2022 Stony Brook vs Monmouth

Why Stony Brook's Kyle Nunez Defines His Success Through Faith And Family

Why Stony Brook's Kyle Nunez Defines His Success Through Faith And Family

Now a graduate senior right guard for the Stony Brook, Kyle Nunez remembers something special about the first time he played at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Oct 20, 2022 by Stephen Kerr
Why Stony Brook's Kyle Nunez Defines His Success Through Faith And Family

During his freshman year at East Islip (New York) High, Stony Brook offensive lineman Kyle Nunez played in the Suffolk County High School Championship. 

The setting, Stony Brook's Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, eventually would become his college home field.

Nunez played on both sides of the line, and he was the nose guard that day. East Islip suffered a tough loss, denying his team a county title.

Now a 6-foot-3, 340-pound graduate senior right guard for the Seawolves, Nunez remembers something else about that day that made a much bigger impact on him. 

His grandmother, Ana Nunez, was in the stands cheering for him and his older brother Anthony. Ana, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan like Kyle and most of the family, watched with pride as her grandson battled in the trenches.

It was the first, and last, time Ana would see Kyle play in person. After being diagnosed with cancer, she died in 2014.

Since then, Nunez plays every game as a tribute to his grandmother. Her name is tattooed on his wrist. 

Each week before a game, he walks to midfield, puts in his earbuds and plays "I Can Only Imagine," a song that illustrates what it would be like to be in the presence of Jesus in Heaven. That song was playing when Ana took her last breath, with Kyle and the family by her side.

Eight years later, Nunez still gets emotional when talking about his grandmother, calling her his guardian angel wherever he goes.

"She's never done any wrong in my eyes," Nunez said. "She had such a beautiful heart. She always called me when I had game day. She called me just to talk about the Steelers. We always celebrated through that bond... I have such great love for my grandmother, and I miss her every single day."

Born in Pittsburgh, Nunez and his family moved to East Islip when he was 3. 

His father, Henry, works as an operational manager for a hospital equipment distributor. His mother, Danielle, is a dispatcher for a Connecticut installation company. Anthony played football through high school and was recruited by Western Connecticut, but he left after his first semester.

Henry, a first-generation American whose parents were born in the Dominican Republic, did not have a sports background. He fell in love with football after moving his family to Pittsburgh and taught himself the game, coaching Kyle and Anthony until they got to high school. He still coaches in the Long Island area.

"He's kind of like the Vince Lombardi for those guys," Nunez said of his father. "He's gotten a lot of respect across the island. I'm so proud of what he's accomplished, someone who taught the game to himself."

Danielle taught the boys how to be kind and selfless to others. Henry emphasized the value of hard work, both in football and daily life. He rose every morning at 2:30 a.m. to provide for his family, while still finding time to coach them.

"He chose to do that every single day and still continues to do that," Nunez said. "He's got the blue-collar mentality. My mother has the sweetest heart in the world. She's a woman that would give the shirt off her back for anybody. That's something I've implemented with my teammates, too."

At East Islip High, Nunez started 46 consecutive games, playing defensive tackle and offensive line. He earned All-State, All-Long Island, All-County and All-Metro honors in his junior and senior seasons. He recorded 78 tackles as a defensive lineman and eight sacks as a senior, leading the team to the county championship that season.

Nunez learned the finer points of the game from East Islip head coach Sal Ciampi.

Big on tradition, Ciampi taught his players to play for the name on the front of their jerseys and to always remember the name on the back.

"That's something I've always done," Nunez said. "He's been a guy that's helped me tremendously through my recruiting process."

There were others besides Ana Nunez watching Kyle during the Suffolk County Championship his freshman year. The Stony Brook coaching staff also was there. 

Not long after the game, they visited the school and informed him of their interest. Nunez initially was told the program wouldn't be recruiting any interior linemen, so he didn't expect the Seawolves to be an option, but head coach Chuck Priore and his staff saw something in him they couldn't ignore. The fact Priore had a run-oriented offense also appealed to Nunez.

"Coach P. is one of the best offensive line gurus out there," Nunez said. "From a fundamental standpoint, he knows exactly what to do in the run game and has really shaped me into something I hoped to be by the end of my career."

Nunez redshirted as a freshman in 2017, which gave him an opportunity to focus on conditioning, speed and learning the playbook. 

The next season, he earned second-team All-CAA honors, playing in all 12 of the Seawolves' games at right guard. He received the same honors in 2019 and was a first-team selection for the 2020-2021 campaign. He also made the Stats Perform FCS All-American team last season, as well as the AFCA FCS Coaches' All-America second team.

"Our scheme does meet his tools," Priore said. "He finishes blocks, he's really athletic for a big person... You'd be really surprised how well he moves his feet and gets to places."

Aside from his football success, something else happened to Nunez while at SBU that changed his life - his profession of faith in Christ. 

With help from several teammates, he formed a Bible study group called Kingdom Chasers, and Nunez was baptized last February.

"I knew of Christ, but I didn't know Christ personally," he explained. "Now, it's my goal coming into my final season to make sure to give Him the glory in everything I do."

Nunez has impressed Priore with his leadership and mentoring of younger players as much as his play on the field.

"Kyle is a once-in-a-lifetime type of person you get to coach," Priore said. "He's not only a good football player, but a tremendous student and family person, and he has always had the best interest of the football program. He's a two-year captain, and he's very mature in his approach to things."

Faith often grows through trials. 

The Seawolves have struggled this season, having dropped their first six games. Nunez, however, manages to find a few roses among thorns.

"When we speak about Stony Brook, we're a hard-nosed group every single time we take the field," he said. "People praise us on our physicality and how we work throughout a game. That speaks in the life terms in how we go about the everyday things we do. We come in and work our tails off, no matter what the situation is. The camaraderie we've built in the locker room hasn't wavered."

When his sixth, and final, season with the Seawolves draws to a close, Nunez wants to leave a lasting legacy of leadership for others to follow.

"I want to be remembered as one of the best teammates there are out there," he said. "I want (everyone) to understand that I gave everything I had to this program physically, mentally and emotionally. If I impacted one or two lives while I was here, that's a successful career for me."