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Why 2011’s Syracuse-Rhode Island Game is the Orange’s Greatest Underdog Story

The Butler Bulldogs never did win the national title in their own home state in 2010. Jeremy Lin did not lead the New York Knicks to an NBA title following “Linsanity”. Even the most popular football underdog story Rudy Ruettiger never scored a game winning touchdown for Notre Dame. This Friday night Syracuse football opens their season against the Rhode Island Rams. It was a less little less than four years ago that on that same field against that same opponent, the legend of Syracuse football’s greatest under dog story was born.

Michael Acchione joined the Syracuse football program as a walk on football player following his senior season at Solvay High School in Syracuse, NY. Solvay, just a few miles away from the Carrier Dome, is a small school that prides themselves on the success of their football program. Solvay football’s best include Al Merola, a Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame football coach, and two former NFL players (Al Romano and Joe Kowalewski)  Just like Solvay High, football bled through the Acchione family. Acchione’s older brother Todd was a walk on at Michigan State. His father Garry played for Syracuse during the 1979 and 1980 seasons.

Following his senior season as a wide receiver at Solvay, the youngest Acchione follwed his father’s path and joined the then led Coach Doug Marrone Syracuse Orange program in the summer of 2008. Things are never guaranteed for walk-ons at any collegiate level, especially playing time. Acchione did not play a single down during the season in 2008. Nor did he in 2009. Or 2010. Despite, the lack of playing time, Acchione never missed a workout or a practice for those years playing for the Orange. Finally during the hot summer days of camps in 2011 all the hard work paid off for the now senior athlete Acchione. Coach Doug Marrone brought Acchione into his office for a one on one meeting during the middle of that summer camp. Acchione said he had no idea Coach Marrone would be offering him a scholarship. “It’s usually not a good thing when the head coach calls you into the office for a one on one during camp but he sat me down explained how hard I had worked for three years and rewarded me the scholarship”. A senior getting rewarded a scholarship is a fantastic story in its own right. Yet the story was far from over for this Syracuse native.

The Orange kicked off their 2011 season with an overtime victory over Wake Forest in the Carrier Dome. Again number eighty four Mike Acchione did not play. The following week, after three years of waiting and with fans and friends in attendance, Mike Acchione finally appeared on the field for the Syracuse Orange. On the second play of the third possession for Syracuse, now New York Giant quarterback Ryan Nassib hit Acchione with a seven yard pass to complete a first down for the Orange. One catch seven yards. Officially in the Syracuse records books forever. For most walk-ons, registering some playing time and appearing on the box score can be good enough. That seemed to be the case for number eighty four until the fourth quarter time ticked away. Syracuse is locked up in a tie with Rhode Island mid way through the final quarter. Acchione heads back out on to the field for his second play in his collegiate career. From the Rams’ twelve yard line Nassib rolls right, looking for receiver Dorian Graham. Instead he finds another wide receiver in the end zone. Mike Acchione. Yes the same Acchione who walked on this team three years ago. Yes the same Acchione who dreamed of playing for Syracuse his entire life growing up in Central New York. The same school that produces NBA players each summer. The same football program that Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Larry Csonka, and Floyd Little all call their alma maters. Syracuse held off the Rams and won that game in 2011, 21-14 because of a game winning touchdown. From a walk on. A local walk on named Mike Acchione. Acchione continued to travel with the team during the season. Despite being healthy through his senior season, Acchione never played a single snap again for the Orange. His final competitive football snap was a game winning touchdown. What’s Acchione up to now four years later? Mike Acchione, is now Coach Acchione as he is now a football coach at his other alma mater, Solvay High School. This Friday night the Rhode Island Rams roll back into the Carrier Dome to kick off the 2015 season. Another local walk on from the west side of the city, West Genesee’s  Seamus Shanley will be starting at right guard for the Orange. Acchione, like other Syracuse football fans will be rooting for Shanley to have success Friday night. It’s unlikely Shanley will be scoring any game winning touchdowns this weekend. It’s even more  unlikely Syracuse football will ever have an underdog story quite like the one of Mike Acchione.

To hear my entire interview with Mike Acchione click the link below

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