who sits upon the Iron Throne if they both make it out unscathed and get to retire and kickback in the pleasure houses of Lys when all is said and done. That being said, my head tells me we’re gonna get King Jon Snow before it’s all over.
16. We touched on this in question 8 above but I’d like to go back to it. Our Director of Rugby, Pat Boyle, has frequently stated that our structure provides a player pathway from beginner to D1 player by giving everyone meaningful minutes. Pat has also said that most of his focus in terms of player management is on the second side to ensure that those players succeed. How has this focus on player development affected you, and do you agree that having a Director oversee this process has been a benefit to us as a Club and you as an individual?
For sure. I know Pat’s come to me multiple times with suggestions and tips on how I can improve as a player in our system. And it’s always great having another set of eyes watching out for guys developing into their roles with the team. Having someone who fulfills a hybrid player/executive role seems to be helpful as that person can get and give instant feedback being in drills or on the pitch with other guys watching how they coalesce into a unit and passing that feedback onto the coaches to make roster decisions.
17. If you weren’t a rugby player what would you devote your time to?
Probably becoming an apprentice to the old Italian tailor who fixes up my clothes and learning his trade. Then spending Saturday lounging around Rittenhouse square taking afternoon tea in my hand made suits entertaining some high society ladies.
18. What is an interesting fact about you that your teammates would be surprised to hear?
I literally spoke to one person my entire first month of high school because I was so bad at talking to new people. There was also a time I didn’t wear properly fitted suits. You may now pick your jaws up from the floor.
19. Who is your favorite professional rugby player?
Brian O’Driscoll. I’m pretty sure it was watching highlight videos of him on youtube that got me into rugby in the first place.
20. Per family tradition would you like to use this public forum to bemoan the fact that Elvis was named entertainer of the century over Frank Sinatra?
I actually believe this to be a national tragedy. A wrong that must be righted if America is to continue in its position as a leading first world country and world peace is ever to be achieved. I mean you can’t even begin to compare their catalogues of music. If Time Magazine was willing to pull the wool over your eyes about this, what else are they lying to you about?